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Tuesday, December 24, 2019




April 1, 2002

Do you know that the largest flower in the world can also be found in the Philippines?
That’s right! I saw it myself in Antique on March 30, 2002.
This flower can also be found in Bukidnon, according to an Antiqueňo who worked as a farmer in Bukidnon for 16 years.
The Rafflesia flowers in Antique have so far been found in two different sites. They can be seen at the forest land of the brothers Michael, Jennybert, and Sunday Cabigunda  along Kilometer 136, Sitio Apong, Brgy. Cabladan, Sibalum, and at forest land of Betty Mission along Kilometer 134, Aningalan, San Remgio, Antique. The nearest landmark is the Aningalan Elementary School, San Remigio, Antique at KM 136 on the highway from San Remigio, Antique to Leon, Iloilo.
This flower is scientifically known as Rafflesia, named after the British colonial administrator of Singapore when it was colonized by the Great Britain.
There are about 12 known species of Rafflesia worldwide. The reported species in the Philippines is Rafflesia manillana Teschemacker which was discovered in Luzon. Unfortunately, no picture is posted of this plant in the internet.
Rafflesia is locally known as Calo Ni Usong in Sitio Apong, Brgy Cabladan, Sibalum, Antique where the first citing was recorded; in Aningalan, San Remigio, also in Antique, it is called Uroy. But in Bukidnon, it is called Bagong.
The largest specimen, Rafflesia arnoldii, was found in the rainforests of Indonesia. It measured about 1 meter in diameter from the tips of the opposite petals, and weighs about 9 kilos.
In the Philippines, aside from those specimens found in Antique, Rafflesia  is also found in Kabangalan, Bukidnon.
How was Rafflesia discovered in Antique?
According to Sunday Cabigunda, his brother Michael requested somebody to cut bamboos in their land. To check whether there really were cut bamboos, the two brothers, Jennybert and Michael went to the land on July 20, 2001.  While checking the bamboos, Michael found a unique flower.
Michael is a member of an ecological group in Antique that is. In one of their seminars, their resource person showed them pictures of endangered flowers of the Philippines. One of those flowers shown to them is Rafflesia.
Rafael remembered he saw this plant in their land. He told his group about his discovery.
A visit was made by the group in March 2002. The group was convinced that the plant seen by Michael is indeed the Rafflesia sp., the biggest flower of the world. And it has been considered one of the rarest and endangered flowers in the Philippines. Pictures were taken. A radio station in San Jose, Antique broadcast it. That triggered many Antiqueños to see the plant. As of March 30, 2002, more than one thousand people visited the site in Sitio Apong.
While visiting the said site on March 30, 2002, somebody told me that the same plant has also been found in the kapehan, or an area where coffee trees are planted, of Betty Mission. I asked the owner to accompany me to the said site. Mrs. Mission, the Barangay Secretary, and her husband accompanied this writer to the site. There I found three dried Rafflesia flowers and two buds, located feet apart.
The seeds of this flower are microscopic, about 1 millimeter long, and it can be seen by the naked eyes only after it sprouts into a flower. Its bud looks like that of a brown onion, but it can grow as big as that of a cabbage. It has no stem or leaves. Unlike the Rafflesia arnoldii of Indonesia, the Rafflesia that I saw at Aningalan grows from its tuber embedded in the soil that looks like the tuber of ubi.
The sap of the tuber is very bitter, according to Mr. Jose Loplop. He said that a certain Benito Valentin of Antique experienced a swelling of his lips and numbness of his tongue after he tasted the sap of the tuber of this plant in Bukidnon.
Mr. Loplop is a native of San Remigio, Antique who worked as a farmer for 16 years in the lands of Mr. Ricardo Torecha in Kabangahan, Bukidnon, and a close friend of Mr. Valentin.
The swelling and the numbness were cured after he robbed them with coconut oil.
The flower of Rafflesia that I saw at Aningalan is about an inch from its tuber. The full-bloom flower that I saw in Sito Apong was maroon and it is about 1 ½ feet in diameter. I failed to see white spots on its five petals as mentioned in the various files in the internet. I was about one meter away from the full-blown flower located in Sitio Apong.
The biggest Rafflesia flower that Mr. Jose Loplop saw in Bukidnon was about three feet in diameter. This is the same size that is being talked in Antique.
The one that I saw in Sitio Apong, Brgy. Cabladan, Sibalum on March 30, 2002, was about 1 ½ feet wide.
It has five rounded, separated petals. In the middle, you can see a cauldron-like cup with spiked disk.  Inside this disk are either sepals or stamina, depending upon whether the plant is male or female. The specimen found in Indonesia has one or two sepals. But the one that I saw in Sitio Apong has more than ten sepals.
It is possible that the specimens found in Antique belong to a new species.
The smell of this flower, according to my informants in Antique, is like that of a rotting meat that attracts swarms of flies, especially the big ones, locally known as lagong or bangaw. This is also corroborated by Mr. Loplop. This is the same smell described in the specimens found in Indonesia.
The bad odor according to Mr. Loplop can be smelled to as far as thirty meters away. This is evident immediately after it has bloomed.
The blooming of this plant takes place at night.
But after five days, the flower starts to dry up, and it becomes odorless. The first to rotten is the middle part of the flower. The dried petals turned from maroon to black, and odorless. They looked like the dried edible fungi locally known as tainga ng daga.
Its bad smell serves as its defense mechanism from its predators and probably to attract flies for its pollination.
This plant grows in shady places. The more fertile the soil is, the bigger the flower becomes. As mentioned earlier, its flower can grow as wide as 36 inches wide. The bud of this plant blooms after 12 months.
Aside from being the largest flower on earth, what else can we get out of this?
Since the sap of the tuber of this plant can cause swelling of the lips and numbness of the tongue, it very much possible that the sap of this flower contains much tannins and alkaloids. These chemical compounds can be used as pesticides. It is also possible that antibiotics can be produced from this plant. The bad smell that is being emitted by this plant is still unknown, but most probably it is nitrogen base.
Since this plant has been considered endangered and very rare, can it be propagated artificially? Yes, it can.
In an article “Award for Success in Rafflesia Research” published in the Internet ( Tropics/Shores/3187/Rafflesia.html), it is reported that Dr. Jamili and his team of Sabah Parks in Indonesia were able to propagate Rafflesia by inoculation in January 2000.
About ten years ago, I wrote an article about biab, the wonder plant of Antique.  It was published in Panay News. Unfortunately, my copy of that article is missing.
This biab plant is also found in San Remigio, Antique. It is a vine, and it has a tuber. The sap of this tuber contains a lot of tannin and alkaloids, and according to Dr. Vicenta Gacutan of the Division of Biological Sciences, U.P. in the Visayas, in Miag-ao, Iloilo, the tuber of biab contains a lot of tannin, and it is antifungal.
To date, two undergraduate theses have already been undertaken on biab. The latest thesis is the production of a bath soap mixed with the tincture of biab. Two scientific projects have also been undertaken, not to include the one that is on-going.
With this initial preparatory information like biab, it can be surmised that many medicines can be produced from Rafflesia.
I hope that this article will awaken the leaders of Antique to protect their natural resources as mandated in Executive Order No. 247 dated 18 May 1995 otherwise known as Prescribing Guidelines and Establishing a Regulatory Framework for the Prospecting of Biological and Genetic Resources.

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