FROM DANILO TIU, we received sometime back a report on his own research about a Philippine chestnut that is supposed to be found in many places in the Philippines but which practically nobody knows. Mr. Tiu is a UP Los Baños graduate who is in the plant business and a keen researcher on many things horticultural.
TALAKATAK HAS OTHER NAMES – This is the Talakatak as it is supposed to be called in Quezon and Camarines but which is also known by many other names in different places. The nut tastes somewhat like the imported Chinese castañas that is often available during the Christmas season. The taste and flavor are somewhat the same.
FREE TASTE AT THE AGRI-KAPIHAN – A few years back, at the Agri-Kapihan, the late Ramon Tan brought some for us to taste. We liked the fruit, but it is only at this time that we are reminded of this endemic chestnut (found only in the Philippines) when Danilo Tiu sent us what he found in literature about Talakatak.
MENTIONED BY FR. BLANCO IN 1845 – Danny says that this native chestnut was first mentioned by Fr. Francisco Manuel Blanco (1778-1845) in his “Flora de Filipinas” (1845) edition 2, as Fagus philipensis of a specimen from Angat, Bulacan. He noted that the natives sold the nuts as far as Pasig then.
CASTANOPSIS PHILIPPINENSIS -The plant was again mentioned by Sebastian Vidal y Soler (1842 – 1889) in his “Revision de Plantas Vasculares Filipinas (1886) as Castanopsis philippinensis. He reassigned the plant to the Castanopsis genus and corrected or modified the spelling of the specific name from philipensis to philippinensis, presumably in consonance to the country name Philippines. Vidal was a Spanish forester and botanist with particular interest in woody plants.
CONSERVED IN LUCBAN– Danny writes that a vintage picture taken by David Fairchild during the Cheng Ho Expedition (1939-1940) showing the towering trunk of a tree with a man standing below its base gave him an “awsome feeling” so he had to get to see the plant to know it. He was brought there by Gerardo Sales, a plant trader from Lucban, Quezon. Luckily, Danny says, some Lucbanin and their forester have found reason to protect, conserve and maintain the climax species now in their municipality.
WIDESPREAD BUT NOT ABUNDANT – In his research of information about Talakatak, Danny says that it is widespread but never abundant. It is found in Malinao, Albay; different towns of Bulacan; Camarines in Bicol; Siniloan in Laguna; Montalban and Antipolo in Rizal; Lucban, Quezon; Oriental Mindoro; Nueva Vizcaya; Puerto Princesa in Palawan; Buenavista near Jaro, Leyte; Samar; Agusan del Norte; North Cotabato and Basilan.
MANY OTHER LOCAL NAMES – Danny reports that Talakatak is also known by many local names like Bating and Bayoktuan in Rizal; Takatak and Talakatak in Camarines and Quezon; Bayente Nueve (Tagbanua); Ulayan (Samar and Leyte); Lobian, paun-ngagan, tulakatak (Tagalog); Philippine chestnut in English.
QUESTIONS FROM DANNY TIU – In his research, Danny observes that other than the identity and descriptions, almost nothing is written about the plant. Which leads him to ask: If the taste and texture are similar to the Chinese castañas, why does it remain as an unrecognized crop in the country? Why is the plant itself not known to many?
AWAITING SERIOUS STUDY – We can now say that Talakatak is one plant that is awaiting serious study (research) by our agricultural scientists and development for commercial production by farmers. Danny has a few plants but he observes that they are very slow-growing. Well, one of the studies by our researchers could focus on how to accelerate the growth of Talakatak plants. Aside from propagating by seed, Danny has not read anything about multiplying by asexual means.
ORCHID RESEARCHER – By the way, Danilo Tiu is an experienced researcher. He was the assistant of Dr. Helen V. Valmayor in researching about Philippine orchids which were published in “Philippiniana Orchidiana.” This is an exhaustive volume on Philippine orchids which was published by the Eugenio Lopez Foundation.