WE WERE INVITED – Dr. Alfredo Villarico knew that we would be visiting him on August 16, 2019 in Kidapawan City as part of our invitation to the Kasadua Timpupo Fruit Festival, an annual event organized by the local government unit as thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest of fruits in that part of the country. Of course, many people know that Dr. Villarico, a 75-year-old medical doctor, is the undisputed Mangosteen King in the Philippines today.
30 YEARS AGO – We met Dr. Villarico for the first time more than 30 years ago when we conducted our Agri-Kapihan at the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan. From our first meeting we had learned that he was already an advocate of planting mangosteen for a number of good reasons. He was then phasing out his rubber plantation so he could plant mangosteen. He said that mangosteen was the easiest fruit tree to maintain. He had not encountered any disease and insect problems then in growing the fruit tree.
PROBLEM WITH RUBBER TAPPERS – We remember him telling us that he had problems with the rubber tappers who would be absent when they were most needed to harvest the cuplumps. He also phased out his rambutan because the trees needed to be sprayed with insecticide to protect the fruits from fruit flies and other insects. Being a doctor, he knew that chemical pesticides could endanger the health of his farm workers.
PREPARED TO CONVINCE US – Dr. Villarico received us at the huge family dining table late in the afternoon. After exchanging amenities, in our own language he said in effect: “Zac, my friends tell me that according to you the sweetest mangosteen you have tasted is in Thailand. You have to taste my mangosteen so that from now on you will say that the sweetest mangosteen is right here in Kidapawan.”
He was prepared to convince us. He had a big tray filled with fruits of his new mangosteen selection. He asked us to eat all we can but if we encountered any seed, we should not keep it. He is not releasing any planting material yet until he has established a big plantation of the same.
HE WAS JOKING – Of course, he was only joking when he said that we should not keep any seed of what we ate. After a few days when we returned to our farm in Teresa, Rizal, we received a box of Dr. Alfred’s super sweet mangosteen. We didn’t count the fruits because we just ate and ate. We ended up with just 18 germinated seedlings from the seeds of the super sweet mangosteen that we received. That’s because most of the fruits didn’t have fully developed seeds.
TERRIFIC MUTANT – How did we find Dr. Villarico’s new mangosteen? Terrific, if you ask us. Our companions that included Dax Avenido of Nissan and Gabby Gonzales of ABS CBN agreed a hundred percent. The aril (the white flesh) is so smooth and so sweet. It just melts in the mouth.
ON THE WAY TO KIDAPAWAN – Before that, on the land trip from Davao City to Kidapawan, we ate a lot of both the somewhat sour and what is termed as sweet mangosteen which were also from the farm of the good doctor.
DISTINCTLY MUCH SWEETER – The new mangosteen is distinctly much sweeter than the two cultivars that Dr. Villarico had been growing the past many years. We immediately told him we will call it Dr. Alfred’s Super Sweet Mangosteen. Aside from being so sweet, Dr. Villarico said the fruit has a shelf life of 20 to 30 days compared to the 15 to 20 days of the old cultivars.
VARIANTS NOW AND THEN – In the course of time, there are variants that come out in the plant kingdom. Could it be the result of stress? Exposure to radiation? Climate change? We really don’t know because we are a non-scientist.
VARIANTS AS GOLDMINE – But variants do happen and it is fortunate that there is a Dr. Villarico who is observant. We have learned that in Thailand, farmers are keen in observing variants of their own plants with outstanding traits. Such plants could become a goldmine because the owner would not only make money from the fruits but more importantly from the propagations that are sold at a high price to interested growers.