Fruits of our islands | Inquirer Opinion

Fruits of our islands

Summer heralds the time of the year when our roadsides turn colorful because of the many stands selling abundant fruits of different hues, shapes, and sizes. The sight of bounteous fruits during summer soothes the spirit, even as the flesh gets assaulted by the scorching heat of the season.

Summer is the time of the year when the king of our fruits, the carabao mango, is in abundant supply. Considered one of the finest and sweetest mangoes in the world, some 400,000 to 700,000 tons of carabao mangoes per year are produced in this country. This translates to more than a billion mango fruits harvested annually in our islands.


In addition to mangoes, our fruit stands abound with kaimito, duhat, watermelon, avocado, pineapple, langka, sineguelas, and macopa, which are all in season during summer. Fruits produced all year round like banana, papaya, and pomelo are also at their most bountiful during summer.

It’s one of the wonders of nature that during the very hot and extremely dry season, a stretch of several months when survival must be difficult for plants because of the absence of life-sustaining rain, it’s ironically the time of the year when plants are able to produce abundant fruits. Fruits provide nourishment not only to humans but also to all forms of life such as birds, insects, worms, and microbes. The seeds embedded in them ensure the constant rebirth and spread of the mother plants.


Many of us probably assume that the fruits the country has been bountifully producing have naturally grown in our islands. We may be surprised to learn that many of the fruits we’ve been enjoying all our lives were unknown to our native ancestors.

When the Spaniards came, they didn’t only colonize the people in our islands. They also brought with them foreign plants that “colonized” our environment. The Spaniards did not only radically transform our native culture, they also drastically altered the genus of plants that supplied fruits to our islands’ inhabitants. In the course of the Galleon Trade, which connected the Philippines with Mexico and the whole of Central and South America for 300 years, fruit-bearing plants from the other side of the Pacific Ocean were brought to our islands. Eventually, these exotic plants became our primary sources of fruits, making us forget and even abandon the native fruits that sustained our precolonial ancestors.

The fruit-bearing trees and plants that were brought to our shores from the Central and South American continent include pineapple, papaya, avocado, guyabano, atis, caimito, guava, chico, kamatsile, kasoy, tiesa, sineguelas, and aratilis.

These foreign fruits have now become the dominant dessert fare served in our dining tables.

Other fruits that we probably mistake as native to our country came from other continents. From the Indian subcontinent came langka, duhat, melon, and a mango variety. From the African continent originated sampalok, watermelon, and karmay. From our neighboring Southeast Asian countries came mangosteen, pomelo, rambutan, macopa, kamias, durian, and certain banana varieties.

So what are the fruits that provided nourishment to our pre-Spanish ancestors? Our native fruits include mabolo, mango (the kinalabaw, huani, piko, paho, baluno varieties), lansones, bignay, saging saba, marang, balimbing, kaong, limonsito, santol, pili, ayusip, lipote, lubeg, kalamansi, and katmon, among others. Many of our endemic and native trees produce fruits that we no longer eat, but which our ancestors must have included as food sources. These trees include dao, talisay, tibig, kalumpit, amugis, anubing, bangkal, and antipolo.

It’s rather unfortunate that, while we have fully welcomed fruit-bearing flora that came from foreign lands, we have done so to the extent that we have completely abandoned fruit-yielding plants that either naturally grow or are only found in our islands. We have totally forgotten the unique wealth of our environment that exclusively belongs to us as a people. It’s little wonder, then, that as a country, we don’t know our irreplaceable natural treasures and we don’t care about their loss.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Ideas, fruits, Joel Ruiz Butuyan
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