Sira-sira Store: ‘Bisag saging’ life is tolerable

Ober Khok

“BISAG saging, basta labing” is a Cebuano phrase that makes light of the pain of want. It means something like, “even if we only have bananas to eat for as long as we have love, everything will be fine.” The rhyme gets lost in the translation, but the sense remains. Life is tolerable if you have bananas.

The plant grows easily and bears fruits in clusters or tiers or sipi (hands) attached to a bulig or stem. It can feed the whole family. Ripe bananas can be paired with boiled rice. Boiled green sab-a (also saba) or cardaba is often boiled and dipped in oil mixed with salt, or ginamos (fermented anchovies or bolinao) mixed with lemonsito juice.

Bananas are a blessing to the country, not just because it’s a cash crop, but because being common, many people can go on being labing (loving). This popular fruit has a lot of varieties to choose from like tundan or latundan, lakatan and bungan; and less common seniorita, tindok, morado and pitogo (round and small like the pitogo palm, which can be fashioned into keychains once the woody core is removed).

One folk belief attached to the fruit swears that a pregnant woman eating twin bananas will produce twin babies. I remember a GMA 7 Brigada feature on the explosion of twins in a town in Pampanga. If memory serves me right, the small community had 16 pairs of twins or triplets. According to a geneticist, twinning can be found in large communities but not in wide incidence. What happened probably had to do with the migration of people into that sitio who have the genetic factor of bearing twins, thus the big concentration of double-kids, so to say.

For the benefit of good health, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) published online why it’s good to eat bananas.

1. Bananas are good for heartburn, which the PCHRD based on a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemisty (February 2001). The article said bananas have anti-ulcer properties. There was no mention of which type of banana was most effective, perhaps because a banana is a banana is a banana.

2. It seems that two bananas a day will keep the doctor away because the fruit is high in fiber and vitamins (C, potassium, iron and B6). It has soluble fiber, like oats, which may help lower blood cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.

3. Bananas help drive out stress and insomnia. Have you ever seen monkeys acting out? Terrible joke aside, bananas have serotonin, a hormone known to make you feel happy and improve your mood.

4. Bananas are good for fatigue and anemia (charge it to iron). Its carbohydrate content boosts energy. Perhaps, this is the fruit Pambansang Kamao Manny Pacquiao takes before a game.

The PCHRD forgot that bananas are versatile. You can sip them in shakes; snack on them as chips or splits or cakes (banana cake and linuyang or mashed sab-a mixed with sugar and grated young coconut); nibble as “banana-que” or candied banana; cubed to give halo-halo texture; or added to soup (pochero) or curries (green banana curry with chicken). Maybe we should start calling the banana King of Fruits. Do I hear amens?