Our love affair with idjok (Arenga pinnata) started in December 1970, right after Father’s death in December of that year. There was this huge idjok palm on Mano Bukot’s property near the Siphon (irrigation canal) in Lubi-lubi. We did not have the technology to make use of the millions of idjok fruits hanging majestically like over-sized grapes, so we had to start from scratch. Like, really harvesting them by hand, using the tallest ladder we could find, which we rued. Because. . . because, in the process, we were itching all over! It turned out the idjok sap had this substance that irritated and made you so itchy, you think you would die from it. . .literally! In no time did we discover that denatured or rubbing alcohol was a good antidote, but even then, the relief was gradual.
Having learned our lesson, the second time we equipped ourself with the alcohol. We discovered that roasting the idjok fruit made the extraction of the germ easier, but the fruit had to be 100 percent cooked for 100 percent extraction. So we decided to boil the fruits in huge vessels for at least ten minutes–that’s how we discovered the perfect way. In effect, we became the kaong pioneers of Leyte province, and Lee’s Grocey in Tacloban purchased everything that we produced under LEYCO brand.
Supply of the raw material became a real concern, and we had to map the environs of Guinarona, Patong, Bolirao, Malabca and Burauen. We found that the banks of Daguitan river really teemed with idjok, so we camped out and cooked away then and there. Now crossing the Daguitan river carrying our wares was a real hassle and many a time did our linusok drown and could not be retrieved. Sigh. . .
We understand that with time, Guinarona and environs have now been teeming with wild idjok (think Ibugue, Maalngon, Kunarom, Sawahon). Which is just as well because the palm is very much in the news these days, owing to the world-class vinegar that is produced from the idjok sap, aside from the kaong in bottles that has become a sine qua non for fruit salads.
From our experience, the cooked, waste idjok husks make an excellent fertilizer. No sooner do you discard them than orange colored mold appears on them, hastening their decomposition. The guyabano tree in our yard, fertilized with kaong husks, was always fecund the whole year round and the fruits were HUGE!
And did you know that lactobacillus is endemic in the cooked idjok germ? Think of it as an organic yogurt starter!
Our vision then is to put up a green house/nursery to propagate the idjok palm so that every lot in Guinarona has it, aside from commercially planting the idjok in coconut farms as well. We may not be as technologically savvy as the Chinese, but our resources are unique, which we can harness for our economic well-being.
The idjok is just one of the many.