STORIES  FROM SULU: It’s Fruit Season in Jolo

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 26 July) — Growing up in Jolo meant eating fruits anytime of the day. Ask any Tausug, and he will tell you, eating fruits is not part of breakfast, lunch or dinner because we eat them anytime, in abundance.

As a child, I remember growing up looking for the day when the coconuts harvested from the farms of my parents and grandparents will be delivered with a truckful of all kinds of fruits: mangosteen, lanzones, rambutan, marang, green and yellow mangoes, quisas, durian that my maternal grandfather planted.

The cousins would converge at the back of our house on a bamboo platform we call pantan. It is always fun to watch the moon from the pantan and listen to stories of yesteryears.

The green mangoes peeled and sliced, someone would make in a big bowl, the sauce, a mixture of anchovies, soy sauce, ripe chili.

The young ones with their respective small bowls will each get from the big bowl and depending on your ability to withstand the hotness of chili, you can add more sugar to your own bowl. We, the cousins would sit altogether and eat with gusto the small green mangoes, we call “magkilaw.”

Tausugs male and female alike love “magkilaw.” It is a testament of the good times we all went through and enjoy. After the 1974 Jolo Siege, we relocated to Kasanyangan Village. The farmers would bring their produce from Patikul and Indanan and it meant waiting for them to pass by and buy the varied fruits they brought. It was one of the perks staying in this village.

Durian is a fruit that smells like hell and tastes like heaven. Opening a durian fruit is only for those extra gifted to know the line (tiranan) to which the knife is pushed inside and presto, it is opened. Ask any durian seller their choice and you will get a better one.

I remember accompanying to Jolo Margie Moran, Lorenzo Tan and company doing a coffee table book several years ago. We stayed at the De Mazenod Hostel. When offered at the residence of the Mayor Suod Tan, Margie says, “I don’t really like durian,”, but the good sport that she is, she tries to taste our own home grown native durian. She likes the taste! The native durian in Jolo tastes like no other and this is attributed to the volcanic soil.

At last year’s biennial gathering of Notredamians and Tausugs in New Jersey, they were feted to Kulma that me and Ka Didang cooked, Tiyapa istah and a trayful of tomatoes mixed with shimp paste (sambal), hot chili and sugar that I mix. Ahh, in no time, it was gone.

Ka Errol Navata, President of the association, brings two big crates of Thai durian and everyone relishes the durian. It is like reminiscing the fruit season back in Jolo, except now that most have grown in years and are watchful of the quantity to eat. The Jolo durian is so different in taste and texture than the Thai durian, but we have to settle for the latter in the absence of the former.

A few years back, I took a motor launch from Jolo to Zamboanga during fruit season. It was fruit season and the kumpit was full of crates of fruits, lanzones and mangosteen. I could hardly get through to the comfort room with the load.

Alhamdulillah for the blessing of fruits in Jolo. Any Tausug would like to be in Jolo this time of the year to relish the abundant fruits once again. If only,
if only, we are safe!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Sharifa Pearlsia P. Ali-Dans retired as Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in Ocotber 2017. She finished her Bachelor of Arts at the Notre Dame College of Jolo, Magna Cum Laude and her Master in Asian Studies at the University of the Philippines. She was a Fulbright Philippines Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the University of Texas in Austin from 1990 to 1991 and a Project in Basic Education –RLMC Fellowship at the Southbank Institute of TAFE in Brisbane, Australia in 1997. She finished her MA n Public Administration at the Universidad de Zamboanga in 1999 and her Doctor of Education, Major in Personnel Administration from the same university in 2004. She was conferred the Gawad Urian Best Supporting Actress award for the film, ‘Women of the Weeping River” in 2017. She is a mother of four professionals and grandmother of Pico, Somer and Shiloh).