19 Jun2009

Chopping Coconuts

by Marketman


Coco Pazzo was the first thought that popped into my brain when I saw this guy hacking away at coconuts at a roadside stand on the way back to Manila from Nasugbu. In Italian, it means “crazy coconut” literally, and figuratively one’s mind or brain, I guess. Coco Pazzo was the name of a restaurant in New York owned by Pino Luonggo, a chef, cook and author of a cookbook without measurements that I loved. It was about simple Tuscan cooking and was one of my earliest cookbook acquisitions. But what really should have popped into my mind was OMG, this man is fantastically adept with a bolo and I would want him on my “team” any day… :)


We had stopped to buy avocadoes from an impressive looking pile on display. But when we inquired about the coconuts, they offered them for a very reasonably PHP7 each or roughly 15 U.S. cents. Not wanting to load up on the bulky fruit in vehicles already quite full with stuff, this coconut man said he could trim the coconuts in no time so it would be easier to transport. So thinking this would be just a few minutes (say 10-12 minutes delay), we agreed. After picking out the coconuts we wanted, he went off and got his bolo…


And I swear it took him 10 seconds at most to make short shrift of one coconut. Have you ever tried to take off the ought outer layer of a fresh coconut? It isn’t so easy. And you not only have to have accurate aim but sufficient momentum and a very sharp bolo to do this right. And he was holding onto the coconut at all times! I was seriously impressed.


Asked how long he had been doing this, he said over 10 years, and I can assure you he qualifies as an absolute expert. He made it seem absolutely effortless, and he struck the coconuts with such accuracy, his fingers just an inch or two aways from the intended strikepoint. He was totally complete on the digit front, so he obviously never chopped off a finger in his many thousands of coconuts he had handled over the years!


I took over 15 pictures trying to catch him with the bolo up in the air and then I asked him to slow down a bit and despite his trying, he obviously had a comfortable rhythm that worked and I realized disturbing this timing could be dangerous. He smiled throughout the process, chatted about this and that, and just 2-3 minutes of hacking away, we had 15 cleaned up coconuts ready to load into the car! Amazing.


In many ways, I am amazed by folks like this, who have such a specialized skill honed over many thousands of hours of practical application… and of course, the service was thrown in entirely FREE of CHARGE, as part of the sale price of the coconut. I was so thrilled, I bought a whole langka from them as well. And with such good cheery service, I will definitely stop at this farm stand again on future forays.


Placed in coolers and soaked in ice, the coconuts were superb when enjoyed later that day… Now if I matched up this guy with one of the gals in Cebu that chop up lechons with a vengeance, can you imagine what their fights might be like? Yipes. :)



  1. artisan chocolatier says:

    Now if I matched up this guy with one of the gals in Cebu that chop up lechons with a vengeance, can you imagine what their fights might be like?…….hahahaha……I would not want to have any of them as a wife/partner for fear that I will get a loretta bobbit cut someday!!!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 6:50 am


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  3. aggy says:

    haha funny end of post! miss fresh coconuts! have to be happy with canned coconut water over here.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 6:52 am

  4. Maria Clara says:

    On the job training is the best way to master the craft! I will not mess up with that guy that will ignite his temper up to the roof and hack me with the bolo into pieces in a matter of seconds! Just kidding. Our skilled workers are really up to par and really impressive with their work performance. The one that I really miss is where they scoop out the entire meat of the coconut and put it back in the shell and just poke a straw and ready to enjoy the meat and the juice at our road stand stall.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 6:58 am

  5. Ted says:

    MC, i remember that scooping out of the meat, and i still vaguely remember that the dull blade contraption they use is from a recycled side wall of a rubber tire.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 7:13 am

  6. marissewalangkaparis says:

    Ha ha ha…what a mess it would be to see them both mad and fighting—hahaha and bloody–yikes talaga!! That’s funny MM!!
    I enjoy this site especially when you see the “small” things that we sometimes take for granted…like that man chopping the coconuts…
    In Bangkok,while taking the waterway tours,they have this small cleaned coconuts which they place in a cooler and when you want one,they simply poke the holes and pop in the straw and you drink from it like a softdrink bottle. What I like best was that the coconuts were really small (fits your palm) and the shells were really smooth and clean(like the thingey you use for a filipino dance and you strap them onto your body). Tourists were really fascinated with it. I drank several during that trip to Bangkok and I always look for them when going back. Wish we could do that here in the Philippines. I found that amazing despite the fact that I have lived in a country with coconuts in abundance!!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 7:57 am

  7. bernadette says:

    hahaha!! I’m sure his wife would match him too. Women where I live have the skill and bolos as sharp as the men’s! I had learned how to sharpen a bolo myself but when I showed it to a group of local women, they tried to hide their amusement.

