Sunday, June 8, 2008

Bitaog (Calophyllum blancoi)

I smelled sweet flowers on a Puerto Princesa shore. Searching for the source didn't take me far, as I reached a beautiful large tree with white flowers and leathery leaves. The next thing to search for was a nearby native who could tell me what it was.

Apparently, the tree is called dangkalan locally, but in Tagalog is called bitaog. More research led to a discovery that this highly medicinal plant is found in many other parts of the world, mostly along coasts and lowland forests, but occasionally at higher elevations.

Obviously, it somehow traveled to/from us via the Indo-Malay peninsula, where it is called bintangor (in Bicol and in some parts of the Visayan and Tagalog regions, it is called bitangol). The Ilocano and Pangasinense areas call it many names from the same family (pameklatan, pamitlain, pamitaogen, pamitauyen).

Some people call it palo maria or santa maria, from its "whole name" in Spanish of palo de santa maria. The conquistadores seem to have applied the same name to the guanandi of South America, which is actually the related Callophyllum blancoi.

Bitaog, which has recently received marginal attention due to it being able to produce more oil than jatropha, is a highly medicinal tree. The oil is used for skin disorders and the sap used for external application against asthma. Unfortunately, the seed was not available for me to take home.

The man told me that the leaves are also boiled or pounded with water, and this resulting solution applied to sore eyes or eye infections. You can also choose to relax your eyes against the bark of the tree, like this guy:


beverly said...

dude, i wanna travel with you locally. like ride the bus and exchange human interest stories during the road trip...haha! fun! :)

Bea said...

Road trip! But you have a job now... A wonk job! :D