As a pharmacy major, I have learned of the importance of rubber within the 4 corners of the classroom. When I started teaching Pharmacognosy, I had to study a little more about rubber. Talking about something you haven’t seen personally can be quite of a challenge since you would only rely on references. My recent Basilan trip was such an enriching experience. I was personally fascinated when we were brought to the rubber plantation and manufacturing hub.
Pharmacognosy/Plant Chemistry 101: Please forgive me as I will be using some scientific words/jargons in this post. Natural rubber (Heava brasiliensis), also called India rubber or caoutchouc, as initially produced, consists of organic compounds called terpenes. Natural rubber is used by many manufacturing companies for the production of rubber products. At present, rubber is harvested mainly in the form of the latex derived from rubber trees. The latex is a sticky, milky-like substance drawn off by making slits into the bark and collecting the fluid in vessels. This is called “tapping” process. The latex is refined into rubber ready for commercial processing.
Here in the Philippines, some large areas of land serve as rubber tree plantation. These agricultural estates can be found in Basilan (then the largest rubber-producing province in the country), Zamboanga Sibugay and North Cotabato. Basilan’s repute as a staging-ground for Moro raids, a flurry of attacks by extortionists and the rise of local, kidnap-for-ransom groups gave the island a bad image — hurting most of the local industries that serve as main sources of livelihood.
Today, although other Mindanao provinces have already overtaken Basilan as the leading producer of rubber in the country, the island province is trying to achieve a sustained increase in its rubber-export revenues.
My personal experience passing by hectares of stunningly lined rubber trees is a feast to my senses. The picturesque vista the verdant trees create and the aromatic polyterpenoidal scent I whiff reminded me how much I love Pharmacognosy as a field of study. So if you happen to visit Basilan, don’t forget to visit the rubber tree plantation.
Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.