Wednesday, July 17, 2002

My apology for not posting the Jack Fruit drama sooner but my little Blogger Pro does not seem to be cooperating with saving my drafts.

So, (circa May 2001) after an exciting four days in Makati, a suburb of Manila, I boarded a PAL airlines flight at the domestic airport in Manila, bound for the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. I was seated next to my supposed Filipino wife-to-be, Celerina Caybot, who didn't know it yet but was soon to learn that I had changed my mind regarding the whole relationship thing, inside of twenty-four hours of meeting her for the first time. It seemed she wasn't the same person I had been corresponding with for better than a year and a half. I found Cely to be blatantly conservative, possessive, controlling, negative and a compulsive complainer. Not my idea of a fun date. We made the best of it though and I was determined to have a good time.

The flight was pleasant enough and relatively short. Inside of an hour we were descending through the clouds into the semi-mountainous region of Surigao del Norte. Once we were low enough to make out the terrain, I became wide-eyed and muttered under my breath.....

"Uh-oh Toto! We're not in Kansas anymore!"

Cely's response to this was, "What did you say?" to which I replied, "Never mind," feeling she probably had no knowledge of the Wizard of Oz and Dorothy's little dog Toto.

We were descending into thick jungle, dotted with nipa huts. Having never seen this type of landscape before, outside of a air conditioned movie theatre headlining, "The Deer Hunter," I became slack jawed and couldn't believe my eyes. This was real....not Memorex.

We got off the plane and went through an interesting, albeit chaotic luggage claim inside a building that resembled something like a garage. Once we had our luggage, we walked out into the thick atmosphere of intense heat and humidity to meet Cely's sister Tata and our Filipino driver for the day. We stopped at a nice and very popular restaurant called Weegols Garden, which specialized in barbecued chicken and served up their dishes with a soy sauce and Sili peppers (siling labuyo), which gave everything a snappy taste. We ate outside on bamboo tables, dining a la kamayan (eating with your hands) and later washing up at the communal sink.

After eating we hit the road and went through an interesting, five hour, grueling ride into Barobo, Surigao del Sur. At the Caybot's home I slowly unfolded from the truck, wincing in pain from the long, bumpy ride and began to soak in my interesting surroundings. All around me was interesting architecture amidst thick jungle, replete with exotic fruit trees bearing fruits I was only accustomed to seeing in the specialty produce section of Shop N' Save supermarkets.

Star fruit, papaya, mango and other exotic delicacies were hanging off limbs within easy reach. Across the road; however, was a pitiful looking tree that was laden with huge cancerous tumors! Upon pointing out this retched tree, I was informed that it's tumors were fruit!

Jack Fruit it was called. These were unfamiliar to me and the most massive fruit I had ever seen, dwarfing a common, American watermelon. I marveled at their size.

After a glorious week in the tropical paradise of Mindanao, I finally boarded a large ship / ferry bound for my return to Manila on the last leg of my Philippine adventure. We stopped in the beautiful town of Dumaguete, Negros on the second day of our two day return trip and eventually arrived in port at the Manila ferry terminal the following day, greeted by Cely's sister Ping-ping and Ping's husband Ronnie.

Ronnie and Ping drove us to their home in Laguna and after a breather, we got back into the car and headed out for a trip to Taygaytay, to see Taal volcano and lake. The trip took longer than we planned and soon darkness was upon us. Along the way we passed several fruit stands and I shouted out, "Look! Jack Fruit!"

Dumb American.

Ronnie promptly stopped, having a propensity for being the best tour guide I had experienced and determined to show me as much Filipino culture as he could muster. He was a wonderful host.

"No Ronnie! Don't buy a Jack Fruit!" I pleaded, thinking we would never finish the thing as the moderately sized ones probably tipped the scales at 25 to 30 pounds.

"Don't worry," he assured me, mentioning that the fruit vendors would gladly slice us a small portion.

Returning to the vehicle, we were laden down with packages of Jack Fruit and freshly sliced pineapple that filled the car with an interesting yet pleasant smell.

It was too dark to see Taal volcano once we arrived so after a quick scan of the park we made off, looking for a nice restaurant in which to dine. Seated at our tables at a late operating eatery, we ordered our meals. I ordered a pork sisig plate that came sizzling to our table. Ronnie handed the bags of fruit to our waitress and asked her in some tagalog dialect to slice our fruit into serving portions and deliver it back to us on a platter.

The Jack Fruit was interesting. It contained shiny bands of yellow fruit flesh, interspersed with white fibrous bands and large, Brazil nut sized seeds. The smell was very, very pleasant but I was leery of what they would taste like, having found even the exotic papaya a rather pungent smelling, rich tasting fruit that did not seem to agree with me.

I found the Jack Fruit to be absolutely delicious! I was devouring this tree tumor like it was going out of style until Ronnie suggested I slow down a bit.

"Why?" I responded.

"Jack Fruit isn't easily digested," he replied. So, I followed his suggestion, although my desire was to eat through another round.

The next morning, I fully understood what Ronnie meant. I awoke with terrible stomach cramps and found myself experiencing the downside to Jack Fruit. Fortunately for me, I was able to er, uh.....shall I spare you the groddy details? Relieve myself? How's that? Unfortunately for Cely, she was constipated and suffered stomach pains for the remainder of the next day.

Everything has it's price to pay and so concludes the story of the Jack Fruit.......



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