Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rare Philippine Plants: Kamagong, Indigo, and Gogo


Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class Monday to Friday


Kamagong, the wood of mabolo (Diospyros discolor) is perhaps the hardest wood on earth. This is followed by the exquisite black wood, ebony or balatinao. Old wooden houses have stood for decades because of their sturdy posts made of solid molave or sagat (Vitex parviflora). Wood planks that make the broad, shiny floor of Spanish houses in Vigan are made of molave, guijo (Shorea guiso, and yakal (Shorea sp), which are all species of local hard wood. The chin rest and fingerboard of old classical violins are made of ebony. Furniture made of ebony is specially made and very expensive.

These kinds of wood have withstood the elements of time and the strong mandibles of termites, the nemesis of wood materials. Beside their genetic makeup, they grow very slowly so that their lignin cells are firm and compact. Seldom can we find these woods anymore. They are now in the list of endangered species and our laws prohibit their cutting.
Ripe fruits of mabolo or kamagong has a sweet taste with pleasant aroma.
Whenever we hear the analogy, “like a molave,” we imagine how strong and determined that leader is – now an endangered species. Why not plant one of these trees today?

Añil or azul makes white clothes whiter.
When we were kids studying in a catholic high school in Vigan, our rector was very particular with the whiteness of our uniform. Our old folks did not find it a problem at all, even without today’s detergents and whitening agents. All they did was to add a little añil or azul to the final rinse, and presto, our uniforms would be gleaming white in the sun.
Indigo plant
Añil or azul is a natural dye derived from Indigofera hirsuta or I. tinctoria, which farmers plant as green manure. It is from the plant that the dye is also called indigo. During the Spanish period, añil was commercially produced in the Ilocos and exported to Mexico and Europe via the Galleon Trade. Today, the ruins of giant fermenting vats are still found.

Indigofera (tayum Ilk) is a large genus of over 750 species of flowering plants belonging to the family Fabaceae. They are widely distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Wikipedia

There is a revival of natural dye which include indigo, tumeric or yellow ginger (Curcuma longa), and pomegranate (Punica granatum). A relatively unknown group – Handloom Weavers Development in Kerala, India, has discovered natural dyes as a solution to sufferers of allergies such as skin disorders, and asthma. Natural dyes even have direct medicinal value. A common practice in Ilocos to relieve mumps is to paint añil on the swollen area.

Old folks have been using gogo plant  long before commercial shampoo was developed.
Here is an account of Dr. William H. Brown, a botanist during the commonwealth era concerning Entada phaseoloides (gogo).

“Gogo is used extensively in the Philippines and other Oriental countries for washing hair and sold as an ingredient for hair tonics. It is prepared by cutting the mature vine in lengths of 10 to 100 centimeters. It is then pounded into thin, flat strips and dried. When soaked in water and rubbed, gogo produces a lather which cleanses the scalp very effectively. The active principle is saponin.”

Today gogo has great business potential as people are shifting from commercial shampoo to natural ones. The “battle of shampoos” has instead driven people to look for natural, cheap and reliable alternatives, among them gogo, rice straw shampoo, alovera (Aloe vera) and the old reliable coconut oil (now coconut virgin oil). Gogo strips can be bought in herbal shops and around Quiapo church in Manila. Commercial planting of gogo has started in the uplands of Cavite and Batangas. ~

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