Saturday, March 30, 2013

When, and from where, did the carabao 'Sweet Elena' mango come to Zambales?

If there's anything that distracts pilgrims and vacationers in Zambales during the Holy Week, it's the sight of golden mangoes in stalls along the provincial highway and in the public markets. Zambales mango (Mangifera indica)!

For sure, visitors will be loading their vehicles with a kaing (large bamboo woven basket) or two of the carabao 'Sweet Elena' mango variety unless all the green and ripe harvests were sold out during the 13th Zambales Mango Festival just before the Holy Week.  

The Sweet Elena is considered the best variety in the country today, reason why vendors declare fruits they sell as coming from Zambales.  The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) had found it to be be 'superior in terms of weight, sweetness, soluble solids, edibility of flesh, and physical appearance' against other leading varieties.  The World Book of Guinness listed Zambales as the producer of the sweetest mango in the world in 1995.

The Sweet Elena was discovered in the mango orchard of Mrs Penida Moselina Malabed in Sabang, Sta. Cruz, Zambales.  In 2004 it was reported that it descended from a more than a century old mother tree; thus, we reckon the sweet variety to have come to Zambales in the late 1840s.

Arboreal report of Bani, Zambales in 1802:  coconut, mango, jackfruit, betel palm and orange trees.  [Source: Leg. 100, No. 115. Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1757-1824).  National Archives of the Philippines.]

Historical documents show that in 1799-1803, there were no mangoes in Zambales towns except in Bolinao and Bani, which were part of the province until the Americans decided to cede them and all other towns north of Sta. Cruz to Pangasinan in the early 1900s.

In 1802, the interim Corregidor of the province required the gobernadorcillos to submit a report on the trees (arboles) that abound in their localities. The Alcalde Mayor also submitted to the superior civil government a report on fruit-bearing trees in 1803.

We can see in the reports that only coconuts (cocos) and cacao were the dominant fruit producers, probably in the context of demand for household consumption at that time, from the north (Bolinao) to the south (Subic) ends of the province. It even looks like Zambales was a coconut country.

Pepper (pimienta) and betel palm (bonga) were reported by gobernadorcillos of towns where these could be found.  

Aside from mango, jackfruit (nanca/lanca) and citrus trees (cajel and limon) were cited in the Bani and Bolinao reports.

Did the ancestors of Sweet Elena migrated then from Bolinao and Bani?  She's still of Zambal roots  because they were not Pangasinense originally. Could the southward migration then be probably during the first half of the 1800s?


Espino, Ramon Ma.. (2004, Aug 29).  Sweet Elena listed among world’s sweetest mangoes.  The Philippine Star Online at

Cruz, Rita T de la.  (2004 Feb).  Sweet Elena is identified as best mango variety. BAR [Bureau of Agricultural Researh] Chronicle. Retrieved from

Legajo 100, No. 115. Ereccion de Pueblos, Zambales (1757-1824).  National Archives of the Philippines.

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