Thanks to globalization, Filipinos have access to the fruits of the first world. Go to any large Philippine supermarket you will find apples, oranges, kiwi fruits, grapes sometimes even peaches and pears. Thanks to biodiversity, we have access to regional fruits such as lanzones, mangoes, bananas, melons and even durian and even to some unusual fruits that I believe are unique to the Philippines and some tropical countries. I could fire of a few right here: chesa, duhat, aratilles, camachile, makopa, santol, even caimito . The lowly fruits of summer I call them.
They also have a dirty reputation among petty neighborhood thieves. When I was a kid, we used to joke that the best santol would be “parang pag-ibig---mas masarap kung nakaw” (rough translation: the best santol would be like bad love—best if stolen..har..har).
Santol is also not glamorous as the only sweet part would be the flesh around the huge seed, and the fleshy part of the fruit would always be pungently sour---best eaten with salt or made into sinigang stock. I remember the fruit vendor outside of Angelicum school, he would have fresh santol that he would peel before your eyes which he would place in a plastic bag that would be dumped with rock salt.
Duhat and aratilles is another neighborhood treat. Our neighbor used to have a huge duhat tree and an aratilles tree. We would hit the fruits with our slippers and when the fruit falls down we collect them in a tabo filled with water. After making sure that there is no dirt, we would pounce on our fruits. Some would eat their duhat with salt, which is a bad idea if you have singaw. The unripe aratiles fruits would be stone hard. We would use it as ammunition for our slingshot. It leaves a nasty welt if you get hit. I have seen the kind of welt that is left by those plastic bb guns it is nothing compared to the large welt left by a green aratiles fruit propelled by a slingshot. Did I also mention that it the shot is well placed in your eyes, it could probably blind you.
Near my grandparents house in Tarlac, there is this huge camachile tree that gives camachile fruits during summer. A Holy Week visit to our grandparent’s house would not be complete till we climb the camachile tree and have some of the pungent-tasting fruit. My doctor friends tell me that camachile has de-worming properties. We probably needed it after wolfing down so much dirt-picked durian.
Chesa. This is one fruit I hate. When it is ripe, the flesh turns golden brown. And when you mash it, it reminds you of something you pick up after your dog spins three times in place.
Lastly, my favorite: Caimito. Of all the endemic fruits we have in the Philippines, this one has the potential to go mainstream. It is very fleshy, always sweet when ripe and best served split in half and ice cold. It also has medicinal properties and is a good substitute for anti-diarrhea properties. Too bad, they are not commercially grown and what little supply we have are also harvested as wild fruits.
As we approach Earth day, perhaps we should be thankful for the immense diversity it has given us in our own backyard. There is no accident in nature, and all this diversity comes with the plan to provide us with rich and nutritious fruits and memories of kids using their rubber flip-flops to knock them down.