GUIMARAS -- Guimaras, the Mango Capital of the Philippines, is home to some of the sweetest mangoes in the country.
The quality of Guimaras mangoes is largely accredited to the soil of the land, a composition that is perfect for growing fruits that are considered by many to be among the best in the world. As such, the province has produced harvests of such lofty caliber that its mangoes have graced the dining tables of many prominent households worldwide, including Buckingham Palace and the White House.
This is a reputation that Guimarasnons are quite cautious about protecting. There are a lot of varieties of mangoes that can be found on the island but the locals choose to focus on planting Guimaras’ carabao mangoes since these are considered to be one of the best varieties.
To propagate, they prefer grafting as they believed that it produces better quality trees as opposed to growing them from seeds. They also meticulously inspect every harvested fruit before exporting to other towns.
Guimaras produces about 11,000 metric tons of mangoes annually. The high yields have led to an offshoot of other edible products. The mangoes are preserved as dried fruit strips, marmalades, and jams. They are processed into drink concentrates, purees, and ketchup. They are incorporated into local delicacies such as piaya, butterscotch, hopia, and the very famous mango pizza.
The popularity of Guimaras mangoes leads people to flock to the island during the month of May to celebrate the Manggahan Festival. The month-long celebration lures 60,000 to 90,000 tourists during the event proper to take pictures of the mango exhibits, indulge in all the mangoes they can eat, and buy kilos of mangoes to bring home as pasalubong.
This year, however, is different as the COVID -19 pandemic continues to ravage the world. Strict implementation of border and travel restrictions during the onset of the crisis protected the island thus far from any coronavirus infection.
These moves, however, have impacted the mango industry, as production and export of its famous mangoes are considered one of the major economic drivers of the province. The celebration of Manggahan Festival was canceled and the exhibits in the Capitol grounds were prohibited.
Exporting of mangoes became difficult. Pending product orders were dropped as movements to and from the island was restricted. Since the start of the imposed lockdown, the province has not been able to distribute its harvest.
“Padayon guihapon ang mga farmers sa pag-harvest. Bisan sa Iloilo budlay magpadala sang products (Farmers keep harvesting. It is difficult to send the products even to Iloilo),” says Rose Griesser of Guimaras Mango Growers and Producers Development Cooperative,
“Pero asta subong wala pa nagnubo ang presyo sang Guimaras Mangoes kay may ara pa man ahente nga naga dala [sang products] sa iban nga lugar (Yet, the price of Guimaras Mangoes has not dropped because there are agents who distribute the products to other places).”
To help distribute the harvest more efficiently, the province decided to venture into online selling, catering to orders outside Guimaras, with scheduled delivery dates in Iloilo City, the main gateway of the province.
It is a situation that highlights the importance of every Filipinos' role in helping our country get back on its feet again. By choosing to travel within the Philippines and by opting to buy local products, we are aiding businesses to recuperate from the loss of income they incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As soon as things normalize and we are now free to travel, add Guimaras to your next destination. Enjoy the Manggahan Festival and taste the sweetest mangoes that can only be found in Guimaras!
This article was originally published on the Choose Philippines website.