Tinigib, Mais Bisaya, Cebu White Corn
Corn is an important food crop in the Philippines, a staple food of 20% of the Filipino population, primarily in the regions of the Visayas and Mindanao. White corn is used as substitute for rice in times of hardship (while yellow corn is mainly produced for livestock feed). In Cebu, aside from being a staple food, the Native Visayan White corn is also used as ingredient in cooking – mostly for desserts and specialty foods, such as maja blanca, a corn and coconut milk pudding, and pintos, a milk and young white corn pudding wrapped in cornhusk. It can also be roasted to produce a corn drink resembling coffee in flavor called kapeng mais. A tea may also be made from the corn silk.
The Visayan White corn is a healthier staple than rice because of its low glycemic index. It is slower to digest, resulting in a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstreams, thus lessening the risks of diabetes, which is a major cause of death in the Philippines. It is sold in markets both as ears of corn and milled as corn grits. It is believed that an increase in white corn consumption could help reduce the Philippines’ dependence on rice imports.
Filipino farmers have traditionally planted open pollinated varieties (OPV) of white corn that allowed them to save seeds from their harvest for the next planting season. This also made it possible for farmers to exchange seeds and breed varieties that are better adapted to the environment. These are not possible with hybrid or genetically modified (GM) seeds where farmers need to sell the entire harvest and buy new seeds that will be used for planting in the next cropping season. Despite this, more farmers are switching to GM yellow corn crops for promises of higher financial returns. Additionally, due to migration out of the White corn growing areas in Cebu and financial struggles of farmers, production of Native Visayan White corn is decreasing.