Eli’s Sineguelas


I think it is really cool to be remembered in a bowl of fruit. Last year, Eli, our houseman at the beach, passed away from kidney failure. Young and seemingly healthy at sineg2the age of 42, the kidney problems were not diagnosed until about December of 2005, he was then put on dialysis in January of 2006, told several weeks later a kidney transplant was his only hope, and passed away several months later, leaving a widow, child and several stepchildren behind. It was an extremely tragic situation, but through all of the last months of his life, he focused on his family and never seemed to lose hope. It was extremely difficult to watch him and his family go through this, and I can only imagine how much more difficult it was for them. Eli was more than our houseman or “bantay” at the beach; he could accompany guests out on a banca if they wanted to go fishing, make short shrift of a would be intruder with his extensive security training, and happily putter around the garden. He planted lots of papayas in the empty lots next door, raised okra, malunggay, tomatoes, eggplants, herbs, etc. He planted several kinds of fruit trees on his family’s property in the nearby barangay.


So a few days ago I was at the beach for a few hours taking care of house maintenance issues, and I needed to buy some lunch for several workers at the house sineg4(didn’t bring any food with me). I drove out to a large carinderia across the road from Eli’s family home and purchased several viands and lots of rice. We parked our car briefly in Eli’s driveway, and when we were about to leave, I looked up and above us was a large sineguelas tree, branches filled with unripe and nearly ripe fruit! I have written about sineguelas before and it elicited an amazing amount of reader interest and page views, so I am not the only one that loves this quirky tropical fruit. I had never seen a sineguelas tree bearing fruit before and I decided to photograph the tree a few hours later on our way home. I had also recently just walked through one of Eli’s family’s properties and noticed that several dozen mango trees that he planted years ago were absolutely thriving and well on their way to a mini-orchard; so I was thinking about Eli and his fruit…

On the way home, with the permission of his family, I took a few photographs of the sineguelas tree, one of many it turns out, in the front yard of Eli’s family home. It turns out he sineg6may not have actually planted this particular tree, but he cared for it and planted many others. When I finished and said goodbye, his eldest son brought me a plastic bag half-filled with nearly ripe sineguelas from this particular tree, saying I should have them, and I accepted the gift gratefully and got back into the car for the ride back to Manila. On the drive back, I realized this was probably the best food gift I had received this year. Back home, fruit washed and in a bowl for a bunch of photographs, I kept thinking of Eli and how wonderful it was to be remembered in a bowl of fruit. The sineguelas picked just hours before, were utterly perfect. They were just a day short of full ripeness, the way I like them, with that characteristic crunch when your teeth breaks the taut skin, then the subtle flavor and softer texture of the pulp that surrounds the large pit. The next day the pulp was a juicy sweet mess to eat, but still completely delicious. As a kid I ate sineguelas with rock salt, slightly under ripe, but now I savor each fruit au naturel. I’d like to think Eli has a grin on his face watching his family, friends and acquaintances enjoying the fruit from his trees and I can’t wait until his mango orchard bears its first fruit…because fruit is ALWAYS sweeter when you know who planted it…


35 Responses

  1. pagkakita ko palang sa picture na to namiss ko na kaagad itong sineguelas. kailan ko kaya uli matitikman ang prutas na ito?????

  2. Sineguelas. My favorite fruit too. I can eat a kilo in one sitting. I am also touched by this story. Eli ‘s memory is kept alive with the fruit trees..Eli is just around us.

  3. i used to eat a lot of sineguelas when i was a kid… i loved it very ripe. Our helper for 40 years would bring it as pasalubong whenever she would go back from the province…haven’t eaten a piece since she passed away 2 years ago……

  4. This post really brings back memories. thanks to eli and MM.
    The ilocano name is sarguelas. me and my siblings used to eat this fruit with rock salt too. my grandma brings them back as pasalubong from pangasinan and mom would distribute them among us kids counting as she goes from one hand to the next.
    Have not eaten the fruit for about 12 years now.

  5. we used to have a siniguelas tree until a typhoon uprooted her, hindi siya gaanong malalaki kung mamunga. tuwing abril – mayo tag-siniguelas at ang laruan namin noong bata pa kami – salagubang,marami niyan sa puno ng siniguelas.tatalia namin ng sinulid ang mga paa tapos paliliparin .

  6. Count me in as a siniguelas lover. I usually gently roll the ripe fruit on the table then bite into it to release siniguelas juice straight into my mouth. Yummy!

    Said a little prayer for Eli and the ones he left behind. It was good of you to mention him and his contributions.

