Elsewhere I’ve said that I’m a hillbilly girl. My father is a Pangasinense and my mother traces her roots in Siquijor, though we kids grew up in Bukidnon, a province right in the heart of Mindanao. The root word of Bukidnon – bukid – means mountain and the word Bukidnon means mountainous. It’s a province of proud peaks, stunning skylines, gorgeous gorges and ravishing rainforests. It is unassuming, laidback and is nestled in one of the Philippines’ off-the-beaten-tracks. Probably its only claim to fame is the familiar Del Monte pineapple.
Last week I had the privilege of going home to my picturesque mountain. In between long catching-up talks I had with my folks and my 7 sibs (yes, you read it right, 7!), we also had food-gorging, church camping, family outing and carabao-milk tripping. Yes, carabao milk we had, right from the Philippine Carabao Center branch located a mere 30 minutes from my hometown of Valencia City.
Carabao’s milk is milk from the carabao or water buffalo, the Philippine symbol of indomitable work ethic. The carabao is the farmer’s best friend, the lowly animal used for plowing and hauling goods. Wikipedia has an interesting trivia about carabaos. Accordingly, there used to be 3 million carabaos in the country before World War II. But post-war, the carabao population dwindled to a million, as the Japanese army slaughtered 2 million carabaos for meat. Sad.
I like to think of the carabao as the animal counterpart of coconuts. The carabao plows the field and gives milk while it is young. When it grows too old to plow, it gives its flesh for meat. Its hide can be made into most scrumptious chicharon or turned into leather. Carabao manure also makes good fertilizer for the farm. The carabao means everything to the farmer.
Carabao’s milk is now found to be better than cow’s milk. Compared to cow’s milk, carabao milk has 58% more calcium and 43% more protein. This info comes from no less than the Philippine Carabao Center website. What is even more important is that carabao’s milk has 43% less cholesterol than cow’s milk. It also has more phosphorus and more iron.
Higher calcium coupled with lower cholesterol makes carabao’s milk better at preventing hypertension and obesity. It strengthens teeth and bones, prevents osteoporosis and is a complete food which provides carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
This is the Philippine Carabao Center branch we just visited. It’s within the Central Mindanao University (CMU) campus. CMU is the province’s state university and one which has just seized the top 13 Best Performing School title nationwide, for 2012. Most of my sibs study there and a sister teaches there now.
The center is surrounded by a wide expanse of pasture just at the foot of the Musuan Volcano. The carabaos are organically grown, free to roam and graze in vast hectares of pasture. Unfortunately, the carabaos at this time were grazing in another mountain, out of sight at this time. Unlike the milk we buy in groceries (which comes from cows cooped up in overcrowded barns), the milk which comes from these carabaos is certified free from antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones or melamine.
Here are standing chillers full of fresh carabao’s milk, chocolate-flavored milk, mango-flavored milk, durian-flavored milk, popsicle versions, white cheeses, yogurt and candy bars. Every one of them is deliciously creamy.
I hope more and more people would drink carabao’s milk. I hope carabao’s milk would soon eliminate the Philippines’ need to import milk. I hope carabao’s milk would soon be the Philippines’ mainstream milk. This would surely help alleviate the plight of poor Filipino farmers. Already, I have read that some farmers are already earning 400 pesos a day just by having 3 lactating carabaos. It’s a good passive income, one which does not entail long hours of work under the sun.