By Vianca Gamboa
Images by Noel Pabalate
A typical work day at the Lifestyle section of The Manila Bulletin office usually consists of styling columnists’ articles, beating deadlines, and yearning for that “mango float overload,” which can be bought from a kiosk just a few blocks away. It is our go-to refreshment whenever we need a break from workloads—a regular mango smoothie topped with mango bits, mango ice cream, crushed grahams, and sago. It is a meld of exploding contrasting textures. It tends to be too sweet but nonetheless a palate that’s “very Filipino.” In short, mango somewhat fuels the fibers of our being.
It’s fascinating how the Philippines is a bounty of sweet, juicy Carabao mangoes, thanks to our tropical weather. In fact, two festivals commemorate its harvesting season—the Dinamulag Festival in Zambales and the Manggahan Festival in Guimaras. The land of dried mangoes soon got into the mango fiesta craze and decided to hold its own annual Cebu Mangoes Festival in the township of Mactan Newtown, Lapu-Lapu, which is lined with over 200 mango groves on both sides.
The festival debuted a year ago but it is only now that Megaworld and the Lapu-Lapu City Tourism office have decided to make it a real thing. “So the trees have been here before the buildings were here for a long time. In fact, we have a dedicated team that takes care of these trees. It’s not only a celebration of the mango fruit but also the tropics. I can’t think of a better symbol of the tropics.” said Megaworld Cebu Properties’ president Noli Hernandez.
“Can you believe that Mango Avenue doesn’t even have one actual single mango tree along the area?” This was what urged Megaworld to plant the trees along Newtown Boulevard in 2011, and bring a fresh nature feel on a development area to be filled with upscale restaurants, commercial buildings, residences, condominiums, and even its own beachfront—now a reality.
According to Hembler Mendoza, head of the Lapu-Lapu Tourism Office, Cebu might be in the middle of a booming economic sector when it comes to commercialization progress, but its agricultural sector still thrives with its mango production, proving how diverse the city is in every aspect.
The Kadaugan dancers, clad in sparkling, bumblebee yellow two pieces, kicked off the party by dancing away to modern “mashup” beats. Noli led the ceremonial mango picking, commencing harvest time amid a muggy afternoon, but no complaints, the air smelled of fresh mangoes so it felt like a tropical getaway more than a hot city stroll. The mangoes, wrapped in cut-out cartolinas in assorted colors (think a paper mache project that you need to wrap in colored papers back in art class) which ripen the mangoes quicker, can (only!) be picked once you get the hang of those tricky fruit-picking sticks that extend way beyond the trees.
We also got caught up in the bazaar as we pranced through booths of souvenirs and mangoes, with Cebu’s local artists serenading us in the background live. The Mangopreneur bazaar spanned only a couple of yards but we found a lot of real mango-related finds like key chains, handmade crafts, and even shirts.
Capping the second day and the whole weekend of festivities is the unveiling of the biggest mango sago ever in the Philippines. Chef Richard Hao and his students from University of San Jose Recoletos-Bachelor of Science Major in Hospitality concocted the huge Pinoy dessert and poured almost 300 kilograms of freshly picked mangoes, 50 liters of milk and sugar, and 30 kilos of sago or tapioca pearls into a big metal container that resembles a witch’s cauldron. Of course, everyone had a taste of it afterward and it resulted in a sweet merienda that satiated everyone’s sweet, juicy mango cravings. To shake off all the calories, the festival also opened the dance floor for some Zumba.
After a bartending exhibition, a garden-inspired fashion show was staged to add more color to the festival. Cebu-based designer Dexter Alazas showcased a summer collection called Hablonuevo with the colors of spring and flowers in hablon, an Argao traditional weaving process that makes use of handlooms and abaca fibers, among others. A fireworks display concluded the success of this year’s Cebu Mangoes Festival.