  7. this is one of the many fruity reasons i love to spend my summer vacations in the province (pangasinan). picking this fruit from the tree. I still remember how i almost fell off the tree for a bag of sineguelas. and how i got scolded by my lola for climbing its skinny tree… =)

  8. One of my fruit cravings. Haven’t eaten one for over 30 years. The few times I went home It was not in season. This and Lumboy (duhat) are in my list.

  9. A perfect post for the celebration of Earth Day, Marketman.

    A man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
    whose flower and fruitage is the world.
    – Ralph W. Emerson, 1803 – 1882

    Indeed, Eli has left a legacy fruit bearing legacy that no money can buy.

  10. MM, sa Iloilo marami nito. In Bacolod where I grew up we used the young leaves as paasim sa mga isda. We call this sargueles too. Memories, sweet memories…..

  11. I used to man the photography studio that my grandmother owned when I was a kid in Ormoc.
    Outside the studio is this lady who has a fruit cart outside the doors..At around 1pm when I would start nodding off she’ll give me a small bag of sineguelas with some rock salt to keep me awake.I really miss those days.
    I haven’t had this fruit since we migrated here in Canberra 20 years ago.
    We always visit home every December so the fruit is not in season.
    The kind lady has long passed on but her thoughtfulness still stayed with me.

  12. miss ko bigla ang siniguelas…maraming tanim ang dad ko na siniguelas(sa province namin sa occidental mindoro)…merong murado, if i’m not mistaken heto yung mga nasa pics dito, yung medyo namumula pag hinog na…meron din kaming kulay yellow naman pag hinog…hhhmmmm…can’t help but miss my dad also when thinking of siniguelas.

  13. it’s so wierd but after seeing this beautiful movie “Gospel of John” I read about Eli’s fruits. Your simple story now has given me another profound and meaningful understanding of gifts of God. Eli’s fruits just showed how he touched you! Quite poetic and spiritual way of looking at poignant moments.

  14. MM,
    How amazing that you can conjure such memories of childhood, loved ones and in the case of bernadette, God-in one single entry on the gloriously juicy sineguelas. As usual, well done.

    I hope i get to 38, retire and blog away as ou do soon.

  15. MM, real foodies don’t just eat, we create memories! Whether it’s a spectacular 5 star meal or snacking on fruit stolen from a neighbor’s tree, each food experience feeds both our souls and our stomachs.

    Like green mangoes, guava, tamarind, duhat and santol, sineguelas is one of those native fruits that I loved to climb trees for. It’s tree is does not grow very tall, and the gnarly branches make for excellent foot and hand holds. Seeing this post reminds me of bright summers in batangas, crunching on fruit still hot from the sun.

    ** In memory of Mang Pacio, our beach house caretaker who passed away last year. He taught me how to build a bonfire, catch crabs at night, climb coconut trees and pour vinegar on a jellyfish sting.

  16. We had lots of fruit trees out back of my grandparents’ house in Leyte. I remember duhat as messy, ates cloying; simply hated chico, but sirguelas was just perfect. The tree, near the old duyan, also made for easy climbing. Ahh, the old days…

  17. Thare was a sineguelas tree next to our house in Calabanga in Bicol. It has been over 30 years since I was there last. I loved eating sineguelas, specially the ones that are just ripe.. but not too ripe. My sister visited a few years ago and told me that alas the sineguelas tree is now gone, replace by a gas station!

  18. Sineguelas has a variety of use in our house. The green young ones we use them as a souring agent for sinampalukang manok and sinigang na isda – any fish. I know I know the name of the dish is sinampalukang manok and here I am talking about sineguelas but it is really good. The sineguelas makes the broth milky white which makes it more appealing – remember with eat with our eyes first. The matured ones with their crunchy texture and unparalleled sweetness are very good. We get ours from the market. I have not seen a live tree only in pictures.

  19. I used to climb huge siniguelas trees in the orchard of one of my grandma’s close cousins when I was a little tomboy. The call of the ripening colours was irresistible and oh, the smell of a truly ripe one in yellow-orange. The branches are very fragile and break esily, but that wasn’t enough to stop me from risking broken bones! I became fearless and undaunted when I know I can eat more than what my digestive track could handle when I was up the tree. Is it in season now?? I may have to plan my visit to the Phils next time around the siniguelas season.
    Your shots of them are so realistic my mouth simply watered!

