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Munggo: the black gold of Isabela

Mungbean or Munggo dishes are common in Filipino cuisine. It is perhaps the most famous vegetable dish served on the table of every Filipino family. Sauteed mungbean or 'ginisang balatong' with green leafy vegetables is a classic Pinoy meal paired with various main courses such as adobo, fried fish, or grilled meat.  

But do you know where mungbeans come from? 

It is in San Mateo, Isabela, the "Munggo Capital of the Philippines".  

Munggo is considered “black gold” by the farmers in the town as they could earn P25,000 up to P50,000 every harvest, depending on how big the planting area is. It is also regarded as one of the job-generating industries in the town. 

In Isabela, however, mungbean is not the main crop planted by the farmers. Corn and rice are the major crops, however, farmers of San Mateo learned the technology and techniques for planting munggo without sacrificing the main crops. 

Through the Department of Agriculture, farmers adopted crop rotation farming, a technology to improve soil health, optimize nutrients, and combat pest and weed pressure. The mungbean or Vigna radiata is the main choice for farmers as it is considered a drought-tolerant and low-input crop.

Under the technology, the farmers of San Mateo practice the 'munggo after rice' cropping system. They plant rice when there is irrigation and munggo after the rice harvest, the time when the irrigation water supply weakens.  

Farmers visit a mungbean demo-farm in San Mateo, Isabela. (Photo courtesy of DA)

Alejo Isidro, a farmer, said munggo is the best alternative for crop rotation farming because it has a short maturing time and enriches the fertility of the soil.

"After 30 to 45 days, you can already have the first harvest. It is not also a one-time crop as you can harvest three to five times. After harvesting, it is also timely for the next planting season of rice," Lagan said.

According to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), rotating rice with a non-rice crop removes the pest's food source and reverses its population buildup. The technique also helps control gall midge, stem borers, white grubs, termites, planthoppers, seed bugs, and armyworms.

Instant mungbean soup is one of the by-products of mungbean developed by the Bureau of Agricultural Research of the Department of Agriculture. (Photo courtesy of DA-BAR)

Corn farmers also adopt diversified farming and mungbean is also one of the best choices integrated into the corn plants.  

According to the latest statistics, over 6,000 metric tons of mungbean are harvested in over 12,300 hectares of farmland in Isabela province, of which 7,000 hectares are in San Mateo town, earning its fame as the number one munggo producer nationwide. 

Isabela's munggo supplies demand in the National Capital Region and even in other neighboring regions in Luzon. 

Aside from its popularity as a Filipino dish, farmers opt to plant munggo because it is one of the few imperishable crops as it can last longer following the proper storage techniques, unlike other crops where post-harvest losses are frequently experienced by farmers, especially when there is oversupply. 

The mungbean also provides a lot of benefits to health. It is rich in protein which is why it is also called the “poor man’s meat”. 

For pregnant women, munggo must be present in their meal as it is rich in folic acid, which helps promote the development of the unborn child’s nervous system. 

For lactating mothers, munggo also helps increase their breastmilk supply. 

There were also studies saying that the famous 'ginisang munggo' is a great source of antioxidants, rich in Vitamins A, B1, B2, and B6; boosts the immune system, and helps prevent diabetes. 

Some research also says that munggo could be a homemade remedy for anemia and hypertension. It also helps with post-menopausal issues as it contains isoflavones, which reduce post-menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, and depression. 

San Mateo town celebrates 'Balatong Festival', which is dedicated to the farmers who brought economic gains, employment opportunities, and industry development to the municipality. 

Part of the festival is the showcase of various menus and dishes developed out of munggo. Aside from the sprouted, which is also a common ingredient for lumpia and pansit toppings, munggo is also a filling to all-time favorite snacks such as butchi and empanada. There is also ground munggo, pulvoron, flour, and coffee.

Products out of mungbean by local farmers assisted by the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry. (Photo courtesy of DOST, DA and DTI)

The Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry have already assisted various farmer cooperatives in developing, packaging and marketing munggo by-products. The newest among the newly developed mungbean by-products are munggo noodles, fried munggo sprouts, packed instant sauteed mungbean, instant munggo soup, mungbean crispy chips. 

To further boost the industry and to make the Cagayan Valley Region more competitive in the global value chain, the DTI is now exploring the potential of mungbean in the international market. 

Last year, DTI shipped mungbean and its by-product samples to Japan for testing to explore its feasibility for an expansion market abroad. The department is also in the process of securing various certifications and other documentary requirements for international trade. (OTB/PIA Region 2) 

About the Author

Oliver Baccay

Information Officer IV

Region 2

  • Assistant Regional Head, Philippine Information Agency Region 2
  • Graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication 
  • Graduate of Master of Arts in Education
  • Graduate of Doctor in Public Administration

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