By “Awake!” correspondent in the Philippines
FILIPINOS have no monopoly on ingenuity, but it is interesting to observe how they have displayed this quality in making the most of what was at hand.
The second world war left millions of empty ammunition shells and bomb casings scattered across the Philippine countryside. They were used as scrap metal in industry. Individual Filipinos also put them to use. Graceful ferns, lilies and other flowering plants grow out of such shells throughout the islands. And in the southern Philippines gongs from bomb casings provide communication for rural folk separated from each other. During the war gasoline was limited. So Filipinos built vehicles with a furnace at the rear that burned coconut-shell charcoal for fuel. Sooty perhaps, and not as fast as a gasoline-powered bus, but it took people where they wanted to go.
When this coco-bus went out of use at the end of the war, a new vehicle was born: the jeepney. Thousands of American jeeps, classified as surplus, were converted by enterprising Philippine mechanics into excellent vehicles for passenger service. They still constitute one of the major means of transportation in towns, each capable of carrying ten or twelve persons.
Bamboo trees are common in the Philippines. They usually reach a height of ten feet or more. A Filipino may build his entire house from bamboo. He also makes tables, chairs, screens, benches, water pipes, rope and toys out of it. Even salt, pepper and sugar containers, as well as cooking utensils, are made from bamboo.
Some Philippine women make a good salad from bamboo shoots. And ingenious farmers bend the bamboo sapling until its tip almost touches the ground. Then they slice off the tip and keep the stem bent all night while the sap drips into a tumbler. By morning they have a tumblerful of tasty bamboo juice!
Of great importance, too, is the coconut tree, products from it accounting for a large part of the country’s exports. Filipinos utilize it in many ways. Coconut shells provide fuel for their stoves, besides providing scoops, piggy banks and toys of all sorts. The leaves of the tree are woven into hats. They are made into lampshades, fans, and roofs and walls for booths.
Coconut sap is a refreshing drink; fermented or distilled, it is a potent wine. The ubod, the heart of the tree, is delicious eaten raw or cooked. Philippine housewives allow coconut milk to ferment and gather mold. They then cook this mold into a mouth-watering jelly, the nata de coco.
Banana plants also are common and are utilized in ingenious ways. Of course, their ripened fruit is delicious. But green bananas are boiled, stewed, fried, roasted and candied for interesting variety.
A Philippine housewife may wrap her husband’s lunch in a banana leaf. This keeps it warm and fragrant until lunchtime. And banana leaves are used as a head covering when it rains, and to keep cool in the tropical heat.
The kapok tree is a source of filling used in pillows. Philippine women also weave kapok fluff into thread for blankets and mosquito nets. And the seeds, dried and ground to powder, are a fine substitute for cocoa.
The papaya is employed as more than a good-tasting, nutritious fruit. A Philippine constabulary officer once was bitten by a snake. His arm rapidly grew numb. Remembering what an old Igorot hunter had taught him, he made an incision with his knife into the wound and, instead of cauterizing the wound, he broke off a green papaya leaf and applied its sap to the incision. Soon the numbness drained from his arm and he was able to rejoin his comrades.
Many Filipinos learn well to use the abundant vegetation around them. Wild fern tips make fine salad. Vines and palms yield drinking water. Shrubs of wild tea often grow in backyards, and their leaves and flowers make a brew just as fine as that made from store-bought tea. Also, an exotic tea is made from avocado leaves. Grapefruit rinds are cooked into delicious candy. And garlic and onion leaves are pickled instead of being thrown away.
It is beneficial for a person to make wise use of resources that are readily available. Exercising their God-given ingenuity, many persons in the Philippines have learned to do just that.