Dragon Fruit Spews Treasure for Ilocanos

In 2005, farmer-turned-entrepreneur Edita Dacuycuy merely wanted to have an alternative cure for her daughter's constipation problems, a condition common to patients with cerebral palsy.

Dacuycuy began cultivating the fruit in her backyard until word spread of the fruit's curative effect. She later turned to growing more dragon fruit in her family's agricultural property in Burgos and put up Refmad Farm which is both a plantation and a showcase of the healing fruits' byproducts.

She still grows her own dragon fruit but has taught thousands of individuals how to raise the fruit and make an income out of it. Dacuycuy would later be known as the dragon lady of Ilocos.

Eight years later, the dragon fruit, known for its curative components, has become a wonder crop that is now grown in at least 70 hectares of farm lands in Ilocos Norte for 645 farmers and their families.

From seasonal harvesting from May to November, researchers and dragon fruit growers here have developed a year-round fruit production through the "extended daylight technology".

The technology stimulates flowering by placing light bulbs in between its posts to warm them up so that Ilocanos get to enjoy the fruit even off-season.

"Dragon Fruit", known locally as "Saniata," originated in Central America and has been grown in some areas of China, Vietnam, Israel, Nicaragua and the Philippines.

Being a variety of cactus, the crop is suitable to be grown in Ilocos Norte's farmlands which are sandy-type combined with dry-type climate.

Since "dragon fruit" is a low-maintenance plant, Ilocano households here have their own pocket "dragon fruit" gardens.

The cactus-like plant can also be seen lining the roads around Ilocos Norte and in idle lands and school compounds.

To "dragon fruit" growers, the wonder fruit has contributed to their agricultural industry and has become one of their best livelihood source.

Ilocanos describe the fruit as "vine of life" because of the benefits it can provide from its fruits to stem and even its skin flesh.

Among the products that farmers and entrepreneurs have developed range from ice cream, jam, wine, vinegar, tea, cookies, pastries and soap bars.

Thus, the Mariano Marcos State University (MMSU), the Kailokuan Saniata Growers Cooperative (KASACoop), the Ilocos Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (Ilarrdec), the provincial government, Department of Agriculture and the Department of Education have institutionalized a festival to further promote the industry.

Officials have declared July, considered the fruit's peak season, as dragon fruit festival.

This year, the province staged a three day celebration themed "Patibkeren Industria ti Saniata para iti nadur-as a Turismo ken Agrikultura" (Strengthen the Saniata Industry to boost Tourism and Agriculture) from July 9-11 at the Teatro Ilocandia in Mariano Marcos State University in Batac City. (MCA/Cherry Joy S. Discaya/PIA1-Ilocos Norte)

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