Funny how the political circus has become a fruit instead of animal show. And the current metaphor used is the Philippine national fruit, the mango.
We take pride in the Philippine mango, to us the sweetest and the most luscious in the world. In 1978, my mother and I ate in a restaurant at the Via Barberini in Rome, near the famous Via Venetto, and when the secondi piatto was done, we asked for the dessert selection. The waiter proudly said they had mangoes, and we could choose how we wanted it — flambéed, with cream or gelato, or just plain mangoes. I asked where they came from, delighted at the thought of eating mangoes in Europe. “From Madagascar,” he enthused.
My mom said, “No, we only eat Philippine mangoes; nothing else is good enough”. And so we had tiramisu.
On a Greyhound trip from Atlanta to New Orleans in much younger days, I befriended a Jamaican couple, and when talk came to fruits, they waxed poetic about the Jamaican mango being the best in the world, which I naturally could not accept. If it happened these days, it would have been so convenient to just “un-friend” them, as Kris Aquino does all too often to anyone who says anything critical of brother PNoy.
In Mexico City once, on a trip to a Mayan archaeological site, the tour guide, upon learning that I was Filipino, drooled, “mangas de Manila…sin igual!”
But you should try Palawan Governor Pepito Alvarez’ mango, planted in the slopes which separate Cagayan de Oro from Bukidnon, ten kilometers or so from where the fabled Garci of Hello,Garci farms corn and veggies in retirement. JCA, as he is known in Palawan and Mindanao where he grew up, has produced a hybrid of the Philippine carabao mango and a Thai variety, and it is absolutely incomparable in size, taste, texture and shelf life.
Now back to the political circus.
I don’t know who started the mango metaphor. I was out of the country when PNoy delivered his last SONA and days later anointed Mar as crown prince, dauphin, rey infanta, tagapag-mana, whatever. Must have been Egay Erice, who shall be the next speaker of the HOR, should Mar make it to the presidency in 2016. Mar, the LP’s claim, is “hinog” for the presidency.
But Senadora Grace retorts that sometimes people prefer “yung hindi pa masyadong hinog, para mas tumagal.” In Bulacan where my maternal grandma came from, they call it “manibalang”. If you have the “piko” variety, and it’s manibalang, it’s heavenly. Taste and texture-perfect, and is of course best with bagoong, a perfect condiment, as in Grace with Chiz as bagoong to complement. (You should try The White House in Davao City, where Tonyboy Floirendo’s better half, Cathy, a chef sans pareil, cooks kare-kare so well, but more so, the bagoong that she herself concocts from fresh alamang she buys from Davao’s market. And duck confit as well, divinely ambrosial!)
But the Philippine mango known the world over is the “kalabaw” or carabao variety, such as those in Guimaras, or Zambales, or Cebu’s Guadalupe area. Pangasinan and Imus, Cavite as well, lest my friends from these places curse me for taking favorites on their mango pride. The kalabaw variety is something my lola never served “hilaw”. Only piko for manggang hilaw, as well as the occasional manggang “paho”, dimunitive but sourly tart. Both varieties are perfect for burong mangga, stocked in Ball glass jars, and perfect for condiment to fried or grilled Filipino ulam, whether fish or meat. Sadly, both piko and paho are getting to be so rare. I get them these days, seasonally at that, by motoring to two markets in the metropolis. I won’t write where, baka maubusan pa ako.
An MST reader sent in a rejoinder to the story on Senadora Grace preferring her mangoes manibalang. But it was unkind. He described Veep Jojo as “over-ripe at pabulok na”; Grace as “bubot at hilaw pa”, and his idol Mar as “tamang-tama na ang pagkahinog”.
Because Digong Duterte reads The Standard, not necessarily because of Pastor Apollo Quiboloy who writes for this paper, but because the Davao mayor reads practically all the broadsheets daily and is a voracious reader of books (I once gifted him with a book by Robert D. Kaplan entitled Asia’s Cauldron, about the South China Sea, a.k.a. West Philippine Sea, and a week later, in his extemporaneous speech about federalism, he was quoting from memory the observations of Kaplan).
Curiously, on the day the MST story about the mango metaphor came out, Digong was regaling his audience in Mindanao with “manggang hilaw nga aslum”, “manggang sobra na ka hinog, hapit na mabulok”, and “mangga nga kinarburo, hinog pero lain ang lami”. (For the non-Bisaya, this translates as: green mangoes that are sour; over-ripe mangoes that are almost going to rot; and force-ripened mangoes using karburo, or calcium carbonate, which taste rather awful, for Filipinos who know their mangoes).
And then he segues into (Tagalog), “mas masarap ang manggang hinog sa puno at sa tamang panahon. Pwedeng galing sa Cebu kung saan ang mga Duterte nagmula, or sa Zambales at Pangasinan, kung saan ang gobernador kaibigan ko, or dito sa atin sa Mindanao”. With the audience already in stitches, he says “Labi na ug gikan sa Davao”. (Especially the one from Davao).
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Walden Bello, the Akbayan congressman, does not delve in the mango metaphors, though. He describes all four candidates in rather acerbic manner, thus: “Mar Roxas is a “hollow man” (ampaw daw); Grace Poe as a “blank slate” (wala kang mababasa); Jojo Binay as “bad news”, and Rodrigo Duterte as “the second coming of the Marcos regime”.
Hala, take your pick. If you don’t like the mango metaphors, choose Walden’s descriptives.
Or, as PNoy once advised Walden, “Why don’t you run for president yourself?”