Bagong (Amorphophallus sp.) -- the Famous Root Crop of San Roque, Northern Samar

On October 23, 2010, I wrote a short article on Socyberty.com about a popular root crop in my hometown. The title of that post was Amorphophallus paeniifolius: A Famous Christmas Delicacy in San Roque, Northern Samar, Philippines



The write-up disappeared around 2015 when Triond.com and all of its affiliate sites, including Socyberty, suddenly became inaccessible. Triond, by the way, was a revenue-sharing platform where writers published articles on the internet. 

A family of farmers install the sariak before planting Amorphophallus.
Almost every bagong farm in San Roque has a bamboo installation at the center. 

Recently, I was able to retrieve that post from Wayback Machine Internet Archive through a link that I kept in my files:

Amorphophallus paeniifolius, a root crop, is known in San Roque, Northern Samar, Philippines as “bagong.” It is prominent on everyone’s dining table during the Christmas holidays. Most residents of the municipality feel that the absence of bagong during Christmas  makes their celebration incomplete.

It was only when I left San Roque that I realized I could not find the bagong delicacy elsewhere. Incidentally, not everyone in my hometown knows that the plant is not available in other towns of Northern Samar and in some parts of the Samar island. San Roque is the biggest producer of “bagong” in the Northern Samar province.  Meanwhile, most of those I know from Leyte, a nearby island, are not familiar with bagong.

Dr. Edwino Fernando, one of the leading taxonomists of the Philippines, said that the plant is not cultivated in other regions of the country. In fact, he was surprised when I told him that there are Amorphophallus paeniifolius plantations in San Roque, Northern Samar. According to him, the plant is used as animal food in some parts of the Philippines, but those are usually harvested from the wild.

The last paragraph of that post mentions that "Bagong contributes to the festive mood of the town -- its appearance in the local market is like hearing Christmas carols on the radio at the onset of the “ber” months, i.e., September-December."


Inug-og nga bagong (Amorphallus sp. cooked in coconut milk and sugar)

At the time I published that article on Socyberty, I felt that I needed to go to the field and do real research and documentation, so I could answer some basic questions regarding the root crop. 

Fieldwork in Barangay Coroconog in 2014

In 2014, I started doing fieldwork every time I went home during school breaks. I did some preliminary interviews, note-taking, and photo documentation in Barangay Coroconog, one of the sources of bagong in San Roque. The following year, I collaborated with Michael, my fellow instructor at the Department of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Sciences (DLABS) at Visayas State University. We crafted together "The Bagong (Amophophallus sp.) Ritual of San Roque, Northern Samar", a research proposal that we submitted to the Research Committee of the University. We were given a small grant for a one-year operation of our study. We used this for our travel expenses to San Roque. It was the first university-approved research of the department.

Michael beside a mature Amorphopallus sp. plant during one of our field
visits to a farm in Sitio Galutan.

The results of our research were published at the Annals of Tropical Research, Vol. 41 No. 1 (2019) in an article titled, "Folk Beliefs and Practices of Bagong (Amorphophallus sp.) Farmers in San Roque, N. Samar." We reported that

"Bagong is a root crop of social and religious significance to the people of San Roque. It is prominently associated with the Christmas season—a season of abundance—in San Roque, Northern Samar. Its planting and harvesting are marked by two important seasons in the Christian calendar: among locals, it is famous as inug-og nga bagong, a Christmas delicacy; among farmers, its planting is associated with the Lenten season." 

The article documents the folk practices, beliefs, and rituals associated with the root crop. It also includes chants recited by the farmers and some pictures from the field. The chants are in the Waray language. For purposes of sharing information, we included English translations in our article.  Highlights of the paper include the following: (1) Profile of Bagong Farmers; (2) Household Members' Roles in Bagong Farming; (3) Preparing the Field; (4) Site Requirement; (5) Timing of Planting; (6) Planting Ritual; (7) Maintenance of the Bagong Farm; (8) Thanksgiving Ritual; (9) Bagong Storage; (10) Harvesting the Bagong; (11) Securing the Tubers; and (12) Bagong as Food.

Waray translation: Bagong (Amorphophallus sp.) -- Sikat nga Duma sa San Roque sa Norte san Samar

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