TALAKATAK is an endemic Philippine chestnut that tastes somewhat like the Chinese castañas often available during Christmas time. A few years back, at the Agri-Kapihan, the late RamonTan brought some for us to taste. We liked the fruit, but it is only at this time that we were reminded of this native chestnut when Danilo Tiu sent us the result of his research on this tree. Danny is a UP Los Baños graduate who is engaged in the plant business. We now say that Talakatak is one plant that is awaiting serious study (research) by our agricultural scientists and development for commercial production by the private entrepreneurs.
Danny says that this native chestnut was first mentioned by Father Francisco Manuel Blanco (1778-1845) in his ” Flora de Filipinas” (1845) edition 2, as Fagus philipensis of a specimen from Angat, Bulacan. 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 for the specific name from philipensis to philippinensis, presumably in consonance to the country name Philippines.
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 “awesome 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.
In his research of literature about Talakatak, Danny said that it is widespread but never abundant. It is found in Malinao, Albay; different towns in Bulacan; Camarines; Siniloan, Laguna; Montalban and Antipolo, Rizal; Lucban, Quezon; Oriental Mindoro; Nueva Vizcaya; Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Buenavista near Jaro, Leyte; Samar; Agusan del Norte, North Cotabato and Basilan.It 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.
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?