Hail the Marunggay Fairy and her green leafy wand

The Marunggay Fairy during the launch of Malunggay in the City in Metro Manila
The Marunggay Fairy during the launch of Malunggay in the City in Metro Manila

TRC Director General Tony Ortiz and MMSU President Miriam Pascua enjoy malunggay ice cream

TRC Director General Tony Ortiz and MMSU President Miriam Pascua enjoy malunggay ice cream

During a TV shoot for "Negosyo, atbp." aired on NBN
During a TV shoot for "Negosyo, atbp." aired on NBN

Everyone who enters Laoag City via the Gilbert Bridge is welcomed by a humungous “M” sign. The golden arch is trademark of a global food chain that is home to fatally cholesterol-laden food products including French fries, fried chicken, and burgers.

Somewhere in the city, however, another big “M” is gaining ground, slowly but surely, thanks to a lady who has extensively researched on, developed, and commercialized a greeny wonder.

Dr. Lorma Matias-Valera, a professor at the Mariano Marcos State University College of Industrial Technology (MMSU CIT), has revolutionized malunggay technology, finding a way to marry off gustatory delight with good nutrition.

Born in Cebu but raised in Laoag City, Valera started cooking using original malunggay recipes in 1987, which her fellow teachers enjoyed. Half a decade later, she started the first malunggay-processing project, successfully coming up with different flour-based, malunggay-fortified snacks.

MMSU President Elias Calacal, who encouraged her to come up with a project proposal in the processing of malunggay snacks, approved the project after tasting one of Valera’s original concoctions, malunggay ice cream.

Not long since, malunggay ice cream gained a considerable following which includes former President Fidel V. Ramos, who describes the product as “food for the gods”.

Seeing the potential of Valera’s work, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) funded another project for the processing of more malunggay recipes. Today, other malunggay products are available and being developed: pretzels, sugar bread, pasta, polunggay (malunggay-based polvoron), malunggay-based flour, pastillas, among others.

Valera, who holds a master’s degree in education major in practical arts and a doctorate in educational management, has since been invited to a number of cooking demonstrations and product exhibits sponsored by different agencies and higher education institutions in many parts of the country. The malunggay-based products she developed, which are now being promoted by different government and non-government organizations, have been showcased by major national television stations, and featured in national newspapers, magazines, recipe books, and websites.

Valera believes that processing malunggay (moringa in English and marunggay in Iluko) and other vegetables can be the solution to varying stages of malnutrition suffered by 3 of 5 children throughout the country.

Each ounce of Moringa contains seven times the Vitamin C found in oranges, four times the Vitamin A of carrots, three times the iron of spinach, four times as much calcium as milk, and three times the potassium of bananas.

Among the other health benefits identified by marunggay lovers include immune system strengthened, skin condition restored, blood pressure controlled, headaches and migraines handled, diabetes sugar level managed, inflammations and arthritis pains reduced, tumors restricted, and ulcers healed. Indeed, marunggay is not considered “nature’s medicine cabinet” for nothing.

In 2007, Valera served as resource speaker at the launch of “Malunggay in the City” in Metro Manila. Sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, the program aims to encourage urban poor communities to plant malunggay to help fight hunger, poverty and malnutrition in urban areas.

“Eat your vegetables,” children are always urged by adults. However, vegetables must first taste delicious and look appealing if people are to be encouraged to consume them. Here is where the marunggay fairy comes in: churning out food that no kid can resist.

But it is not only children who are drawn to Valera’s recipes. During a television shoot for Negosyo, atbp., the program of the Department of Science and Technology-Technology Resource Center (DOST-TRC) aired on the National Broadcasting Network, DOST-TRC Director General Antonio Ortiz could not help but flash a boyish grin after tasting malunggay ice cream and pastries. Thereafter, Ortiz pledged to help commercialize malunggay technology nationwide.

Valera acknowledges the significant help extended by incumbent MMSU President Miriam E. Pascua is most supportive to the project. She says she is also thankful to have dynamic team members in the malunggay project, especially Prof. Teresita N. Pablo, also from MMSU CIT, who helped her develop some of the recipes.

“We do not have to look far to generate technology. In fact, they are just within our reach. It’s just a matter of looking at the potential around us,” explains the 1998 Most Outstanding Home Economics Teacher Awardee of the Philippine Home Economics Association.

Valera looks forward to having malunggay-based products exported globally, if only the products’ shelf-life and packaging can be fine-tuned. With ten million Filipinos, many of them Ilocanos, living in every corner of the world, it will not be a total surprise if malunggay becomes the next big thing in a planet battered by economic woes.

