Bohol is well known to tourists because of its beautiful tourist spots like the enchanting Chocolate Hills, the white-sand beaches in Panglao Island, the rich diving sites in Balicasag Island, and the exciting dolphin watching around the vicinity of Pamilacan Island. But only few tourists know that Bohol is also known for ubi.
Boholanos like me are very proud of the ubi. The ubi is a good potential crop that makes the province ahead in the entire Central Visayas region. Because of this, it is included in the GMA High Value Commercial Crops (HVCC) program of the government.
The ubi (Dioscorea alata) grows more in this island province that produced the late president Carlos P. Garcia. Last year, Zenaida Darunday, a member of the board of directors of the Bohol Ubi Center Foundation, Inc. (BUCFI) reported that 66 percent of the total ubi production in the country comes from Central Visayas, and over half of that comes from Bohol making it the leader of ubi production in the Philippines. And this year the officials of the BUCFI are very confident to equal the previous year if not surpass it.
Through the years, the increase in production of ubi was realized because many agencies especially the Provincial Agricultural Office (PAO) and the BUCFI helped the farmers in their problems on ubi production and growing.
The BUCFI, which was created on Nov. 30, 1999, encouraged more Boholano farmers to plant more ubi. And to make the farmers more enthusiastic, the BUCFI in cooperation with the provincial government, hold an UBI Festival every third week of January. Now on its 3rd year, the Ubi Festival was patterned as an eco-tourism event that showcases ubi products, contests and cultural shows featuring ubi.
The organization also taught ubi growers how to increase their farm production through land conservation and other sustainable practices. They also taught these farmers how to sell their ubi and gave educational forums to increase their knowledge about the economic and cultural importance of the ubi.
Only few really know that the ubi had saved countless lives from hunger during the Spanish period. Therefore, the ubi is a crop that cannot be erased in the Boholano identity because it is a part of the rich history and culture of the Boholano people that revered it as a savior and sacred crop. And one shining example of revering the ubi is to kiss it when it drops on the ground.
Aside from revering it as a savior and sacred crop, many farmers plant ubi because of its great potential for livelihood. The crop is heavily planted in the towns of Alburqueque, Antequera, Baclayon, Corella, Cortes, Dauis, Dimiao, Garcia-Hernandez, Lila, Loay, Loon, Mabini, Maribojoc, Panglao, Sikatuna, and Ubay, to name a few.
It is traditionally planted in May or June and harvested from December to January. Some of the ubi varieties that thrive are iniling, tam-isan, binanag, binato, binugas, and the favorite kinampay.
The favorite ubi kinampay is the queen of all varieties because it can fetch the high price in the market. It has purple flesh color and aroma that makes it more valuable to exporters of ubi powder, the basic ingredient of all processed ubi products.
Boholanos used the ubi powder as a basic ingredient in puto, bibingka, ice candy, maruya, tart, jam, macaroons, cake, flan, bitso, suman, pastillas, polvoron, ice cream, doughnut, and empanada, to name a few.
Many say that Bohol is fortunate to have elected good leaders who work hard to make the province agriculturally productive. While Davao is proud of its durian and Camiguin of its lanzones, Bohol is also proud to produce the aromatic, sweet and nutritious ubi, the trademark of its friendly people.