AMERICA IN MY HEART COLUMN Alfred G Gabot Apples of the Philippines in the Filipinos’ Eyes

CAIMITO AND ATIS- The Filipino star apple and sugar apple.There are other ‘apples’ in the Philippines
Filipinos have learned to love apple especially when the fruit was popularized in the Philippines by the Americans soon after they colonized the country.
It was disheartening, therefore, for many Filipinos to receive reports from the United States Food and Drug Administration at the height of the Christmas celebration that apples from California particularly had been recalled because Listeria bacteria was found to have caused the so-called ” Listeriosis” outbreak in several states, resulting to at least three deaths and 32 illnesses in 11 states.
 After getting hold of the reports, the Philippine Department of Trade issued immediately an advisory recalling imported gala and granny apples from the US, warning consumers that the apples may cause serious adverse health consequences or death.
Listeriosis is an infection that primarily affects the aged, pregnant women, newborns and people with weak immune system. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, headache, confusion and convulsions. People infected with Listeriosis may die if untreated.
California-based Bidart Bros. which produces and sells the apples admitted that about 30,000 cartons of gala apples and 345,000 cartons of granny apples were shipped internationally. In the Philippines, two trading firms brought in Bidart apples from the United States, MB Fresh International and International Produce Group LLC.
While the US is only the fifth largest producing nation of apples with only 6 percent of total world produce, China being the biggest with more than 50 percent and Turkey coming third, Americans are the biggest consumer of apple pies in the world.
Due to the listeria bacteria outbreak on apples, Filipinos are now asking if apples can be grown in the Philippines like grapes which no abound in many farms in Bauang, La Union. And the answer is yes. In fact, apples are now grown commercially in tropical countries like the Philippines such as Indonesia and Uganda. There are now apple trees in the Philippines but are not yet grown commercially.
But do you know that there are many native fruits called also apples which are aplenty in the Philippines?
Yes, Virginia, there are native apples in the Philippines which are sweet, succulent and nutritious and medicinal.
 And they include, of course, the star apple or caimito sugar apple which is the “atis:” cashew apple which is the “kasoy:” custard apple which is the “guyabano:” balsam apple which is the “amargoso:” and the wax apple which is the “macopa.”
We have also the “mabolo” which is called the velvet apple, “santol” which is the sour apple and others.
And do you know that the healthy tomato which are readily available in farms and the markets in the Philippines was feared for 200 years by Europeans who called it “poison apple?” Later on, herbalists who learned of the benefits of tomato called it the “golden apple” and “love apple.”
Is it time ripe for Filipinos to grow their apples commercially in the Philippine countryside like the success in grapes in La Union and focus in the apple of their eyes our popular native fruits which are also called apples?  
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This column was first published in June 2015


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