It’s unknown exactly how long ago durian arrived in the Philippines, but most likely it has been cultivated for just as long as in Malaysia, and far longer than in Thailand. One Philippine island, Palawan, is actually thought to have broken off of Borneo. Several durian species can be found there, including d. graveolen and d. testudinarium.
Durian hybrids entered the Philippines in the 1970’s, when several seeds of Thailand’s Chanee were brought home by visiting embassaries. Now two Chanee-relatives, Arancillio and Puyat, dominate the market. Filipinos generally prefer their durian strong smelling and bitter, which is one reason that Monthong never found a strong foothold here. This dominance of Chanee-like durians gives Philippine durian a seeming one-note flavor, but the islands hide some surprising gems.
Ninety-nine percent of Filipino durian is grown on the island of Mindanao, while 70% of that is grown within the Davao City Province, mostly in Calinan. Production estimates usually waver around 40,000 tonnes per year, although it depends on the weather and in general production is growing. The year 2010 saw a bumper crop of 36,000 tonnes in Davao City alone, with 1500 more hectares of durian orchard to mature in the next two years.
The durian preferred by locals, the native is the original durian of the Philippines. Like kampung in Malaysia and durian ban in Thailand, the term native comprises a number of uncultivated trees. Native is usually white fleshed durian, but also comes in shades of yellow. It is the strongest tasting durian, but with its large seeds and thin flesh, is the most expensive buy.
My top pick of the Filipino durian, Arancillo combines the strong flavor and bitternesss of the native with slightly thicker flesh and a smooth, silky texture. It is apparently a seedling of the Thai Chanee, discovered by former BPI-PhilFruits director Vicente Arancillo. While it is one of the preferred durians by taste, Arancillo has a tendency to rot in heavy rain and is not a recommended variety for export.
Puyat has a beautiful yellow-orange coloration and a very thick, bitter-sweet flesh. It is one of the largest durians, recognizable by its large brown spikes, pear shape, and thick stem. Like Arancillo, it is a seedling of a Chanee, brought to the Philippines in the 1970’s by a Mr. Puyat. When the Singapore Fruits and Vegetable Association visited Davao this year, out of twelve selected varieties Puyat was their favorite. Since the tree is also resistant to phytophtera and other types of fungus, it is currently the favored variety among farmers. Edible portion: 40%.
Chanee, or D123
Another import from Thailand, Chanee was the first hybrid variety
to hit the Philippines. It wasn’t a complete hit, but its offspring,
Arancillo and Puyat, are now the most popular varieties.
Alcon Fancy is rare these days. We found one at the SM City Mall supermarket. A bright yellow durian with very thick flesh, Alcon Fancy has a very mild flavor and aroma. It is grown in Tugbok, near Davao City. Edible portion: 40%.
A bright yellow durian with a strange, elongated shape very like the Petruk durian from Java. It’s actually the seedling of a Monthong, and is reliably sweet. The name Duyaya is a combination of “Durian” and “Bisaya” – the ethnic tribe of Calinan farmer Severino Belviz. Edible portion: 32%.
Kob, or D99
Registered as D99 in Malaysia, Kob is originally from Thailand. In the Philippines, it’s one of the most popular durian varieties and one my top picks. It comes in two colors depending on the altitude, yellow or white, and is reliably chocolate-sweet with a thick flesh. It is one of the durians considered for export.
Malaysian durian varieties, such as D101, are just beginning to filter into the Philippines. While rare, D101 is the most popular because of its thick, buttery flesh and frosting-like sweetness.
Another Malaysian variety, D24 is always delicious, although difficult to find. Vendors at Magsaysay sometimes carry this one.
Rob’s favorite durian, Red Prawn is also Malaysian. We first tasted it in Penang, and it’s wonderful. It’s really good in the Philippines too, and for a much lower price. We ate this variety every night we were in Tagum City at the Jemapis Farm stall,
Graveolens are native to the island of Palawan, Philippines. Although rare, they are grown sometimes around Davao, and are often grown for rootstock. We happened upon our first Graveolen near Magsaysay Durian Park. Graveolens taste very different than normal durians, with an incredible odor and heavy, thick flesh. They weight less than a kilo and come in three different colors; red, orange and yellow.
The thornless durian wasn’t fruiting when we visited BPI, but Dr. Virgilio Loquias assured us that it is as smooth as a grapefruit. It was discovered in Compostela Valley in the 1950’s by Mr. Dominador Pascual, Superintendent of the then Davao Experiment Station ( BPI-DES). Several trees were planted at Llaneza Farm, in Mulig, Torril, near Calinan. In 1964, a tree was planted at BPI, which is the one we saw. According to Dr. Loquias, its a white fleshed durian with a taste very similar to a native.
On June 27,1964, President Diosdado P. Macapagal planted a thornless durian tree during his visit at the Davao Experiment Station with BPI Director Eugenio E. Cruz during the opening of the Mindanao and Sulu Industrial, Commercial and Trade Fair.