Photo courtesy by YouTube
MANILA — Intended as an easy Saturday sail this month, after five days of frenetic, fast-paced editing and copy reading of top news stories our attention was quickly called by a broadcast program on swamp cabbage.
It was the Tutok Erwin Tulfo Weekend Edition, with what we felt was an interesting segment titled “Biyaya ng Kangkong.”
We have long been familiar with kangkong, or balangeg in the north of the country, also known as water spinach, which nutritionists have said is a great source for vitamin A, essential for the health of skin, hair, and vision and Vitamin C.
News anchor Tulfo travelled all the way to Taytay, Rizal in the eastern outskirts of the metropolis where he interviewed 65-year-old Carlos Cantaco Sr., the exemplar of what the broadcast journalist called “diligence and determination” particularly in the pandemic zone.
The former fisherman and farmer started his kangkong farm 20 years ago and has since become, from a small area, countable hectares of this crop farmed in different Asian cultures for generations.
Today, Cantaco, who has seen all four offspring finish their college degrees with the help of his phenomenal spinach, is netting on the average P200,000 a month – with orders of thousands of bundles from outlets in Divisoria in Manila, Zapote in Las Piñas, Marikina, Pasay and Balintawak, all in Metro Manila.
Cantaco’s harvester Efren, who has been working for Cantaco, reflects the polar manifestation of the pejorative Tagalog line “pinulot sa kangkungan” – pride that, despite factory doors slammed shut on him because of lack of formal education, he has his family partake three meals a day and, with an accompanying chuckle, sometimes four times.
Kangkong entails a relatively simple farming process and growing demand and has been the crop of choice for many farmers, given that it can be harvested in just 20 days and requires little care or attention.
It grows well in hot and humid conditions and requires only small amounts of seed, fertilizer, and regular watering – unless the kangkong farm is in some waterway as is Cantaco’s.
Nutritionists say kangkong seeds and leaves have a variety of health benefits which makes the crop even more appealing to cultures around the world and it is in high demand in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and in the Philippines.
Cultivators and historians say since 300 AD kangkong has been used as a medicinal vegetable in Southern Asia with its health benefits seen early on, with benefits ranging from nutritional benefits to therapeutic elements.
Experts say kangkong is known for being a great provider of vitamins and minerals, a great source for vitamin A which is essential for the health of skin, hair, and vision.
Another vitamin that has a large presence in kangkong is Vitamin C, claimed to be great for protecting the body from various diseases and is also known to be great for skin and hair repair.
The high presence of vitamin C in kangkong leaves does wonders for skin and eye health, according to nutritionists, who add vitamin C has great anti-aging properties and can reduce wrinkles significantly and can even speed up the healing process and the formation of scar tissue.
Apart from vitamins, kangkong is a leading source of vital minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium, the last two extremely important for the health of bone and teeth.
Kangkong contains 21 percent of a person’s daily calcium and 18 percent of the person’s daily magnesium per 100 grams.
These are just a few of the vitamins and minerals in kangkong. It is also a great source for folates, niacin. pantothenic acid, pyridoxine, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc.
Added on to vitamins and minerals is the large presence of dietary fibers and antioxidants and is relatively high in beta-carotene, natural antioxidants, protein, and carbohydrates.
Kangkong is also extremely rich in electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, 100 grams of kangkong can account for 7.5 percent of a person’s daily sodium intake and 6.6 percent of the person’s daily potassium intake.
This high nutritional value has led to a large number of therapeutic benefits. From immunity benefits to skin health, it is also a leading medicinal plant.
At the same time, the large presence of vitamin A and the other minerals in kangkong leaves are known to boost immunity. Vitamin A is a significant vitamin in the immune system, and the body depends on it to maintain health.
With such a high presence of Vitamin A, kangkong leaves are a great way to give a person’s immune system a natural boost.
Kangkong’s wealth in iron makes it great for people suffering from anemia since iron is needed for the formation of hemoglobin which is what people with anemia struggle with.
Cantaco may not be that familiar with the health benefits of kangkong. But his diligence and determination – in Tulfo’s words “sipag at tiyaga” – have given the elderly prosperity beyond his eye range other Filipinos can look up to.
His concrete house, built from kangkong’s earnings – “katas ng kangkong” in Cantaco’s term – is just one example that stands as witness to that virtue of zeal and perseverance.