In the Philippines, roadside stores and stalls abound. They dot our landscapes. See a highway? There’s a strip somewhere, just count 5, 10 or 15 minutes since driving and you’d likely come across one such. No kiddin’. Alright, maybe sometimes, it takes 20, depending on which part of the country you happen by.
It’s still an agricultural country, right? Meaning, about 10 kilometers from the highway, there are farms. And, there are farmers, of course… With their fresh produce – from the barns, the fishponds, the backyards and the farm proper (fruits and vegetables, mostly).
Oh, there is a municipal market somewhere, sure. But markets, with their usual traffic of people buying and hosts of permanent stalls and stores regularly selling, are for those who can forecast the supply and the demand. Roadside stores are for the tentative, the unsure and the undecided. You know, the willy-nilly, the-wind-took-me-here, I-happen-to-pass-by customers? There.
And, no worries. I mean, it’s the same on the other end – the vendors. They are seldom sure when the next batch of the crops will be displayed and up for sale, when the next bushels of the harvests will come in and if the fruits will have ripened by next week. They will see, see? They will try… In the meantime, why don’t you have a look and feel of what’s on the rack, huh?
So, the roadside stores are for the passers-by, the chance buyers, the momentists… Driving in a highway, at regular or even odd hours, could be an exhilarating experience, at times. There’s the stretch of road to be negotiated, the trees that seem to move, the colorful or unpainted houses along the way and the solitary soul walking or crossing – without even a hat!
And suddenly, there is your strip – with the goods piled one on top of the other – uniform, assuring and interestingly familiar. It’s not like a 7/11, no… The crew members do not wear uniforms, there is no cash register and there are no lozenges on the counter, haha. But there are weighing scales – the traditional, analog kind and when one’s lucky, there’s another – digital. And, the melons are waving… 😉
So, you and your companion make a stop. There is really no shoulder to park on… Vehicles zoom past you as the two of you get out of your car, you look at the compartment at the back, making sure there is enough space (as though you really intend to buy!) and you arrange your clothes to make sure you look alright, somehow… You look right and left, wondering if a former classmate, office mate or somebody you used to be interested with, happen by. As if…
It’s a very vulnerable feeling, standing at the highway to make a purchase in the middle of nowhere (it’s not really a nowhere, you know the name of the place) while every other motorist is happily on his way – to wherever. You take a few steps towards the goods that beckoned to you from the comfort of your seat, the air-conditioning and the certainty of getting there – to your wherever. The melon makes a greeting, nagmamaganda (feeling pretty).
Hey, people, it is officially rainy season, over here. The countryside in the tropics is enjoying a breather from the humidity, the heat and fury of the glaring sun and the soils are returning to their original dark brown. The farmers are planting, this time of the year… But they are also harvesting, yes. Thus, it is quite a busy time for their spouses, siblings or cousins, manning their stall in the highway. The roadside establishments are on business… 🙂
Here is one of the fruits that capture the motorists’ attention these days:
Lanzones (Lansium domesticum) or lansones is a tropical fruit from a tree that could grow quite tall, sturdy and old, haha. Over at our place, there are lansones trees older than me and even older than my uncles and aunts. But hey, it’s not very friendly to climbers… The body and the branches of the tree are very rough, they hurt the arms and hands of the enthusiastic, the curious and the daring, hehe. There are official and designated lansones climbers in the locality where they are typically grown. 🙂
Lanzones fruits, if I recall correctly, start ripening in June. But the peak of the harvest season is September. That is when the fruits are sweetest. But for some reason, lansones fruits flood the cities and towns starting in August – at the community Saturday markets, at the regular fruit stands, the supermarkets and, at the waysides… The lansones produce are put in a very light container called the kaing, made from an indigenous material. By the way, here’s another picture of the fruit-bearing tree…
These days, lansones still sell for ninety to one hundred pesos (P100) a kilo, (US $2.5, roughly) for the sweet ones. As days come nearer to August, the fruit’s price decreases, down to fifty, sometimes… But in the highways, lansones is always priced higher. Methinks, there, it does not go lower than seventy. Sometimes, lansones in the expressways go as high as P160/kilo. And, there is no guarantee they are sweet, ahaha. A buyer is usually allowed a taste test, though. But then, one bunch of lansones maybe your sweetest, the other not so. Oh, well…
By the way, the lansones tree is quite a useful plant, with a host of medicinal values. The dried peel of the fruit can be burned – to drive away mosquitoes. The bark can be used to treat diarrhea and in powder form, it can be employed to treat scorpion bites. It is a neat tree, actually. Perhaps, that is what you would also say, when you’ve seen one, up close… In the meantime, visit – the market, the basement fruit stand at your nearest mall or, head over the nearest highway and grab yourself a kilo or two – of this tropical treat. Not sure if they’re as sweet as they come, over at your location… But what the hey, go try some! If there aren’t, well… There are melons and mangoes… 😉
Happy fruit hunting! 🙂