I was very happy last week when I received a basket-full of kamote (sweet potato) from one of our associates. Kamote is one of my favorite things to eat. It was part of my childhood and I continue to enjoy it today. I know that in the provinces it has remained a staple in many Filipino families especially those struggling to make ends meet. That is why it has earned the monicker “the poor man’s diet.” It’s cheap, delicious and more importantly, it is good for your health.
I remember my Nanay Curing encouraging me to eat kamote: “Boy, eto kumain ka kamote para luminaw ang mata mo at para lumakas ka.” Mothers always know best. Several studies have shown that just one piece of kamote has 400 percent of the vitamin A you need each day so it is really good for eye health and your immune system. It is also high in fiber so it will help you maintain a healthy digestive system. When I was young, I remember in the afternoon as I stay at home just staring outside from our window, I would be munching on sweet potato. The thing with kamote is that it is very filling so I would not feel hunger pangs for a long period of time.
Some people bake it or deep fry it with caramelized sugar a la kamote-cue but I like it the traditional way: nilaga. Just boil it and it’s good to go. The Filipino diet, of course, is focused on rice. Rice is very nice but it does lead to a myriad of diseases specifically diabetes. White rice in particular is considered empty carbs because it loses its main sources of nutrients.
Aside from its health benefits, kamote could potentially help our country as we attempt to achieve food security. The Department of Agriculture should consider kamote and other high value crops for development in order to boost the country’s food security and resilience to climate-change effects like strong typhoons, flash floods, landslides or even long-season of drought. With the price of rice at times increasing beyond the means of low income families and with periodic shortages happening, promoting kamote as an alternative to rice seems to be a very good idea.
This idea, of course, is easier said than done. We are set in our ways. Rice is at the center of our table. The popular promotions of extra rice and unlimited rice are proof of this. But we should at least start even when it is daunting. Government needs to implement a comprehensive plan that will shift public preference, over a course of time, to kamote as part of a serious food security strategy.
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Another good man has been welcomed in heaven this past week. Former Senator Rodolfo “Pong” Biazon died on June 12, 2023. He was a good soldier, an even better public servant and an uncompromising defender of democracy. I mourn his passing and join the nation in celebrating a life of sacrifice, courage and integrity.
Senator Biazon was already a senator when I was elected to the upper chamber in 2001. I think he was elected in 1998. We did not always agree on every issue but I had the most profound respect for him. This was probably because he also struggled his way out of an impoverished life to make a name for himself. What I remember most about Senator Pong was the fact that he was always a gentleman. When I watched him talk — whether on the floor of the Senate or in personal conversations — he was always respectful, careful with his words, but forceful when speaking about matters important to him.
My family and I wish to condole with his family and loved ones. It is perhaps fitting that he took his last breath on a day that commemorates our nation’s independence and honors those who fought for our freedom.