September 10th, 2010
Leyte Samar Daily Express
The island province of Biliran may well be regarded a bio-geological wonder as shown by certain species of macro-marine algae or seaweeds observed. The waters of Biliran have been the venue of previous marine explorations in 1967, 1972, and lately in 2008-2009, as part of this writer’s research on the “Marine Algae of the Philippines”. The seaweed resource is biodiversely rich with green, brown, and red species. The presence of rare species has been well documented by early researchers like Prof. Patrocinio Makabenta in her account of some economically useful seaweed species published in 1967, Dr. P. A. Cordero, Jr. publications in 1973 (on Gelidiella acerosa, prolific used as raw material for ‘native’ gelatin dessert), and 1980 (about 30 species described in the book describing the useful seaweeds of the country). In 1977, he included about 50 species of red seaweeds in his doctoral dissertations submitted and defended in Kyoto University, Japan. The latter stint was under the Japanese Ministry of Education Scholarship (MOMBUSHO) Program.
Why a bio-geological wonder? This writer, who has chosen to take for his profession to study the sea resources which he considers as man’s ultimate frontier for survival, had done actual diving explorations of marine macro-algae or seaweeds from Batanes down to Mindanao in connection with his assessment of this rich and biodiverse marine plant. Nowhere in the Pacific Coast, South China Sea, and Inland Waters of the country can one find extensive, naturally growing population of the red seaweed Gelidiella acerosa known to the Biliranons as ‘gulaman’, than in Biliran Province! This seaweed matures and are harvested in September till January the following year, principally in the tidal flats off the coastal towns of Naval, Almeria, Kawayan, Culaba, and Caibiran.
A biological explanation for the proliferation of G. acerosa could be the presence of favorable physico-chemical (e.g. salinity, temperature, and pH) ecological factors present in the island that favor the growth and development of marine algae. Otherwise, there must be some geological explanations that need to be hatched on why the red seaweed has found the ecosystem in Biliran a ‘haven’ for their endless growth and presence in the island province. The seaweed grows on the rough surfaces of submerged rocks almost in pure stands, rarely associated with other species. Its holdfast or ‘root-system’, anchored on rock surfaces, support the upright/vertically growing, multi-branched, wiry plant averaging 4 inches tall, oftentimes losing its red colored pigments (phycoerythrin) upon long exposure at low tide. Could it be the chemical composition of rocks (serving as base), that support and favor the growth of ‘gulaman’? Calling geology researchers to uncover the mystery surrounding the luxuriant population of G. acerosa.- in Biliran island!
The use of ‘gulaman’ as raw material in making home-made gelatin dessert (ethnically done by boiling after drying to extract the gelose substance, strained and to it are added sugar and ‘lemonsito’ to taste), dates back to the early settlers of Biliran. History tells that these settlers (believed to have come from mainland Leyte Procinve) arrived in the island led by Fr. Gaspar during the 18th Century. Among the elderly fisherfolks interviewed in 2008-2009, no one could recall when and who could be considered as the ‘mother or father’ of seaweed-based gelatin-making in Biliran.
NEXT TOPIC: “Who Has Taken Notice of ‘Gulaman’, a Manna from Heaven to the Biliranons?”
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By: DR. PACIENTE CORDERO, JR.
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