Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Philippine Wild Chili Pepper (Siling Labuyo)

Often mistaken for bird’s eye chili pepper, the cultivar siling labuyo is a species of capsicum fructescens in the capsicum genus. The name “siling labuyo” in Filipino means wild chili although at present this plant is widely cultivated because of its culinary importance in some Philippine dishes. The frail looking but fast growing plant probably got its name because it usually grows wildly almost anywhere in soil near a house.

Siling labuyo is a small plant that grows only at about a meter in height and has acuminate leaves and small star shaped white flowers. Its tiny and slightly tapered fruit is about 2-2.5 cm in length and turns red when ripe. The plant’s peculiarity is that the fruits are usually on the stalks upside down unlike any other fruits.

The “wild” chili was once listed as the hottest chili pepper in the Guinness Book of World Records. But now, it is only ranked in the middle in the list of hottest chilis in the Scoville Heat Scale. The heat of siling labuyo is measured in the range of 50,000-100,000 which is below that of the bird’s eye chili pepper at 100,000-225,000 range. The hottest chili in the Scoville list is the Carolina Reaper which is measured in the range of 1,600,000-2,200,000 heat units.

A bite of the tiny chili will cause intense burning feeling and irritation. However, it is its hotness that makes this chili a highly sought after food commodity. For some people, the hotter it is the better. The native chili is an indispensable ingredient in some of the cuisines of Maranao, Visayan and Bicolano tribes. In the Visayas and Mindanao regions, a raw fish dish called “kinilaw” is not complete without siling labuyo in it. Siling labuyo is also used to spice up canned or bottled sardines and commercially sold vinegar. It is also added in a condiment or dip for broiled pork or fish and roasted meat for a spicy hot meal. Moreover, Siling labuyo leaves are great for a stewed chicken dish called “tinola.”

“Boodle fight” is a kind of informal dinner in the Philippines that originated from the military. It is a sort of a buffet style meal where diners by the table partake on foods with their bare hands. This type of informally serving foods has found its way outside the military, so that some civilians adapted it in gatherings where foods are served. In a military “boodle fight” foods such as boiled rice, canned sardines, fried dried fish, broiled pork and pancit are laid on the table without utensils. Handful of Siling labuyo is deliberately inserted in the cooked rice. During the meal those who have the misfortune of putting and chewing the chili in his mouth would suddenly feel the burning sensation caused by the chili. However, such discomfort is only temporary since it will be gone after a few seconds, and then the partaker’s urge to eat returns to normal.

Aside from its culinary uses siling labuyo is also used in herbal medicine. Consuming it stimulates mucous flow from sinus cavity clearing nasal congestion, and because of it, the chili is used to treat cough and stuffed nose during cold and fever.  It is also said to lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. Crushed fruits are used to help clean wound to avoid infection. Mixed with oil and massaged on joints affected by gout and rheumatism, they help ease pain and inflammation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Call against the Construction of a Diesel Power Plant in the Tropical Island Paradise of Camiguin

An Island known for its sweet lanzones, Camiguin also boasts of its beautiful islets and azure sea waters. It has fresh air, volcanoes, pristine mountain rain forests, hot springs, old Spanish colonial-era church ruins, rustic environment and friendly and hospitable people. Camiguin Island is indeed a tropical paradise for local and foreign tourists. However, in the view of some people the beautiful island is threatened with planned infrastructures that may alter the nature which make it an environmentally pleasant tourist destination.

Citizen for Green and Peaceful Camiguin (CGCP) which has hundreds of International and local members is at the forefront of protecting the island’s environment. The group is protesting the construction of a diesel power plant located in Sitio Maubog, Bgy. Balbagon, Mambajao, Camiguin. On November 5, 2015, it staged a “peace assembly” at the village freedom park on said matter and other social issues affecting the island.

On the issue of the diesel power plant, a protest is directed against the Camiguin Electric Cooperative (Camelco), and the local public officials of the island province. The group deplored the lack of transparency of officials of the local government and electric cooperative on the project as well as the lack consultations with the local residents on the project’s social acceptability.                                                                                                                    

The group is concerned that construction of the power plant will adversely affect the island’s ecosystem and biodiversity which will destroy the environment and affect the well being of the people. In fact Camiguin is proclaimed as an Environmentally Critical Area. Local residents rely heavily on farming, fishing and tourism related activities for their livelihood. In addition, the operation of a diesel power plant may increase the level of green house gasses such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Excessive amount of those gasses in the atmosphere is detrimental to the health of the inhabitants which may make them prone to respiratory, cardiovascular and other diseases caused by toxic gasses in the air.