Valera may not be a fairy of magic carousels, glass shoes, and enchanted fortresses, but her ability to let people discover magic in the ordinary is power beyond measure.

“I just want to help people realize that malunggay is not a lowly viand after all,” says Valera.

As malunggay technology continues to show much promise, one hopes that it will grow further and generate more jobs. Sadly so, many crew members of McDonald Laoag are former students of the malunggay fairy.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

31 thoughts on “Hail the Marunggay Fairy and her green leafy wand”

  1. iam eager to taste all these malunggay products.remember i told you all about my everyday ulam is always marunggay and how all the trees were so happy when i left batac?

  2. i find the title amusing..i want to share something about my nephew.he is gay and one time while i was there he left his cell phone in the tricycle and when he realized it the tricycle is already going and with his bouquet of marunggay he was running after the tricycle .”marunggay fairy?”but my nephew is a very descent hindi maharot kinda gay.

  3. i have yet to taste all of these to gain my approval.all of these seem odd but who knows i might like it and get hooked to them. did they already began exporting it?hopefully the oriental market here in manchester will get them!!!

    1. I don’t think they are in the global market yet. They reach foreign shores mainly by padala and pasalubong.

  4. i think so too.up to this day i still lol and i think it had been 3 years past.we still both laugh whenever we bring it up. iam glad you think it’s funny too.

  5. i heard the 23rd tomorrow is the empanada festival in batac.i miss empanadas. cholo said he is doing the photographing!

  6. which part are you not excited about?about the empanada festival or about cholo doing the photography?

  7. be truthful on this one.whatever the answer is i can take it…you are entitled to your own opinion. i would rather hear the truth than not.

    1. Answer to what po? My thoughts on the empanada fest? I was able to see part of the dance parade but got bored. I ate ordinary empanada at riverside. It costs Php28 while its just Php15 in Laoag.

  8. so that means just because the demands of empanada is high the price is also high er . i remember when it cost like 25 cents and miki the same. if they make money with 15 pesos they can make more money with 28 pesos. i really do not care for it that much anyway.but everyone at my house does.my sisters when we are there they even want to eat there which i cannot stand due to the crowds and very noisy. i would rather eat it with peace and quiet ambiance.

  9. the sun just came out and i was on the phone with my sister and i just blurted out..hey the sun is out.my husband said “quick take a picture.” my sister said”go out and bask under the sun and as soon as she said that the sun went in again..they jinxed the sun…they are making fun of me.

  10. i remember when we were young whenever we have scrapes and cuts my mom would get the marunggay leaves and pound it and apply it to the affected skin and voila the next morning it is better..

    1. Me and my playmates also did that whenever wed get cuts and bruises from playing in the streets.

  11. Malunggay ay isang masustansiyang pagkain na nakatutulong sa atin sarili….Ang malunggay ay maraming gamit na pwedeng maging gamot….Isang produkto ng pinoy na kung anu-ano ang mga natuklusan nila sa malunggay na pwede pala itong sangkap sa pag-gawa ng ice cream at iba pa…..

  12. napakagandang malaman na ang kababayan nating ilokano ay nakikilala dahil sa angking galing sa pag-iibento ng mga bagay na galing sa mga di masyadong napapansin. . .prud 2 b ilokano!!!!!!

  13. i am missing my marunggay already.after the typhoon when marunggay disappeared from the galaxy i got devastated.i thought my world would crumble and had marunggay withdrawal. lucky they sprout in no time and was back to my dailies….bagnet and marunggay.

  14. Just a broadcast to all who do not know: Malunggay Fairy was honored as one of the Outstanding Laoaguenos last Feb 13, 2010 on her malunggay research.

  15. someone just gave me malunggay seeds.i will plant it and see what happens.with the cold and harsh winters we have in new england i will plant it in a big pot so i can bring it out in the summer and inside during winter time.i miss malunggay so much that whenever i go home for vacation it is my everyday ulam and when i am gone our trees can rest.

      1. i hope so. i have to instruct my husband how to care for it although he does a good job taking care of my plants when i am gone. i give him lot of credit..

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daytoy ti bunga ti rimkuas nga iliw ken abrasa dagiti lagip iti selsel met la a nagtaudanna...

Herdy Yumul

Blogger/Columnist/Book Author


Got Stuck Beneath the Ink of Pen And Aperture of Lens

When will things happen?

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