More mangos than you can shake a pokey stick at!!

Trip Start Feb 10, 2013
Trip End Sep 18, 2013

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Flag of Philippines  , Visayas,
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

It was a bit of a mission getting away from Carabao. Firstly we had to get the 6am boat to Caticlan, although this did not go to the pier, it went to some random beach from where we had to get a tricycle to Caticlan pier. Here we would meet Ed who was now joining us for a little bit then get a 6 hour bus to Iloilo City. A night stop here so that we could get our visas extended then the following day we would have to get a boat and tricycle to our destination in Guimaras. A long and slightly arduous process that wasn't aided by the fact that it was getting hotter all the time. In the Philippines, the summer just gets hotter and hotter until the rainy season but nevertheless we made it through Iloilo City, had our visas extended and eventually found our way over to Guimaras, in a mountain side resort which had a beautiful sunset view overlooking a stunning bay at the foot of the mountain. We were in the home of the alleged "sweetest mangos in the world"!

Despite the mission getting here (which did include a cheeky Pizza Hut along the way), we had the resort almost to ourselves, again, and settled in for a relaxing evening of cards, conversation and surprisingly no mangos. We were served a wonderful dinner by our lovely hostess, who ran the resort, and her sister although the fruit desert was not mango but a piece of watermelon the size of our heads! The hostess, Christy, was such a friendly lady, we instantly forgot about the lack of mango as she told us about how they are farmed and how to ensure they do not rot or get eaten by fruit flies (this piece of information we will come to shortly). She also informed us that she had a tricycle driver who would tour us around the island the following day for a very reasonable price, so we decided this would be the best plan of action and sidled off to bed in our slightly anty room, ready for some mangotastic fun the following day.

The joke was that on Guimaras, there isn't much else to do in terms of sights. There are, as there are on many Philippine islands, several beautiful white sand beaches, pretty good diving and snorkeling and plenty of opportunity to relax, however several people had told us to come here simply for the mangos! The island is situated of the south east coast of Panay in the Visayas, and settling in between Panay and Negros, it has one sole export...mangos. We had decided to ask the tricycle driver to take us to 4 points of interest, two of which mango related, and all within amicable distance of each other.

Our first stop was a Trappist Monastery, the only one in the Philippines. It was started by an American in the 1970s and now still has monks living and studying there. We were able to view their church in its splendour and find out a little bit about the history of the order, yet we still seemed unable to really understand what Trappism is. Maybe that's a very well kept secret and a way of attracting people in! A very sweet little gift shop sold holy water, fresh cashews, some religious artifacts and yes, you guessed it, various mango products. The monastery has it's own mango plantation within its'o'clock on Guimaras! We headed off from the Monastery keen to enlighten ourselves even more about the mangos here so we ended up hitting none other than "The National Mango Research and Development Centre". We had joked about this, thinking it may be a little bit of a throwaway visit but actually it turned out to be one of the really interesting highlights of our short stay here! So here is what we learned about mangos (I will do it in a 'did you know' format!):
Did you know...
Mangos grow so well on Guimaras due to the constitution of the soil combined with the hot climate and the heavy rains.
There are more than 20 types of Mango grown locally on Guimaras, the sweetest of which is the Carabao Mango (not to be confused with the island) which is exported to the White House and the table of the British Monarchy.
They are wrapped in newspaper whilst still attached to the trees so that they are not attacked by various flies and borer beetles. This does give the effect from distance of looking like a money tree!
Mango trees grow and grow until they cannot support their own weight and collapse in on themselves.
Harvestable trees are actually snippings from other mature trees grafted on to young roots and then grown in nurseries and so bear ripe harvestable mangos within 5 years.
Finally, did you know...that I knew nothing about mangos....but I do know that the sweetest mangos on earth are grown right here on this island. We tried them....and holy hell they were good. In fact we pretty much didn't stop eating them until we left! So the research centre proved to be a great find and as they had their own orchard, it meant we didn't have to go and visit the other orchard on the island...and so onward and upwards to our next stop at the waterfalls. This unfortunately was a bit of a let down due to the dry season being so very hot and dry that the water had evaporated down to a non-flowing pool of mucky broth. Never mind, lets head down to the beach and do some snorkeling. This ladies and gentlemen is were I must deviate and tell you a little tale, The Tale Of The Pokey Stick!

