The good grass

UNLESS grass is cultured on domestic lawns and commercial spaces reserved for gardens and breathing spaces, grass is considered a pest.

It competes with the food that should go to more useful vegetation such as tomatoes, lettuces, cut flowers and even young hardwood, to name a handful. (Still, I let the grass grow in my unruly garden.)

To many nations in Asia, however, a certain grass is viewed as “The Good Grass,” a friend to man. This grass is a giant among its kin, and offers a variety of uses ranging from house material to food, from construction scaffolding to world-class furniture.

You need not look too far away. In the Philippines, this giant grass has been a source of livelihood and sustenance for many generations of Filipinos. The pliant bamboo has been beloved by man throughout history.

Folklore has immortalized the bamboo in the Philippine creation myth of Malakas, the strong one, and Maganda, the beautiful one. Unlike Adam and Eve, they were born out of a split bamboo.

The Las Piñas Bamboo Organ in St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas City is made almost entirely of bamboo. Father Diego Cera, the town’s first Catholic priest, completed the bamboo organ by 1824.

Japan has dedicated places of honor for the bamboo, such as the Hokikuji Bamboo Gardem in Kamakura and the Bamboo Forest of Arashiyama. Awesome is the Fuji Bamboo Garden, which nurtures 450 varieties of bamboo.

Cebu’s famous son, Kenneth Cobonpue, has successfully intermarried the bamboo into his artistic but functional designs using rattan, abaca, cutting-edge carbon fiber, to name some materials.

No wonder Cebu town Alegria celebrates the bamboo in its Kawayan Fest from Dec. 2 to 3. The giant grass has established its function in society and has a place in the kitchen, too, thus Alegria, which means merry or joyful, makes wonderful noise in honoring this gift from God.

Filipinos eat dabong (in Cebuano) or bamboo shoots by mixing it in vegetable soup; blanching slivered dabong in boiling water, squeezing out the juice and packing it in hot pickling mixture.

Burgers made with bamboo have texture, and fresh lumpia can stand with dabong as filling instead of ubod (heart of palm).

Dabong offers a variety of vitamins including magnesium, calcium, vitamin B-complex, C and A, among others. Since it is young wood, it is a good source of fiber. So eat the good, giant grass whenever you can.
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