Sayote: The Survivor’s Vegetable
It may not be as
glamorous as the lettuce nor as colorful as the carrot, two of the more
popular vegetables produced in the Cordillera, but the lowly sayote
has proven itself to be a life-saver, both for farmers and calamity
BY JOHNNY FIALEN
Posted by Bulatlat
Benguet – Sayote is a green,
papaya-shaped vegetable, a bit hairy and belongs to the gourd family, just
like cucumber, watermelon and pumpkin. The cucurbit is also known as
chayote or sechium edule.
The sayote has
several times served an important role during calamities in the region.
Sayote was used to help victims in the areas affected by the 1990 killer
earthquake that severely ravaged, among others, Baguio City.
When Mt. Pinatubo in
Zambales erupted in 1991, Benguet farmers were mobilized and about 250
tons of sayote and other relief goods were sent to the victims. Recently,
an “Oplan Sayote” was again launched to help families affected by the
typhoons in Quezon, Nueva Ecija and Aurora provinces.
Sayote is also the
only sustainable vegetable in the market because of its availability
throughout the year, hence, earning the description “green gold.”
vegetable in the market, sayote is grown especially in the Benguet
municipalities of Kibungan, Atok, Kapangan, Tuba and La Trinidad in
In an interview by
Northern Dispatch with Jerry Calasiao, 28, a farmer of Sitio Gayasi,
Wangal in La Trinidad town just a few kilometers from Baguio City, he
explained why his family plants sayote: “Napili mi ti sayote nga imula
ditoy ayanmi ta bassit ti magastos ken bumayag pay, saan ka a mula a mula
a kasla kadagiti dadduma a nateng nga agmula basta malpas ti apit.”
(We chose to plant sayote because of the minimal expense on farm inputs.
Its lifespan is also long, unlike other vegetables which require immediate
re-planting after harvest time.)
Sayote is also the
best vegetable for us because it’s harvestable weekly and can sustain our
daily needs, he added.
According to Calasiao,
a sayote plant survives for as long as 15 months before it is replaced.
He said, “We usually
use three kinds of fertilizers, which are Triple 14, chicken dung and
Viking for better produce. Farmers can harvest 20-25 plastic sacks of
sayote weekly with the equivalent price of P1,500 to P2,000 depending on
the market price,” he added. The price of sayote usually increases during
Christmas and summer, he explained.
Calasiao further said
that farmers earn more during summer and during typhoon months because few
sayote products reach the market. This is because the Halsema Highway, the
road connecting Baguio City to the rest of the Cordillera provinces,
closes during typhoons due to land slides.
A good price for
sayote goes up to P17 to P20 per kilo. Farmers claim that sayote price is
at its lowest at 40 centavos per kilo when supply from different
Roberto Calpasi and
Manuel Fermin, farmers from Atok and Kapangan, respectively, say that
Benguet farmers have failed to seize the opportunities offered by sayote
farming. The two were referring to the “tsamba system” wherein the
farmer’s income is multiplied when the price goes exceptionally up high.
But even without
this, the farmers still agree that there is money in sayote. “You can
harvest twice a week if you have a wide sayote garden. You have less
expense and minimized effort in sayote production,” Calpasi said.
Jasmin Diclas, 21, a
student and sayote farmer, claims that farmers choose sayote because it is
appropriate for the mountainous Gayasi area. Diclas is one of the many
students involved in sayote farming to support their studies, as payment
for their tuition and daily expenses. Helping farm sayote trained her to
be independent, she said.
Diclas described the
problems they have encountered, such as the times when sayote fruits and
leaves grow only the size of bitter gourd or ampalaya.
During the harvest
time, farmers usually hire two farm workers to help at P5 per plastic
sack. For farmers whose fields are located far down the creek, they
utilize the tram line of Doming Angkil, paying the latter P3 per plastic
sack. Earlier, without the tram line, farmers had to carry their products
for some distance before reaching the market.
Thus, aside from
being a handy tummy-filler during lean months, the sayote has evolved to
an important part of Benguet’s upland agricultural industry, helping send
many of its children to school and feeding hungry families during hard
Gayasi of the village
of Wangal is known as the sayote capital of La Trinidad. Diclas and
Calasiao both say that Wangal produces the best sayote in Baguio and
Benguet. Being near the market and trading post, their products are less
damaged during transport, they said.
Sayote farmers said
that programs that will help improve their sayote production and marketing
of their products will surely help. Bulatlat
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