Back when were in Puerto Galera, diving my ass off, the resort had recently invested in some new toys. When diving, it is very difficult to do 2 things: firstly, get someones attention if they are looking the other way and secondly, find something to steady yourself on when taking pictures of very very tiny things (obviously one should never touch the reef or floor with bare hands, partly as you may damage the reef with the oils from your skin but also because there are so many things that sit on the reef, camouflaged, that are deadly poisonous). So the resort had purchased several 1.5 feet lengths of stainless steel, approx the width of a thick pen, drilled a hole in one end and put a wrist strap through the drilled hole. This creates a tank banging (to get someones attention) and reef/floor leaning tool (to take photos safely)! A really useful piece of equipment for myself and after observing the dive masters with them, seeing how useful they really are, I asked how much they were selling them for. 1000 pesos...approx 17-18 pounds. Hmmmmm.. I don't really want to spend that when you've just told me how easy it is to make them!! So since then, when ever we pass a builders merchants or homeware store I pop in and ask about stainless steel and up til now I have had no success....but that all changed with the amazing tricycle driver that we had :-) We stopped for water and mangos and while we waited I asked him if he knew anywhere to get stainless steel from. He suggested I tried a place next door so I did, nothing. Oh well, I'm sure I will find some somewhere. At which point he took me to another place about 10metres away which was a tricycle repair shop...a metalwork forecourt and asked the fella working there. This guy was covered from head to toe in makeshift overalls, including a common thing of wrapping a t-shirt around your face and head and poking your eyes through the neck hole. He was also wearing sunglasses so I couldn't see his eyes but nevertheless, he was also keen to help and the three of us trudged off to another location with no joy. Lucy and Ed were sat in the tricycle waiting and when we got back I thought the search was over. Oh no! Our driver then took us to a builders merchants that dealt in boat parts and we walked in to find it there, lying on the floor...several varying thicknesses of stainless steel lengths just under the propeller cabinet. Of coarse, prop shafts for boats!! Stainless steel does not rust, this is why it has to be stainless and some chattering between my guy and the lady behind the counter and she told me it it 35pesos per foot, result! They can only sell in feet so I said i'd pay for two feet, but can they just cut 1.5 feet? No. Ok, just give me two feet I will get it cut somewhere else. Two feet of steel in hand and a short trip to another tricycle repair shop where they cut the excess 6 inches away, then a short walk to another where they had the drill bit small enough to out a hole in one end and there it was in all it's shiny sparkly glory...My very own pokey stick, for 100 pesos (1.50)!!! Lucy still laughs at me for telling everyone I meet this story but I don't care, I saved enough money on it to be proud!!

Well anyway, absolutely delighted and not too much time taken up, maybe around 30 minutes, we drove down to the beach for the rest of the afternoon. Well, we had to walk part of the way as it is inaccessible to even the crazy tricycle drivers here. Eating mangoes, cashews and banana chips, teaching Ed to snorkel and lazing about in the sun with the local fisherman playing mahjong and we headed back to the resort for some more lovely food and mangos.

One other new surprise from the whole day was seeing cashew nuts in their ripened glory on the tree. Cashews are one of the only nuts that grow on the outside of the fruit. I was also surprised to know there are cashew fruits, which apparently aren't too bad, but at the resort, Christys daughter was collecting them from their tree to dry them out and sell the cashew nuts for pocket money. Frugel to the end these Philippinos! At dinner that night we revelled in our new found understanding of fruits, especially mangos, and along side a bottle of rum, ate some wonderful food and even more mangos!

As a parting gift the following morning, Christy gave myself and Ed a native style necklace and to Lucy a pot of fresh mango jam, ingredients: mango and sugar, nothing else! Our tricycle dude was taking us over to the other side of Guimaras to get us on t our next mission but for now, Guimaras proved to be a cheeky little gem in the huge shiny diamond of the Philippines...indeed the sweetest mangos in the world, but also some of the sweetest people we've met...

So for now

Ari Na Ko

Da Perkins
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M & D on

Absolutely stunning photographs! Hope you are both keeping well, you certainly look as if you are still enjoying your adventure. XXX

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