Dr. “Lory” Lirio: Job’s tears (Tigbi) is an excellent alternative for rice-A A +A
By Benny Balweg
Saturday, August 11, 2012
When academician scientists talk about their line of business, they tend to repel the ordinary hearer. They remind me of grader’s remarks in my school campus at St. Joseph Elementary School in Bangilo, Malibcong, Abra: “Nalainga manginglis, naligat maawatan.” (“He is good in English, it’s hard to understand what he says.”) Conversely, these scientists have no patience to talk to the ordinary hearers whom they do not understand why they cannot understand them. Many Math teachers belong to this class. So they resort to the unsavory: “Nengnengkayo, tabbed!” (“You are short of intelligence, dumbbells!”)
Fortunately, Lorenza “Lory” Lirio, Ph.D., Professor from the University of Ghent, who heads the CAS-BSU Biological Science Office does not necessarily fall under the above-described category of doctoral, particularly so when she talks of her pet advocacy for a better alternative for rice, namely, Job’s tears in the English language, scientifically denominated as Coix lacryma-jobi Linn of the Poaceae (Graminae) family. (Oh, what’s this now?) In plain language, the plant is known in Benguet as just aggey or agdey for the cultivated type, and katnay, takjan, takaynan for the wild-growing type. In Tagalog, it is called tigbi; in Cebuano, kamias; elsewhere, kabbaung, and still elsewhere, apakey for the cultivated type or agroy for the wild. Tinguians of Abra call it baginás (accented on the last syllable).
Despite tight schedules, Lory as she is popularly known on campus among her women peers, takes time-out to convince visitors to see her demonstrations on the planting of tigbi. For her, it is a very versatile plant. First of all, it is a source of nutritious food, more nutritious than rice, she asserts, showing well-degreed graphs to support her points. The grass plant, she assures, “is very adaptive” to various kinds of soil, to a wide range of temperature, humidity and elevation. It can survive surprisingly in the unforgiving Arctic as informed by an observing friend, -“dormant in freezing winter and sprouting well in the spring.” On dry soil, however, the grains are smaller.
Emphasizing on the cultivated variety, Dr. Lirio says tigbi is rich in the essential nutrients, much better than other cereals. It can be cooked and consumed in many ways, like porridge, wine ingredient, steamed whole grain and roasted seeds. Nothing of the plant is wasted, she wide-eyedly explains, what humans do not eat of it can be used as animal feeds for goats, cattle, horses, etc. Problem, she jokes, comes with chicken which, without waiting for harvest time, harvest it themselves. Medicinal potentials of Job’s tears are quite promising, she is confident; as locals have demonstrated “effective” medicinal practices using Job’s tears. And more importantly also, she points out, planting and maintenance are easy. No pesticide, no commercial fertilizer, just organic to bolster growth; the plant can regenerate; shoots and tillers can serve as planting materials aside from the true seeds.
At the lobby of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences Building, Lory maintains exhibit stands showing uses of Job’s tears for other purposes, as principal as well as accessory: bags, slippers, rosary beads, bracelets, paper, ropes, curtains, frames, “and so on and so forth,” according to the imaginative mentor, who does not intend to be just yaya when the time comes to find the door of the classroom or office to knock at that of BSU-RA. With the latter’s retirees organization motto: “BSU service forever,” she can lead colleagues to turn Job’s tears to be a source of joyful assurance against hunger as well as of an object of admiration for the beautiful. We may add that tigbi does not serve just the body but the very soul. It induces sanctifying meditation in the Holy Rosary.
To punctuate our snapshots for this date, I would like to express my hearty thanks and congratulations to adventurous Vicky Tumbaga for taking me to a trip to Shilan, a veritable part of early Tacdian where nutritious takjan abounded to feed and fatten cattle and other grazing animals to the satisfaction and contentment of ancestral inhabitants, like Toltol and Cajay.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 11, 2012.