The Philippines is home to a confluence of flavors with its rich and diverse agricultural sectors that span across its 7,641 islands. Its unique topographic features and apt climatic conditions provide the right setup for thousands of plant and animal species to thrive and continue to nourish its people.
The Philippines’ lakes and seas near Laguna and Quezon enhance the subtle taste of its coconuts. Likewise, its pristine seas and diverse marine life in Sarangani and Occidental Mindoro allow sought-after tuna species to become fatter and more exquisite.
The suitable tropical conditions in Cebu, Bukidnon and Davao helps in nurturing sweeter and more sumptuous varieties of mango, pineapple and banana. Also, the abundance of nearby tropical fruits and flowers makes for more fruity and delectable cacao and coffee varieties in Benguet, Cavite, Batangas and Davao.
Mango is the Philippines’ national fruit. A ripe Philippine mango is known for its tender, soft and juicy flesh with little to no fibers. It is also listed as the world’s sweetest variety in the Guinness World Records. The Philippine mango’s sweet taste is developed during the humid summer season where the high heat accumulation complements the growth of its fruit and flower. It is also known as Manila mango, ataulfo mango, honey mango or champagne mango in other countries. Other popular mango varieties in the Philippines are Pico (Piko), Katchamita (Indian), Sweet Elena, Horse mango and Super Galila, among others.
Guimaras is touted as the “Mango Capital of the Philippines” where an estimate of more than 50,000 trees is planted. Mangoes from Guimaras are reportedly served in the White House and Buckingham Palace. Guimaras is very strict when it comes to protecting their prized commodity. The province prohibits other fruits—especially other mangoes cultivars—from being brought into the island. Every May, the province also holds the “Manggahan Festival,” a month-long thanksgiving celebration for the bountiful harvest.
The Philippines is the world’s second-largest exporter of bananas. The country contributes to more than 90 percent of Cavendish banana exports in Southeast Asia. China is also the second-largest consumer of Philippine bananas as of 2019.
Philippine Cavendish banana is characterized for its soft pulp and sweet taste. It is bright yellow and easily peelable when ripe. Other varieties in the country also include saba, lakatan, latundan, señorita, lagkitan and bulkan, among its hundred varieties.
Bananas thrive in well-drained and organically rich loam soils. Countries, like in the Philippines, with an average rainfall of 4000 millimeters (mm) a year are ideal sites for a banana plantation. The country’s tropical climate with temperatures between 27 to 30 degrees Celsius is also the most favorable to the crop. These conditions give Philippine bananas a palatable and excellent taste which makes it a highly preferred variety in the international market.
The Philippines is the world’s second-largest coconut producer. The country has a total land area of 3.6 million hectares growing about 338.7 million fruit-bearing coconut trees nationwide as of 2018. Of the 81 provinces, 68 are considered coconut producing areas.
Philippine coconuts are used to make a variety of organic and healthy food products, namely virgin coconut oil (VCO), medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil, desiccated coconut, coco sap or sugar, coconut vinegar, coconut butter, coconut chips and many more.
Water and soil minerals from the coastal and mountain areas in the Philippines enhances the subtle flavor of its coconuts. This is particularly true in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Eastern Visayas and Davao Region. Water table deposits in these provinces provide ample sustenance during the dry season. An example of which are the plantations at the foot of Mt. Banahao, an extinct volcano in Laguna Province. These plantations are considered as one of the largest coconut areas in the world. When rain falls on the porous soil of Mt. Banahaw, it sinks readily into the volcano and comes back to the surface at lower levels with dissolved minerals.
The Philippines offers varieties of processed fruits and nuts from its wide selection of tropical produce such as mango, banana, durian, calamansi, passion fruit, palm fruit and dalandan.
Dried mangoes, durian and banana can be eaten like fruit candies. Nutritious juices made from dalandan and calamansi extracts can be used as a substitute for powdered drinks. Papaya and mango salsa can be used to jazz up vegetable salads. Chilled fruits can also be used as toppings for cakes and other confections, while purees can be used as mixing agents.
Durian. Durian is one of the fruits in the Philippines that is quickly growing in global prominence. Its primary use is to complement desserts such as candies, jams, chips, cakes and ice cream. Mostly found in Southern Mindanao, durian varieties in the country include Chanee, Mon Thong, Alcon Fancy, Arancillo, Atabrine, Duyaya, Lacson Uno, Mamer, and Puyat.
Calamansi (Philippine Lime). A native citrus fruit in the Philippines. It has an acidic flavor described as a cross between a lime and an orange. Its distinct tartness allows it to be used as a fruit juice or condiment to dishes and desserts.
The Philippines offers a variety of delicious snacks made from tropical fruits and other healthy ingredients. These products are a natural alternative to regular potato chips or other artificial sweets.
These are healthy and crunchy chips available in kimchi, ube (Purple Yam), guava, coconut, jackfruit and mango flavors. There are also mushroom products in the form of bite-sized crackers and veggie meat, as well as gluten-free rice puffs packed with minerals and dietary fiber from real brown rice grains. Also available here are delightful bread and pastries made from healthy flour and fresh baking ingredients.
Ube (Purple Yam) is a native Asian crop. It is specifically grown in the Philippines where it is locally known as “ube”. It is a tuber that is rich in antioxidants, potassium and B vitamins, particularly thiamine and niacin. It is used in deepening the flavor of Philippine desserts and pastries, such as halo-halo, pastillas and leche flan. There are many existing types of ube in the Philippines. Notable ones are the Basco ube, Zambales ube, Leyte ube and kinampay, which is dubbed as the “queen of Philippine yams” for its sweet aroma and remarkable taste.
The Philippines is home to many fishes and marine species that are served on tables all over the world. Its export products include tuna, milkfish, shrimp, seaweed, mackerel, anchovies and mahi-mahi, among others. These products are available in different frozen cuts, canned or even some in sausage styles.
The country’s booming aquaculture can be attributed to its strategic location. It is situated at the heart of the coral triangle which is the global center of marine biodiversity. About halfway between the provinces of Batangas and Mindoro, the Verde Island Passage boasts the highest concentration of marine species on the planet. Its reefs are home to nearly 60 percent of the world’s known fishes, as well as over 300 coral species.
Tuna. The Philippines is a global exporter of high-quality, fresh yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna and bigeye tuna. These species are mostly found in the bodies of water along Sarangani (General Santos City) and Occidental Mindoro where there is clean water, the right level of salinity and the presence of various forage fishes.
Milkfish. Milkfish is the Philippines’ national fish. The flavor of milkfish is distinctive and mild which makes it a versatile ingredient for different types of dishes. It can be used in soups, fried, grilled, barbecued, stuffed or stewed with spices, ginger and vinegar, or as an ingredient for gourmet sausages.
The Philippines also offers a wide range of premium selections across the archipelago. These include pili nuts from Luzon, liquor and spirits inspired by the beaches in Visayas, chocolates and single-origin cacao products from Mindanao.
Cacao. The Philippines takes pride as the first Asian country to grow cacao. Cacao was shipped to the country around 1670 during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade in the form of tablea or drinking chocolate.
The Philippines lies in the “Cocoa Belt”, situated between 10 to 20 degrees north and south of the equator, which is the sweet spot where cacao thrives. All three major cacao varieties thrive in the Philippines, namely criollo, trinitario and forastero. All of its varieties also have low cadmium levels since they are naturally grown and processed with zero to minimal exposure levels to the metal.
Pili Nuts. The pili nut is a native commodity that grows near the mineral-rich volcanic areas of the Philippines. It has the highest magnesium content of any nut. It is also often used as an added ingredient in cooking and baking with its nuanced flavor and velvety texture.