Guimaras Island is recognized as the Mango Capital of the Philippines, farming and researching export quality mangoes for the past several decades. Alongside this, a rich and storied culture has flourished, including The Manggahan Festival celebrated in May.
Directly translated as The Mango Festival, it is a cheery event that means much to the locals. Guimaras is the smallest province in the Philippines but, despite its small landmass, is home to a Trappist Monastery, several dozen fruit farms, the largest Christian cross in Region VI, and notable beaches such as Tatlong Pulo Beach, comparable to pre-modern beaches of Boracay Island.
The island is located about 9 miles away (a twenty-minute pumpboat ride) from the shores of Iloilo City, where Xilium Philippines is headquartered. . Before entering the island, customs officers check passengers’ baggage for mangoes. This seemingly odd security measure prevents any cross-breeding that could endanger the quality of the native fruits that are reportedly served even in the White House and Buckingham Palace. The National Mango Research and Development Center (NMRDC) works closely with the different municipalities of Guimaras to ensure that mango farms are scientifically well-protected and maintained. Conversely, it’s perfectly legal for tourists and natives to purchase mangoes from Guimaras and take these home.
Guimarasnons (natives of Guimaras) are mostly farmers and fishermen who live off the land. Despite being the ‘Mango Capital’, there are limited professional growth opportunities. Guimaras State College is the only institution offering tertiary education while much of the conceptualized infrastructural development is hampered by the topography. In recent years, national wind farms have been erected but local business expansion has always been constrained by the hilly valleys, state-protected forests, and ancestral, indigent farmland. For a better life, residents normally find education and gainful employment opportunities in the neighboring metropolis of Iloilo City.
Since there is only one well-equipped hospital in the entire province, many Guimaras-born nurses migrate to Iloilo for work. Some of them find their way to Xilium. In an interview, employees want to maintain close connections to home. Family plays a large role in the decisions they make. They rent weekday apartments or bed spaces so they can go home after work by Friday. When asked about the difficulty of the commute, travelling nine miles by ferry is often faster than a mile by car during rush hour.
Because of this, Ilonggos (natives of Iloilo City) and Guimarasnons get along well. The two communities share a single dialect. Families in Iloilo and Guimaras are intertwined since it’s common for locals of the peaceful island to migrate to the busy city. A pacifist attitude, earnest grit, and contentment for the simpler things make for an appreciable work space. Similar to the sweetness of their mangoes, Guimarasnons are known to be affectionate and hard-working people. They’ve adapted the traits of the folklorish mangoes in their own culture: sweet, fragrant, and blooming in the summertime.
Set apart from the business districts and the concrete of Iloilo City, the island of Guimaras has preserved its rustic grandeur with green rolling mountains, beachside winding roads, wild fruit trees, grazing cattle, and sweet people.
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