My mountain village stroll yielded another surprise: meeting the charming Kamandiis tree – a Philippine endemic.
This Kamandiis (photo) though small-built compared to the surrounding trees can easily be singled out because of its looks. It has a compact crown that can be converted into a topiary-like ornamental if cultivated in a backyard garden.
I spotted the small-sized tree side by side with pili trees and assorted coconut, abaca and other wild underbrushes in a state of biodiverse abandon but not too ‘foresty’ for my easy access. The Kamandiis is growing lushly just around 5 meters from the cemented village mountain road. My timing was just right because the minute buds of red flowers are profusely spread in the entire canopy. But it is not the showy kind. The red flowers are minute and shy and drop to the ground as soon as it open leaving the twigs and branches with pure red buds of kamandiis flowers attached on it randomly.
To test the taste, I chewed some of the flowers and the leaves and just as what Oya Choleng, my guide told me, it tasted a little bit sour. A subtle kind of tartness, more of a pleasant kind of acidity. This is the reason why it is use as a culinary ingredient in Odikin’s cooking. It adds a dash of tartness to fishes and vegetables dishes. Leaves and fruits can be used. But the flowers I am sure will suit well for fresh salads. The red color will be an added accent. The fruits according to my guide are rounded and the tart taste is more focused here.
I however have to wait for that next stage: fruiting.
Odikin also known as Barangay Santa Barbara is located in the medium elevation slopes of Mt. Bulusan around 1 to 2 km from the permanent danger zone (PDZ) of Bulusan Volcano. Recent developments brought electricity, piped water system and paved cemented roads to this outlying village. It is still however a favorite destination of the military which according to most residents are unnecessary and only complicate their peaceful existence. This is of course another story which brings me back to Kamandiis.
The ASEAN Tropical Plant data base listed Kamandiis ( Scientific name: Garcinia rubra Merr.) as endemic to the Philippines.
Photographs by Alma P. Gamil
Bulusan, Sorsogon, Philippines