Yellow Mangoes from the Guimaras Island Mango Festival

All-You-Can-Eat of the Sweet: Guimaras Mango Festival



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Mangoes might be my new favorite food. Back in Virginia, I used to eat an apple a day for lunch, now I eat at least one mango a day. So when I heard about the Mango Festival held on the island of Guimaras about five hours by bus north of my site in Dumaguete, I knew I had to go. Guimaras is renowned throughout the Philippines for having the sweetest mangoes, and since they’re managed to eradicate an invasive fruit fly it is also one of the few locations in the Philippines that exports mangoes to the U.S.. Sheila, one of our Peace Corps language instructors is from Guimaras and graciously hosted us for all the best events during the festival, including my favorite; the “Eat Til You Drop Mango Eating Bonanza”.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    To reach the pump boat in time for a noon departure for Guimaras, we had to catch the 6:00 a.m. bus for a five hour ride over the windy roads through the mountains separating Negros Occidental from Negros Oriental.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    After stuffing ourselves with the famous Guimaras mangoes, we were the guests of honor at the native dance competition and beauty pageant. We were seated on the stage with the mayor and other local dignitaries.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    One of the incredibly complex native dances from the dance competition.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Sheila arranged for us to stay at a newly opened hotel in Guimaras.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    After the native dance competition and lunch, Sheila chartered a boat to take us to the Jordan Turtle Sanctuary near the town of San Miguel. We piled on to the pump boat for the short ride out to the sanctuary.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    As we approached the sanctuary, the boatman thought we might need to lighten our weight a bit so I went overboard as ballast so we could clear a sand bar. I hung on to the outrigger as we coasted in to shore.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    The Jordan Turtle sanctuary was ringed by volcanic cliffs that formed a sort of lagoon.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    When we got off the boat, Sheila's daughter decided to take a short walk on the beach near the boat.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Mangrove seeds preparing to drop from the tree and float away. Mangrove seeds or propagules are designed to float so they will be carried away by the current to a new beach where they will hopefully take root and sprout. Destruction of the coastal mangrove forests here in the Philippines is responsible for dramatic losses of coastline and in reduced fish harvests. Mangroves are a critical rearing habitat for juvenile marine animals.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    This marine turtle had just been tangled in a fishing net and given to the resident caretaker of the sanctuary. Believing that people need to be able to see turtles in a turtle sanctuary, this fellow is forced to lie in a narrow concrete chute that does not allow him to even turn around. We talked briefly about springing a jail break for the turtles but decided instead to go the legal route. I've written a letter to the Department of Natural Resources asking that the turtles be released. I just got a response from them saying that they are aware of the situation and are working on it. Hopefully they get the turtles out before they are too weak to survive in the wild.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    There was also a pack of goats who benefited from Rob's helping hand to eat the low hanging branches of this tree.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    As we pulled out of Dumaguete on the early bus, I snapped this photo of the sun rising over the water framed by this acacia tree.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    The next morning Sheila made mango crepes for us. This is a photo of the sliced mangoes that went into our mango crepes. Incredibly I was still not sick of eating mangoes yet!

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Sheila cooked the crepes in a wok over an open fire. I have no idea how she did it, but they all turned out perfectly.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Unfortunately the Mango Festival came to an end and we had to catch the boat back to the mainland. As it turned out, the jeepney driver who gave us our information on the boat departures was way off on the schedule. When we arrived at the pier, the boats were gone, with none scheduled to return until 3 in the afternoon (we got to the pier at 10 a.m.). This local fellow turned out to be an opportunistic entrepreneur as he watched us deciding what to do. He offered to take us across to Negros Oriental on his boat for the exorbitant fee of 300 pesos (about $5.45) each (about what you would pay for a nice filet mignon dinner back in Dumaguete). Since we didn't want to miss the bus back to the south, we reluctantly paid.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    They opened the cowling of the engine, which revealed this little motor sitting self consciously in a space clearly designed to hold more horse power.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    The gas tank turned out to be a milk jug with a short length of surgical tubing feeding the diminutive motor.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    With the whole village watching from the beach, our vessel was launched.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    As we pushed off the beach, our captain vaulted over the outriggers and into the boat. Despite the small engine, the boat seemed to be in good shape and quite seaworthy.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    The seas were quite calm as we crossed, making it a pleasant trip; not sure if it was worth 300 pesos though!

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Once back on the mainland, I again had a five hour bus ride ahead of me. The mountains separating Negros Occidental from Negros Oriental are quite steep and from a distance remind me a little of the rockies in Idaho or southwestern Montana. The agricultural fields in the valley of the mountains really added to the Idaho feeling for me.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    This tractor couldn't keep up with the frenetic pace of the bus driver and we left him in our dust.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Approximately two hours into the trip we stopped for a break after a particularly winding stretch of road. The bus driver had been taking the turns like an Indy driver, and this basket of fish couldn't handle the G forces.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    If you've ever wondered why dogs like to stick their heads out the window, you should try it for yourself. When it's hot and there's no air conditioning within 100 miles, it's pretty refreshing.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    After a full day on the road by bus, we caught this pump boat to Guimaras Island (the faint blue line on the horizon). While we waited for the crew to prepare the boat, the local kids were using the outriggers of the boat for a diving board.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Mahjongg is really popular here, so there is a mad race among the volunteers to get good fast. Not really, but I think everyone just wants to try to avoid getting schooled by their host families. Anyways, when we arrived in Guimaras, the game was already in progress.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    We went to the fairgrounds for dinner, but I couldn't resist stopping off to get a fresh mango shake.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    The next day we entered the "Eat Til You Drop Mango Eating Bonanza". Despite it's nihilistic title, it was a great event. I especially appreciated all the thought that went into this list of 12 rules that were posted for all to see. The entrance fee was 30 pesos, or about 55¢.

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Everyone began with one kilo of mangos (about four per plate). From there, it only went up. I think I ended up eating about 1.3 kilos of mangoes, which is nearly three pounds!

  • Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004

    Guimaras Mango Festival - May 2004
    Not sure what the "Eat Til You Drop Mango Eating Bonanza" rules say about talking on the phone during the event, but it's safe to say this was probably a pretty one sided conversation.