, DECEMBER 2, 2006
  (STAR) By Rudy A. Fernandez - Mirror, mirror on the wall. Which is the sweetest Philippine carabao mango of them all?

Until three years ago, this question elicited varied answers from mango-producing regions of the country.

To the Guimaranons (the people of the island-province of Guimaras, where the number of mango trees is about equal that of its human inhabitants: some 160,000), it’s their much-ballyhooed Talaban and Frosco varieties.

To those in the Ilocos Region, it’s the MMSU Gold (MMSU stands for Mariano Marcos State University, a multi-campus tertiary institution in Ilocos Norte whose seat of administration is the main campus in Batac town).

The Zambaleños (Zambales folk) would stand and bandy about their Sweet Elena and Lamao.

Other provinces such as Pangasinan and Iloilo also take pride in their luscious mango varieties.

Not long ago, this writer bumped into Dr. Hernani Golez, former director of the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) and head of the BPI National Mango Research and Development Center (NMHDC) in Jordan, Guimaras.

We told him about our "confusion" as to what carabao mango variety is really the sweetest.

Why not a contest, with a panel to resolve the issue? We suggested.

This writer has tasted the mangoes of Guimaras as he had in a number of times visited this once subprovince of Iloilo situated south of Panay Island.

The Guimaras mango is really sweet, and former Guimaras Gov. Emily Lopez continues to promote it internationally (she was reported to have recently gifted Pope Benedict XVI carabao mango from her idyllic island-province, which unfortunately, suffered the adverse consequences of a recent oil spill).

Once, too, we chanced upon a friend, Dr. Feliciano Rosete, president of the Ramon Magsaysay Technological University (RMTU), a multi-campus school in Zambales.

When our conversation strayed to which mango variety in the Philippines is the sweetest, he said right away that it is the Sweet Elena of Zambales.

Our friends in other mango-producing provinces were not to be outdone.

Until three years ago when DA-RPI set out (we missed this one) to settle the issue.

And the winner is: Sweet Elena.

For the past three consecutive years, Sweet Elena was regarded as "the sweetest and biggest mango in the Philippines," according to DA-BPI, as reported by Rita T. dela Cruz of the DA-Burea of Agricultural Research (BAR).

Dubbed by BPI as "the sweetest of the sweetest," Sweet Elena is a new new strain of carabao mango that originated in the Zambales town of Sta. Cruz.

Two researchers of RMTU (San Marcelino campus), Dr. Ester Mariñas and Prof. Remedios Lim, discovered and identified the variety owned by Mrs. Ponida Mosolina Malabed.

A comparative study done indicated that Sweet Elena is superior over other four leading mango varieties: Guimaras’s Talaban and Fresco, the Ilocos Region’s MMSU Gold, and Zambales’s Lamao.

"Sweet Elena is superior in terms of weight, sweetness, soluble solids, edibility of flesh, and physical appearance," wrote dela Cruz.

The "pride of Zambales" was registered with the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC) on Oct. 18, 2002.

The certificate of registration was awarded to Mrs. Malabed by then Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo during the 2003 Mango Forum.

The study on Sweet Elena was conducted for three years in coordination with BPI.

Today, 1.5 hectares are planted to Sweet Elena at the RMTU San Marcelino campus to maintain a source of quality planting materials.

Moreover, some 1,000 seedlings are being grown at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Parks and Wildlife Bureau-Dizon Botanic Fruit Garden at the Ninoy Aquino Wildlife Parks in Diliman, Quezon City.

"These seedlings are pest- and disease-resistant with superior fruiting quality," Dela Cruz wrote.

As part of the government’s efforts to maintain a bone bank of Sweet Elena, DA-BAR is funding a project titled "Establishment of Scion Grove and Germplasm Production of Mango (Sweet Elena)" in collaboration with the Zambales local government units and farmer-stakeholders.

Also involved in the project is the Central Luzon Integrated Agricultural Research Center (CLIARC), with the Zambales Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) and Palauig Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) as implementing agencies.

Started in January 2005, the project is to be completed in December 2008.

BAR director Nicomedes P. Eleazar said the project aims to establish a scion grove produce 2,000-5,000 grafted Sweet Elena seedlings, establish one to two nurseries for propagation of Sweet Elena grafted seedlings; and promote it through propagation of grafted seedlings and participation in trade fairs.

What is the sweetest carabao mango variety in the Philippines again?

Sweet Elena.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved