“Ang daming mangosteen! (So many mangosteens!),” he shouted with glee as it sent passengers and crew hollering in delight.
“Mangosteen, mangosteen…andaming mangosteen…” the staff sang to a tune he probably just composed that moment as he carried bunches of the prized fruit down to the carts.
The ditty sort of gave some of us passengers a last-song-syndrome long after we deplaned.
The vendors on the sidewalks of downtown Jolo were apologetic they had to give it to us at p55 per big bunch of four smaller bunches even at peak season (usual peak season price p5/kg).
They said the provincial government of Sulu bought a C-130 loadful of mangosteen to be sent to Manila for display and sale at big department stores thus reducing the local supply.
We were just as happy it was way below the p40-50 per small bunch anywhere else. Luck would have it that with five of us in the team, our tickets covered for all our 70 or so kilos of fruits. Who would want to carry such a heavy and cumbersome load from this paradise island all the way to mainland Mindanao in September?
Bangkal in Patikul would find you stepping on robust mangosteen seedlings that would rival any nursery if marketed as planting materials. Forgive my hyperbole but when I went to Panamao in July, I also found out that Sulu is a forest of fruit trees, like one tree growing over the other, an awe-inspiring mix of lanzones, durian, mangoes, bauno, coffee, and of course, mangosteen — absolutely no hybrid varieties that’s why disease is still unheard of.
Mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) can now be found and sold in many parts of Mindanao; but what makes Sulu mangosteen special is its natural state owing largely to the rich volcanic soil of Bud Dajo and Bud Tumatangis; and typhoon-free climate.
I was told that fruiting seasons rotate around geographical locations in the island. Hybrid (ergo non-Sulu) varieties, commercial fertilizers, pesticides and flowering hormones would be the biggest insult to this god-given bounty.
Guarding the fruits seemingly with our lives (Isa her lanzones both from Sulu and Basilan where we went a couple of days earlier; and me my mangosteen from Sulu), we took souvenir pictures in the baggage claim area of Zambo airport before we went separate ways.
I told Isa that yes, what stimulates my interest more would be how to weave the coconut leaf baskets the Basilan lanzones came with. It is packaging in its indigenous and excellent form the local government should find a good marketing and ecotourism potential in it.
At home in Cotabato City, the mangosteen seeds found their way to the freezer. It would give my family 5-star gourmet coolers daily for the next month. Sun dried, the shells would give us an infinite supply of refreshing tea.
With that, who would be swayed with all the sales talk of factory processed mangosteen products when I can get the much needed anti-aging phytochemicals straight from the fresh fruits?
I mean, the only reason why mangosteen producers resort to processing their fruits into juices, capsules, soaps and what have you is that there’s not much innovative marketing strategies for the fruit itself.
Wait: weren’t the mangosteen from Sulu brought to Manila by C-130 planes? This is a step towards the innovative marketing strategies — government taking the initiative.
Meantime, the airport guy’s ditty would playback in my mind: “Mangosteen, mangosteen…ang daming mangosteen…”
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Aveen Acuña-Gulo wrote an editorial column “The Voice” for the Mindanao Cross from 1991-2006. She is not stating full names of people and institutions to protect their identities. “Don’t worry about my opinions,” she says. “It won’t make a dent to the conventional.”)