    I can see what you mean, MM…this man can slice well and clean!!!..and fast!! WOW!!! Coconuts are tough as trees and fruits!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 9:09 am

  8. Cecilia says:

    Funny, MM! … Miss those coconuts.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 9:56 am

  9. dragon says:

    Artisan, you mean LORENA Bobbit…

    Ted, they use carabao horns for that…

    Jun 19, 2009 | 9:59 am

  10. acmr says:

    Still could not take my eyes off those awesome avocados…. :-)

    Jun 19, 2009 | 10:27 am

  11. betty q. says:

    We now have those coconuts here too and I make it a point to buy at least 6 every week. First time I saw it, I was shocked to see how most of the Chinese here eat them. It was an open Chinese Farmer’s market on week-ends and they were selling them and chopped one end to reveal a tiny hole and then customers were given a straw. Then to my horror, I saw those coconut in the garbage bins with the MEAT still intact. OMG, I told my boys, they are throwing the BEST PART away…they sure don’t realize what they are missing!

    Thelam, if you are following this post, go back to Foraging…post. I replied to your query!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 11:21 am

  12. artisan chocolatier says:

    dragon….it’s been awhile since that episode hit the headlines (was stateside and single then) and somehow my memory bank still tells me to stay clear from a loretta, in case i meet her in a bar. But you may be right, it might have been lorena….anyway, i’ll stay away from both…hehehe…sorry girls for a little male humor.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 11:23 am

  13. Connie C says:

    OMG, indeed, betty q! If I were there, I would have foraged them out of the garbage bins, taken them home and scraped the meat to turn them into buko pies!

    and BTW, talking about garbage, here’s an interesting artist’s rendition of the extent of the threat garbage poses to our oceans:


    Jun 19, 2009 | 11:42 am

  14. dee says:


    Jun 19, 2009 | 11:48 am

  15. sanojmd says:

    that’s cheap! php7 each.. it cost $7 aud here. not fresh and no entertainment from mr chop chop guy.. lol

    Jun 19, 2009 | 12:01 pm

  16. pinkytab says:

    artisan chocolatier, we lived a block away from where Lorena (yes thats correct)Bobbit lived here in Manassas, Virginia. At about that time I had a guest from Canada who insisted that I take her picture on the grassy patch where the “thingy” was thrown. Imagine my embarrassment since this was at a busy corner.
    Marketman, see what memories a harmless blog on a bolo yielding artist can bring!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 12:10 pm

  17. Maricel says:

    In Kota Kinabalu they have Kelapa Pudding Ais where the whole coconut is filled with a soft gelatin made from the coconut juice and served very cold! Very refreshing and addicting!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 12:18 pm

  18. Jannah says:

    Mr. MM i am so inggit. I really miss buco and the fresh buco juice i used to buy along the highway in San Pedro Laguna. And know what Mr MM I miss it so much an that I have send lots of nestle cream in my cargo box because i am planning to make lots and lots of buco pandan once I arrive there in Philippines this july.
    Coconut here in UAE is from India at doesn’t taste the same and cost 6 dirhams each which is roughly P78. too expensive!!!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 3:15 pm

  19. thelma says:

    gosh, now i feel like having ice cold buko juice! when i am able to buy fresh buko from the filipino store sometimes, i also eat the soft flesh of the buko with vanilla ice cream…yum! i also use the coconut meat for buko pie…

    bettyq, i read your reply and have responded to it…thanks!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 3:34 pm

  20. pecorino1 says:

    MM, next time you’re in Thailand, try the whole coconuts here. The juice is very sweet, as if sugar had been added. All the Pinoys who have tasted them here all marvel at it. Philippine coconuts are tasteless in comparison.

    Whole coconuts are sold in the streets and supermarkets in two common forms: the normal fresh coconut and the roasted whole coconut.

    The latter is called Maphrao Phao and is distinct in appearance — the husk has been completely removed leaving the hard round core with a pointy tip. Part of this shell is is blackened due to the roasting. You have to crack it open to extract the juice which is amazingly nutty and sweet.

