By KC Santos
CARAMOAN, CAMARINES SUR – Milagros Sancha believes even small-time vendors like her can contribute to the livelihood of farmers in her barangay who depend on gabi or taro leaves for a living.
A resident of Barangay Ili, she sells dried gabi leaves, the main ingredient in laing, a popular dish all over Bicol.
While most vegetables are best prepared fresh, dried and wilted gabi leaves are ideal for preparing laing.
Despite the onslaught of Typhoon Bebeng, which coincided with the Caramoan town fiesta last weekend, her store remained adorned with gabi leaves.
Milagros laments the irregular supply from farmers who scour the mountains in Caramoan to harvest gabi leaves, often having to sneak some from privately-owned tracts of land, whose owners supply gabi leaves outside of Caramoan.
“Most of the farmers do not have their own land. Even if they wish to plant gabi so they can have a steady supply,” she says in Filipino, adding she buys “stolen” leaves so she can at least help these farmers.
Meanwhile, her small business provide a living for her family of six children. She sells gabi leaves for seven pesos a bind. If she’s lucky, in a day she sells P50 worth of gabi leaves to local carinderias or eateries. But due to the irregular supply, not too many vendors in Caramoan sell gabi leaves.
“I don’t earn much from selling gabi leaves but if I don’t sell it, who will?”
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