History of Philippine Salago Industry
Salago is a shrub native to Eastern Asia belonging to the Thymelaceae family, genus Wikstroemia sp. It is cultivated in Formosa in commercial scale. Although no salago plantation existed in the Philippines in the early twenties, the species of Wikstroemia indica were collected in the slopes of Mt. Mayon. The fiber was then exported to Japan as according to the District Forester stationed in Legazpi City, it was utilized by the Japanese for currency-making during World War II.
The salago plant can be found all over the country and is known by different names and species. The plant is called “baleo”, “tuka”, or “dapnit” in the Ilocos provinces; “salago” or “taho” in Albay; “titipuho” or “palipo” in Batanes Island; “salagip” in Batangas; “sagu” in Laguna; “salago” or “siapo” in the provinces of Abra, Tayabas, Bulacan, Pangasinan, Siquijor and Cebu.
There are 20 different species of salago but only seven are found in the Philippines. Of the seven species, the most common are: Wikstroemia indica (I.) C.E. Mey.; Wikstroemia lanceolata Merr.; Wikstroemia meyeniana Warb., and Wikstroemia ovata C.E. Mey.
The salago plant has a height ranging from one to three meters. The leaves are opposite, leathery, widest near the middle, rounded at the tips and 1.5 to 7.0 cm. long. The inner bark is light colored and has a silky appearance and produces long and strong fibers.
Salago is extracted either by steamed or hand-cleaned method. The steamed method is preferred because the fiber can be stored for a longer period and the fiber recovery is relatively higher. The hand-cleaned method, on the other hand, produces white fiber but this is susceptible to molds and has lesser fiber recovery. The fibers extracted from salago are in the form of plain barks and have unique fiber structure.
Salago was commonly produced in Central Visayas particularly in Bohol, Cebu and Negros Oriental, but in 1984, farmers from other areas have realized its potential and therefore commenced producing the fiber. Currently, however, salago fiber production is predominant in Central Visayas.