    Fresh coconuts are about 10-20 baht each in the market/supermarket. That’s about 14 to 28 pesos or 30 to 60 US cents.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 3:44 pm

  21. hill roberts says:

    Buenos dias, MM,
    I can vouch for that MM, that Filipinos are quite impressive. Get this: we wanted our second toilet and bathroom refurbished. Over the years, we of course, would hire Spanish builders. We’ve had six refurbishments over the three-decade period. With the economic turmoil worldwide, and the British pound being weak, my husband said we need to cut down on expenses but he added, “We really need to have the bathroom done…hope it doesn’t cost a lot to refurbish it…” Anyway, one day, on our way to a supermarket, I told my husband that I was going to stop by the CarWash owned by a Filipino family if they knew of a local builder. Soon enough, I got a call from the guy who said he was a builder. “Can I see you now? I just live down the road.” In ten minutes, he popped in, introduced himself as Rolando. My husband showed him the bathroom and what he wanted to do with it. We told him to submit an estimate or “presupuesto” so we could compare his with the other two Spanish builders. Of course, Rolando’s was the “cheapest”. We hired him a week later. He had with him Toti the tiler, Lorenzo the plumber, Hernan the electrician and the foreman Rolando as the jack of all trades who speaks Spanish like a native…
    They reported on time daily for four days. Usually, the number of weeks to do refurbishments is two weeks. But with the Filipino builders? Four days! And what a great great job they’ve done. My husband was sooooo impressed that he assured Lorenzo that next time, if we knew of neighbours needing builders to refurbish their condo apartments, he’s the man to do it. The outcome of their job is excellent and I can tell you now that my husband is still reeling in what I can only describe as a “pleasant shock to the nerves”. I think deep in his mind they wouldn’t be able to do a good job and I proved him wrong since I insisted that we hired, this time, Filipinos, to do the job,instead of the usual Spanish or British. Now, my husband and Rolando are rather good friends and he is immensely pleased to have met his acquaintance. I think it was also because he was able to communicate with the Filipinos in English since, to this day, he doesn’t speak Castellano. The moral of the story? Filipinos are so damn good but they underestimate themselves.No fear, no fear, Filipinos are one of the best workers in the world. Speed, knowledge, quick understanding of what task is given (to) them. That Coconut guy is an example of extreme speed, dexterity and brain. Mabuhay!!!
    Is there a way I could send photos of the “before and after” refurbishments to Marketman Manila?

    Jun 19, 2009 | 3:48 pm

  22. Ed B. says:

    “…Now if I matched up this guy with one of the gals in Cebu that chop up lechons with a vengeance, can you imagine what their fights might be like? Yipes. :)”

    That would be fight straight out of a Quentin Tarantino movie! :D

    Jun 19, 2009 | 3:58 pm

  23. natie says:

    i keep staring at the shiny, bald head and the coconuts…lovely green avocados, all piled up!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 6:16 pm

  24. Emily says:

    Maria Clara, I love watching that too! I think it’s referred to as “binibilog na buko”. There used to be a guy selling them from a cart in Makati, near the Makati Med/Mercury Drug area beside the creek.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 7:59 pm

  25. Marketfan says:

    Those are nice-looking avocados in the background.

    Pecorino1: I agree the juice from roasted coconuts in Thailand is so good specially when used to cook pork adobo. I saw a seller of this blackened coconut once in the Salcedo weekend market. A bit pricey at P70 per piece.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 8:26 pm

  26. Divine G. says:

    Yes, Betty Q. everytime I go to a Chinese street festival they have this coconut. Of course aside from the Chinese the foreigners try it and throw away the coconut after sipping the juice. And yes Maria Clara I remember those vendors who trimmed the coconuts and then cleaned the top part like “kalbo na mama” then they put their very sharp knives inside the shell to extract the meat from the sides without removing the entire meat from the coconut shell. So, it is the coconut shell then inside it is the whole coconut meat which still has the coconut water inside the meat and this is done without even making a hole on the meat itself. Then they put the straw and after drinking the water then you eat the meat. The coconuts that I have tasted and eaten were all good, you know a little bit sweet and all.

    Jun 19, 2009 | 10:25 pm

  27. chinky says:

    Whenever we used to go on road trips in the ’70s, coconut water was the drink when water ran out (when bottled water was not yet in vouge). I’m still amazed at these guys with bolos hacking away at the coconuts. I still buy coconut water with mala-uhog meat every saturday, chill this and have it with my lunch!

