In the early 1990s we attended a garden show in Naga City. As in many other garden shows, there was a commercial section where stallholders sold ornamental plants and garden supplies. But there was one stall which sold beautiful ripe mangoes. They were really big and very attractive. We remember former Sen. Nikki Coseteng buying most of the stocks of Mrs. Patria Escaro whom I interviewed for my Agri-Talk column in Panorama magazine.
We learned the Escaros, Marcelo and Patria, had 500 big mango trees in their farm in Calabanga, Camarines Sur. How come the Escaros had those mangoes? The story goes this way.
Marcelo and Patria were from Batangas who settled in Bicol. Their business for a long time was producing oranges (dalandan) which viajeros purchased in bulk. One viajero who had accumulated a lot of payables all of a sudden disappeared and did not show up for years.
One day, after several years, the fruit buyer unexpectedly arrived to settle his old account with the Escaros. But instead of cash, he brought with him a truckload of 500 grafted mango seedlings. He said the seedlings would be his payment for what he owed.
Of course, the Escaros did not have any choice but to accept the seedlings. After all, they had a big farm in Calabanga where they could plant them. And that’s what they did.
Previously, agriculturists never recommended planting mangoes in Bicol because it is considered a typhoon belt and the strong winds will just topple down the mango trees. Mrs. Escaro said that strong typhoons toppled their mango trees, all right, but they did not die. In fact, the toppled trees bore fruits that were very easy to harvest.
After the story was published in my column, the Escaros became some sort of a celebrity in their province. And Mrs. Escaro became a friend who was a frequent attendee of the Agri-Kapihan, a weekly forum that was held at the defunct Manila Seedling Bank in Quezon City.
Mrs. Escaro was always very ecstatic telling the story about their mango farm at the Agri-Kapihan.. She said that after the publication of my article, the provincial agriculture’s office erected a big signboard declaring that the Escaro mango farm was a cooperator of the Department of Agriculture.
Very smart guys, if you ask us.
About a year after our article was published, the province was ravaged by a strong typhoon. The province was given a P2-million calamity fund. And what did they do with the big amount? The provincial government bought grafted mango seedlings which were given free to whoever wanted to plant mangoes.
Today there are many mango plantations in Camarines Sur and other Bicol provinces. Mango had finally arrived in Bicol. (From Memoirs of an Agri Journlist, unpublished.)