Erle Frayne D. Argonza
[Writ 03 May 2008, Quezon City, MetroManila]
Dios ta aggawaw! (Ibanag equivalent for ‘good day’!)
It may seem yucky a reportage to many obsessive-compulsives out there to hear that earthworms serve the most noble purpose of reinforcing our food needs. I mean not only the wormy task of processing our soil, but the true-blue blending of processed earthworm to produce biscuits and wafers.
That technology—of vermiculture—was born for way back three (3) decades today. I was just an entry level community development staff at the Ministry of Human Settlements’ RLO (regional liaison office) in 1981 when I had my first taste of wafers containing vermiculture inputs. The wafer was distributed by my agency to disaster refugees, often alongside the nutri-bun or bread reinforced with protein.
Protein is the nutrient so potently contained in the worm. And the agency’s Technology Resource Center (today’s Technology Livelihood Resource Center) was itself among the developers and distributors of the technology, aside from the National Science Development Board (today’s Department of Science & Technology). The wafer, as you ought to realize, tasted so damn delicious you’re going to ask for more packs right after your first taste.
When I was moved to livelihood as a coordinator, my reverie about this deli-earthworm wafer was jolted by the arrival of a team of entrepreneurs, young and ebullient, right at my office. The year was late 1981, and the team was bullish about installing a full-production base of vermiculture, right in my hometown of Tuguegarao. “Vermiculture in this semi-sleepy town! Hello!”
Upon a cursory review of the business plan forwarded by the team (both gentlemen, names now escape my memory), and then moving my focals back to the gentlemen, I recognized not only the feasibility of the project but also its vitality for Cagayan province that was essentially agriculture till these days. I told myself, “these guys are pretty serious!”
Cognizant of the competence of the team, who were already trained in vermiculture as indicated by their certificate, I immediately arranged for a visit to their demo site that was inside the home of the main partner. Right in front of my eyes I beheld these worms so huge I thought they must be some extra-terrestrial earthworms. But no, they were the simple backyard worms we know, though grown specially or in controlled environment. A sample worm was as stout as my forefinger and as long as 14 inches. Wow!
Not only that, but the two gentlemen (who applied as a partnership for funding thru the Kilusang Kabuhayan at Kaunlaran or KKK) even demonstrated before our eyes (I was with some junior staff) that the worms can be prepared salad-style. Vinegar and salt with pepper was prepared, and voila! The worms, still alive, were dipped right into the salad dressing and eaten raw. By golly! You’d puke if you’re not prepared for this.
Well, to cut the story short, I had this project recommended for priority funding and take off. The team knew what they were doing, from production to marketing of the products. They already had some commitments with their end-users that they attached to the application documents. In 1982, it became one of our showcase livelihood projects in Tuguegarao, and the gentlemen had their feast of invitations for demo lectures, radio interviews and recognition in the KKK Recognition Day (held once monthly).
Now, as to tasting the ‘dancing salad’ of live worm, well, hmmmm I’d prefer the wafer (smile). No, no, I can’t eat any raw live animal thing, my stomach is quite weak and sensitive. Let them cook the worm, and maybe I’ll try it. Well, that’s a culinary item, so let’s just hope someone’s got to write something about nice spicey earthworm cuisine.