    Jun 19, 2009 | 10:37 pm

  28. kurzhaar says:

    I agree with the avocado “noticers”…those caught my eye too, they look great (though very different from my favourite, the Hass variety). They look a little like Zutanos which I have had in Florida.

    Jun 20, 2009 | 3:13 am

  29. Nelly says:

    Hi all, my post is a bit out of place but I wasn’t sure where else to write. I was wondering if anyone here has ever made caldereta using tofu? If so, how did it turn out and how did you go about cooking? Thanks! :)

    Jun 20, 2009 | 3:31 am

  30. ntgerald says:

    More often than not, coconuts that can be cleaned very well (stripped of husks, completely bald) are mature coconuts, ready for making gata. The meat is thick and hard. Not for eating, unless you have dentures specifically made for that. Or you evolved to eat hard, mature coconut.

    Hence, people who drink juice from this mature coconut drink the juice and throw away the rest. You can take the whole thing home with you and make gata, if you want.

    The juice is sweeter because more sugars (especially fructose?) have been formed, in the process of maturation.

    Immature fruit (any fruit) = less fructose = less sweet. BUT, more tender meat, in the case of coconut. This is what is done in the Philippines, because Filipinos are fond of eating tender coconut meat. Pag tumigas na ang niyog, mas matamis din ang juice, but less people drink juice from a mature coconut here in the Philippines. I think the main reason is they like the soft meat.

    In young or immature coconuts, the husks stick more to the shell, and therefore it is harder to make a completely bald smooth young coconut.

    Jun 20, 2009 | 5:40 am

  31. Queen B says:

    Miss those fresh coconuts, specially with buko salad and buko pandan. We have to settle with canned ones here.

    Jun 20, 2009 | 5:42 pm

  32. fortuitous faery says:

    my eyes are more glued at those avocadoes….

    Jun 21, 2009 | 1:53 am

  33. dishesandplaces says:

    my new favorite coconut experience now goes to the fresh buko at pandin lake in san pablo laguna :)

    i actually also wanted to comment on the mention of pino luonggo – i have read his “a tuscan in the kitchen’ a lot of times and it is definitely among my favorite books – novels included!

    Jun 21, 2009 | 11:18 am

  34. Mila says:

    I’ve been having fresh buko juice a lot while I’m back home, it will not be as easy to get when I’m back up north.
    There used to be this claymation comedy show on MTV, a farce on wrestling, they’d have claymation figures based on famous people, going at it in the wrestling ring, really gory, but funny. Imagine your coconut man with his bolo vs your lechon lady with her bayonet in that ring!

    Jun 21, 2009 | 12:21 pm

  35. Gener says:

    Im Sure!! im not going to mess up with this guy! he can shove me off in just a seconds!!

    I have seen one of this guys back in the philippines! they can chop cocos perfectly, time make them master it..and im reluctant even trying it myself. i wonder if this guy haves a night dreams and his bolo is just with him…OH DEAR!

    Jun 21, 2009 | 4:34 pm

  36. B&W says:

    My attention is not focused just on the “BUKO CHOPPER” but also to the shiny and beautiful Avocado in the background. I went for a visit last April and May with my family in Capas and have indulge and enjoyed all of my favorite fruits, Mango, Guyabano and Sampalok every single day, until my teeth are turning black from the Mango’s stain. Avocado is one of my favorite too but I find that in Capas Area the Avocado have a sweet taste to them, they don’t taste same as the Mexican Avocado we get in Arizona or here in Canada. Wonder why? My husband and I were in Sedona, Az. last March and one of the breakfast I had at the 101 Omelette Restaurant was Avocado Omelette, it was excellent! I have lots of food allergy and I cannot have any cheese. The Avocado in the Omelette tasted like cheese.
    Mr. MM did you bring home some of those Avocado?

    Jun 24, 2009 | 4:27 am

  37. tagabacolod says:

    Very amusing post, beautiful avocados! :-D

    Jun 24, 2009 | 8:39 pm

  38. Gener says:

    How about that “JACKFRUIT” hanging on the leftside? i found curious about that! Avocado? I dont see any reason to give attention in it, those avocadoes are quite small and dont have qualitative importance but they are good background indeed, hmmmmmm, they are actually shiny as they are not ripe yet..

    Jun 27, 2009 | 8:24 pm


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