“Go home and plant kamote!” Maybe you have heard that declaration before. Or perhaps it was even you who have been the recipient of that demeaning statement. When I was in high school, after a game of basketball or volleyball, we jokingly said that expression to the team who lost. It just simply means that they will be more productive in planting the said root crop than doing something else.
We have also use the term “kamote” and “nangamote” when we failed or struggled in a test or exam. (You don’t want to get the “kalabasa” award either.) Kamote is used to refer to someone as dumb or poor in something. You certainly do not want to be called “anak ka ng kamote” too!
I am not sure what was the reason why we use “kamote” as a degrading term. Though “sweet potato” which is the English of kamote does not sound derogatory at all. In fact being called “sweet potato” seems an endearing expression, like being called “sweet pea,” or “sugar,” or “honey.” But it does not strike as endearing at all to be called “kamote.”
The other day, a Filipino who owns a large farmland here in Iowa gave us a bagful of kamote, which they organically grow in their farm. I confess that I am not a real fan of kamote also, even back in the Philippines, though I like the “talbos ng kamote” or sweet potato leaves. But after several years that I have not eaten kamote, I did missed it, and found it refreshing to taste the kamote once again.
This morning, I ate nilagang (boiled) kamote and pan de sal (another Filipino gave us home-baked pan de sal) with hot cocoa for breakfast. How authentically Pinoy can your breakfast get than that? However, in reality many Filipino dismissed the kamote as fitting only for the poorest of the poor. The affluent will not be caught eating the humble kamote. It is not good for their image.
The fact of the matter is, kamote is far more valuable than what we Filipinos think. It is indeed a very healthy and versatile food. And it is not just “kabag” (gas) that you can get from it, as notoriously known. Kamote is very nutritious. It has no cholesterol, low in fat, high in fiber, has calcium, good carbohydrates, carotene, potassium, Vitamin C, and many more nutrients. Some herbalists claim that kamote can be used for a number of ailments – from headaches to diarrhea. Though I cannot vouch for those as a physician, but I can say for sure that kamote is a cure for the hungry stomach.
Kamote, especially the colored ones, has phytochemicals that can fight cancer. The American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association have endorsed the sweet potato for its health benefits and disease-fighting capabilities.
Most Filipinos cannot last a day without eating white rice. But do you know that the lowly kamote is far more nutritious and healthy than white rice? That should change our scornful attitude towards this oft maligned food.
So how did my day go, that I started with eating kamote for breakfast? It went fine. I did not do poorly at all. Far from being termed “nangamote.”
How about the notion that kamote can cause you to pass a lot of gas? That idea is full of air (Sorry, pun intended). And even if it is, just let it rip! Anak ng kamote!