    Interesting to know that the young green ones could be used as a souring agent for the sinampalukang manok? Hmmn, I should tell my sister to try that even if I won’t be able to taste it from thousands of miles away! thanks MM, this is another nice stuff to under a warm spring sun.

  20. trishlovesbread, click on the link to sineguelas, an earlier post, in the main body of the post above. It has the English name (Spanish Plum) and the scientific one…and more information on sineguelas…

  21. This is what I love about MarketManila.com…. it always bring fond memories of childhood, reminds of foods and fruits long forgotten… and makes me look forward to coming back home one day and eat these again.

  22. I agree with eatmatters. I always love to read recipes or about ingredients that have a story behind them. (I just bought “The Arab Table”)… Makes them more meaningful. I love ripe siniguelas!

  23. Its weird but i just got misty eyed just by looking the the sineguelas. I grew up in pangasinan where i climb any fruit tress in our backyard during summer. Sineguelas makes you yearn for happy summers in PI, happy childhood and the people you share it with, some are long gone.bayabas, kamatsile, kaimito, aratiles, duhat, chiku, mangga, langka…just some of the summer fruits that comforts you even if you have already forgotten their taste, because its the memory that really leaves the lasting taste. The kapitbahay you steal it from, the person who gave them to you, the scar you had during a fall from those trees…I’m sure Mang Eli is happy wherever he is. As for me, Im missing my dad. the person who lets me run free to enjoy my childhood, be fearless about heights, and who let me have all these cherished memories so that even if he is gone and im away from home, i am comforted.

  24. Ahhh, an all time favorite fruit of mine. Back here in the US (Florida), we still get a chance to buy the (Sin Egual as) or derived from the Spanish word (it seems) “sin igual” or without comparison at local hispanic markets when they are in season. I lived in El Salvador and Guatemala for a few years and learned that since those countries fall pretty much in the same Equator line as the Philippines, a lot of our fruit is found there. This fruit is called Jocote (you can Wikipedia it) and seems to be a native of Central America but has flourished in the Phil. too. Just reading that it is of the Plum family, no wonder the spanish word for plum “Ciruela” seems closer to Sineguela.

    I really enjoy your recipe’s because I myself like to take over the kitchen now and then when my schedule permits and I have used several of your recipes with great success. I really enjoy this blog and if there is anything I can do to help, (hint, hint), let me know.


  25. Ahh, that fruit definitely invokes lots of childhood memories. I recall one trip back to PI six years ago towards the tail end of summer. Alas, it was too hot and humid to eat anything else but fruit. I must say mangoes and sineguelas saved my life. The day I flew back to San Francisco, my Aunt handed over a little brown bag full of sineguelas picked from her farm that same morning. Fully riped sineguelas gleamed in the bag ready to eat and some partially green ones that peaked ripeness en route to SF. I sensed passengers looking intently while I gobble up the sineguelas but I turned a blind eye and refused to offer any of the precious fruits. Needless to say, I skipped dinner throughout the flight and landed in SF with a slight stomach ache (-:

  26. Why is it that this wonderful fruit is associated with people who died? I can remember craving this fruit when I vacationed in Cebu. This close of the family, Mar, overheard me, and by the next day he brought an entire bag of singuelas just at the end of the season. Unfortunately, this wonderful man was killed a many years ago while still young.

  27. I have not had a single siniguelas for 28 years. Your pix made me salivate. I am going to Florida next month (February) do you think they have it there at that time?

  28. talagang masarap ang siniguelas
    lalo smin sa andarayan solana cagayan
    un ang masarap na fruits
    pero dko alam english ng siniguelas eh

  29. I love siniguelas! Are they considered berry-type of fruits?

    I hope you can do research on various fruits in the Philippines, especially on the lesser known ones like this siniguelas (even including just the name and photo to go along and where abundant/available will suffice). Other fruits that we barely pay attention to are the aratilis, duhat and mansanitas. You may want to feature both well-known and the lesser-known fruits of the Philippines.

    If I had current access to these, I could have experimented in making jams and jellies using them.

  30. SINIGUELAS-The best backyard tree i called, the favourites of kids and olds too, during the fruit seasons, people used to come in my house under the siniguelas tree, while discussing something, we used to pick fruits at the same time and watch the kids climbing and reaching the best fruits they can. thought they used visiting my house as an alibi, its acceptable and expected them to catch some fruits either. its a pleasant fruit to eat during passtime and after or before lunch.. a good tree can bear enormous fruits, the best place to plant is the sandy area, cut a piece of branch from neighbourhood and just stick to the ground, 3 yrs away and it will bear fruits at once…



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