It is easy to find Oya Panya’s residence in Bulusan. Tricycle drivers will tell you that she lives in Baluarte adjacent to Dancalan Beach.
Oya Panya is a folk healer, ‘parabulong’ in Bulusan’s dialect.
I task myself that morning to take photos of the medicinal plants in her garden. She apologized for the not so good condition of her herbal plants. She is waiting for the planned road widening before rearranging the plants she explained in an apologetic manner.
This however did not deter her from answering my short queries on the several uses of plants that are presently growing around her house. Plants include the following: mansanilla, lakad-bulan, kologon-kogon, surangga, dusol, luya, noni, local taheebo, balbas-pusa, herba buena, buyo, kataka-taka etc.
The focus of our talk however shifted to ‘papas’ when I saw several pods drying in a bamboo slat. It seems that ‘papas’ is her major vegetable growing crop. It grows along the road and has the features of a very resilient plant. This is the kind of vegetable that does not need so much care and attention. It is a leguminous plant that bears large pods upon maturity. The beans are plump inside the matured pods which mean more food value.
Oya Panya told me that she harvests the papas while the pods are young and tender. Sliced thinly and cooked with coconut milk is how she prepares the papas for their meal. The seeds now drying in the pods are for reserve seeds for sowing in her garden to replace the old papas crops.
She showed me the growing papas from their roadside garden in stages from the young papas to the flowering and fruiting papas and to the old papas for replacement after several years of fruiting.
As a former gardener myself, I can spot whether a crop has the potential of being a dependable food material. And this papas crop has what it takes to be an important food crop because of its sustainability and resilient nature. Being a legume it is also packed with protein and carbohydrates.
One thing I learned from that visit though not directly related to herbal cures and medicinal plant documentation as originally intended is this : eating naturally grown nutritious food like papas is the best way to become healthy. The fit and hearty demeanor of the healer is a testimonial in itself. Who needs herbal cure when one is healthy?
Note: Papas has a strong resemblance to fava — a culinary must from other cultures.
Photos: Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines