Tambis & Makopa Side By Side…


Finally, proof positive that “tambis” and “makopa” for Visayans at least, are distinct yet closely related fruit. It all started out with this first post several years ago, which referred to both of these species as tambis, as I had always done as a child. Then, one of my readers was perturbed by my lack of tambis/makopa knowledge, so I did a follow up post here (worth reading if you are really interested in the difference between the two fruit) to positively identify the scientific names of both fruit. That same reader sent me some photos many months ago but I couldn’t figure out how to get them into a publishable form, so I had to wait until I got my hands on both fruit at the same time (which isn’t so easy as the seasons apprarently barely overlap). Tambis, on the left in the photo above or water apple or syzgium aqueum and makopa, on the right or malay apple or syzgium malacenssis


You can clearly see from the cross-section cuts that the skin, shape and seed of the fruits differ, and I have to say I am partial to the taste of tambis, with the thin skin and often refreshing and sweetish pulp while the makopa is denser, and at least the ones I tried, less tasty. But I have to add that I saw lots of brilliant looking makopa on a recent trip to Vietnam and Cambodia so maybe those would have tasted better than the ones I have eaten here…


For many folks on the island of Luzon, they would refer to either of these fruits as makopa, and if a perusal of neighborhood trees is a good sample, I think there are more “tambis” trees than “makopa” trees in Manila and the surrounding areas. What’s the big deal anyway? Just one of accuracy… And as I mention in earlier posts, even the venerable Doreen Fernandez and Desmond Tate seem to have missed the subtle distinction between the two fruit… so if they were a bit confused, what about the rest of us?


Here a photo of “makopa” while the third photo is of “tambis.” I hope that is sufficiently straightened out for everyone… :)


69 Responses

  1. Good piece of info!! Welcome back Mr MM!! Hope you had a great vacation!! We missed your posts…2009 will be a great year for all of us!! Godbless us all!!

  2. Years ago we were given a gift of Taiwanese wax apples. They were absolutely delicious and I remember we were astounded that “makopa” could grow so large! Looking at your pictures MM,I think the Taiwanese fruit was closer to the tambis, and we should have called it “giant tambis” rather than “mutant makopa”.

  3. Have you tried the green variety from Bangkok? Super sarap. My professors in UPLB said they (i.e. Thailand) sent some of their best and brightest to Los Banos to study agriculture/plant breeding. Sad how Thailand has better fruits than us now…:-)

  4. Joey, if you click the link to the earliest post on tambis, it has a photo of the green variety from Thailand. I agree, the fruits from the Indochinese peninsula seem to be far superior for the most part when compared with our own… Vietnam and Cambodia also had WONDERFUL fruit!

  5. Whoa! All my life I thought I’ve been eating makopa. It turns out I haven’t even seen one in the flesh!

  6. MM, there’s a rounder version of makopa and instead of bright pink.. it’s light pink leaning towards white.. haven’t seen that variety in ages though =)

  7. My grandparents have makopa tree which is actually tambis according to this post :) All my life, I thought it was makopa – actually, everyone in the family thought it was makopa!

  8. i love both of them. we used to put vinegar and salt on them as a young child and it was heaven for us. the smaller tambis (bisaya as we often called them) are much tastier than the hybrid variety now in our backyards. i haven’t eaten makopa for so long. ours was cut down when electricity was introduced way back in the 70s.

  9. I had never heard the word “tambis” before your blog, just as I had never seen the fruit in the last picture. However, I grew up eating the fruit in the third picture, and we have always called it “makopa.” We even used to have a tree in our garden. No one ever called it “tambis.” And, judging by the above comments, many others thought the same. Could it be that this name confusion is a Luzon vs. Visayas thing, the same way we refer to patis and toyo differently?

  10. Is it possible the Tagalogs refer to both fruit as makopa, and tambis for the Visayans, all of us not necessarily making a distinction between the two fruit but either makopa or tambis as a generic term for both fruit depending on where in the Philippines you come from?

  11. It’s almost similar fruit, but in Visayas (my parents were from) or Mindanao (where I grew up), we call it “tambis”. My husband (from Luzon), they call it “makopa”. A little difference in texture due to the type of soil and weather. We have a lot of those lighter pink in color in Mindanao. So, maybe we just call it different due to our dialects, but it does refer to the same fruit or at least similar fruit, don’t you think? Interesting, yeah? Thanks again for sharing the info.

  12. Hmm, so now I realize I’ve never seen a makopa in my life. And the “makopa” trees in my high school yard and outside my window as I type this, are actually tambis?

    But have you heard of the term “nagkulay makopa” that refers to someone blushing or flushed? I would say that the color of the fruit in the 3rd picture better suits that description. You’d have to be dead to be the color of the fruit in the 4th photo. heheh

  13. i`ve always known the difference between tambis and makopa.both fruits grow in our neighborhoodin bohol.ilove tambis both the very tiny ones and the ones in the pictures.however i love makopa more especially those that are deep purple when ripe.haven`t seen makopas here in florida only tambis in diff.colors.they are very refreshing.

  14. MM, the English term that Thais have given their light green tambis is rose apple. It tastes just like tambis although it is slightly sweeter. We have that tree in our orchard in Ormoc. Many people in Luzon are unable to distinguish tambis from makopa but we Visayans know that they are different, at least in color. Or is it because tambis is endemic in the Visayas and makopa thrives more in Luzon?

  15. Then there is a variety of tambis that is less bell shaped, bigger and rounder with thinner blander tasting flesh and bigger seed.

    I have never seen the makopa in the picture either.

  16. In general, folks from Luzon/North do often refer to both varieties as Makopa, though most backyard trees in Manila seem to be the “tambis” version. However, as the photos and cross-sections indicate, they are related, but distinctly different fruit (look at the seeds for one). Visayans are more likely to come across both and thus often distinguish between the two. The fact that they have two different scientific names is suggestion from the experts that they are sufficiently different to warrant two names… but I love how a post on this fruit always makes folks think or re-think what they always assumed to be the case… :) Connie, some Visayans are rabid fans who clearly make a distinction between the two fruit, and with both of them side by side, I now understand why… But in Luzon, yes, there is a tendency to call all things that kinda look like this makopa… chrisb, and there are DARKER near purple varieties of makopa as well! so “nagkulay tambis” might be more amusing…

  17. Both tambis and makopa are abundant in Mandaue. The tambis has a soft and lighter bite and the ripened (dark red) makopa has a firm and luscious taste. I used to pinch a lot of fruits from the neighbour’s orchard. She had santol, caimito, bayabas, atis, sour cherries , bignay, mangang kastila, jackfruit, paho, and sambag. I had a fruitful childhood.

  18. As far as I know, Tagalogs *do* make the distinction between the two fruits. My Tagalog mom calls the Visayan makopa “tambis” and the Visayan “tambis”, makopa. My Visayan/Cebuano dad, did the reverse. So we grew up using both terms, but had to distinguish if we were talking Tagalog or Visayan/Cebuano.

  19. Those who are from Leyte will definitely know that makopa and tambis are two distinct fruits. A good quality makopa is better than tambis.

  20. Very fitting to usher in the new year and realize that I have been eating TAMBIS all these years and not makopa as I thought they were. (It’s like realizing that the sky is not blue.)

    Like Michelle H., I had the chance to eat tambis from Taiwan, and they were gorgeous to look at and sweet.

  21. In ilonggo we call toyo or soy sauce patis and the fermented fish sauce not as patis but as rufina. We call toothpaste colgate anyway. Q. Ano colgate mo? A. Close up.

    The real test to differentiate a tagalog from an ilonggo can be done in a boat or ship at sea. Scream “PATING” at the top of your lungs and the tagalogs will look in the water while the ilonggos will stare at the sky. Pating in tagalog is shark. In ilonggo Pating is what we call doves and pigeons.

  22. I had always thought that Tambis and Makopa are one and the same. My Lola had the pink/ red variety while we have the green one. Thanks for the clarification MM!

  23. and you would hear vendors in Bicol shouting “sira, sira” when they’re selling fish… not spoiled fish, mind you

    and don’t forget the ebun of the Kapampangan…they haven’t even hatched yet

  24. what about lomboy and duhat? two names for the same fruit, or two fruit varieties? somebody should take Filipino indigenous fruit under her/his wing, or future Filipino children will never taste/see aratiles, bignay, camachile, macopa, at iba pa.

  25. Luzon dwellers… even if this was a visayan luzon thing it still doesn’t explain the two varieties… In the visayas, there are TWO names, tambis and makopa for two varieties. In luzon, most folks refer to either of these as makopa, I think… :)

  26. The Visayans usually have words to describe distinctions between similar specie. Like ants which i think is only known as “langgam” in tagalog.” For Visayans, we have different names for specific ants. Like the black ants, we call “soom”. the small ants we call “utitod” and red ants we call “humigas nga mamaak”. :)

  27. kakusina, I always thought of lomboy and duhat as the same fruit or species. lomboy for visayans and duhat for luzonians. In the same manner that it is pomelo or suha or buongon for the same exact fruit… :) But then takuy, or a variety of pomelo grown in Carcar cebu, is a variation…

  28. MM, please write about the distinction between lomboy and duhat coz in Leyte, there is another related fruit called “mala-igang”. It was a fruit tree in my childhood. Mala-igang is a rounder and smaller fruit but it tastes more tart and sweeter than lomboy and duhat. I wonder if your readers from Leyte or Luzon have come across it.

  29. The Tagalogs have different terms for ants too. In Batangas, we say ‘guyam’ to refer to little ants. It’s a painful thing to be bitten by a ‘hantik’ (huge, red ants). And we try to keep food away from the ‘mananakbo’ (black ants).

  30. moni, are you referring to lipote/igot or bahag? See post here. It is close to but not a duhat or lomboy… For the duhat, I have come across smaller and larger ones, but all of the same scientific name, I think, but can never be sure…

  31. There is another variety of the tambis. Its color is light green even when it is already ripe. You’re right to those unfamiliar with either of the fruit, the Visayans would refer to makopa as tambis and those from Luzon the tambis as makopa. Only those coming from Mindanao could distinguish the one from the other.

  32. Ah okay, so I guess the makopa tree and the makopa on my uncle’s backyard is actually a “tambis”.. which means that I still haven’t seen a real makopa

  33. pinoyapache, actually, the rabid reader who first clued me in to this is a dyed in the wool Cebuana, and she does distinguish between the two. I was also glad to see that the grocery from where I purchased these fruit likewise labelled them correctly (using two different names)… :)

  34. Like many others, I thought tambis and makopa were Cebuano and Tagalog versions of the same fruit. Thanks for setting me right, MM. I don’t think I’ve seen a makopa tree before, but tambis is everywhere — don’t they look like Christmas trees when heavy with fruit?

  35. MM, I checked your earlier post about lipote/igot/bahag. Also called baligang. That’s it! When the fruit was transported to Leyte, it was renamed malaigang. See how plants and fruits acquire new names? I have not seen nor eaten this fruit since my first grade days. We used to “harvest” it from our school yard and ate it with salt. Gosh, I didn’t realize how much your post will bring a flood of warm memories. Thanks, MM.

  36. moni, we call it malig-ang in Bicol…purple round fruits similar to duhat… and yes MM, I think that’s exactly what you had in the lipote/igo/bahag post..we put the fruits inside a jar with some rock salt, cover the jar and shake it until the fruits become a bit mushy and release some of its purple color before eating them…we would be careful not to wipe our fingers in our shirts or else they would leave stains difficult to wash out

  37. MarketFan, malig-ang is closest to mala-igang of my childhood. MM, we’re now discussing the anthropology of food. Marc, of hinayupak ensaimada fame, mentioned this as one of the programs in Oxford. Interesting.

  38. i came across an article at http://www.inquirer.net on makopa but this time it’s for Healing (not just as food)-

    Fruitful gifts from Desmond Tate’s book, “Tropical Fruit”:

    Malay apple (macopa). In Cambodia, the Malay apple is used to treat fever, and its root is used to manage edema and as a diuretic. In Brazil, constipation, diabetes, headache, cough and other pulmonary complaints are treated with various parts of the plant. Due to their antibiotic content, the fruit, seeds, bark and leaves are said to be effective for ailments of the respiratory system and for high blood pressure.

    Philippine Daily Inquirer
    First Posted 18:49:00 01/02/2009

  39. my oh my, all these years i thought i’ve been munching on “makopa”, we had a makopa tree (or so i thought), but after reading your post, i should refer to it as “tmabis” tree. i usually chill mine then i dip it in salt!

  40. I love tambis! It brings back childhood memories. Do you know that macopa is a cure for hay fever? Tamarind, on the other hand, is a laxative!

  41. I think you are all from the visayas. For people from Luzon,Makopa is makopa. Tambis is a family member,probably a cousin or some relative.

  42. Your topic on the tambis and makopa is interesting. I am glad to share that I have both trees in our farm. The fruits of one tambis tree have the color of the makopa and they’re seedless. The fruits are often times mistaken for the makopa but to the familiar eyes the shape is different. The fruits of the green tambis taste like the Bangkok green tambis but the color is now a combination of green and light pink due to cross pollination. Thank you for the space and time you gave to the tambis and makopa which could be grown in anybody’s backyard or garden.

  43. In our family, lumboy (lomboy) is the Ilocano term for duhat. My parents also talk fondly of another berry-like fruit which my dad calls seralis.

  44. If only one of our family friends could see this post… I distinctly remember him calling our neighbor’s tambis tree as makopa. From what I remember, they (neighbors) used to ‘steal’ our santol because some of the fruit-laden branches cross over to their backyard and when their tambis tree bear fruit, they always give us a basketful. Those fruits are more pink than dark red, sour and very juicy. Tastes wonderful when eaten with salt.

  45. This talk of macopa and ants. We have the red variety, which is macopa, and the green one called tampuy, in our backyard. My memory of the taste of this fruit is often mixed with the astringent taste of ants and the earthy taste of the dried pistils at the end. Fruit ants, the black ones smaller than those that attack the sugar canister, love to hide among the dried pistils in the recesses of lobes at the bottom so you have to clean them out really well before eating. Aside from ants, they also attract the hairy itchy worms we call “semuchang” that love to drop on anyone passing under the trees.

  46. i really like the green type tambis, because its much sweeter compared to the pink one, I also enjoy macopa with salt… ^___^

  47. all my life i know the picture on the left is makopa!.. mali pala…. i haven’t seen any of the one on the right yet….thanks for the info

  48. I have thesis…it is functional component of jambu…what is the different variety of it? like tambis and makopa? where will i find it? i’m from UPLB

  49. I’ve always liked tambis better than makopa, I liked the crunch and texture better. We always ate it with rock salt, taking care to get rid of any black ants that crept inside the hollow at the top of the fruit.

  50. My gosh di pa pala ako nakakakain ng makopa….For the longest time, tambis pala yun ahahahah =) Thanks Msquare!

  51. We used to have both tambis and makopa trees until the tambis tree had to give way to the construction of an extension of our house. By the way, the makopa fruits of our tree are really dark when they ripen and are normally very big, much bigger than those in your picture. A foreign variety, do you think?

  52. daghan kaayo makopa ug tambis sa amo silingan. Pirmi lang mi pangawat lami man gud kaayo hehe. Galumba lang ang langgam ug tawo mokaon sa makopa. Mas lami man gud ang makopa kaysa tambis. Hayyy namunga na pud ang makopa sa silinga mangawat na pud me hehe…

  53. Sa laguna, quezon at batangas …Yung nasa kaliwa na kulay rosas Makopa ang tawag….at ang nasa kaliwa namang pula ang tawg po ay Yambo….mas masarap ang yambo kesa sa makopa…matabang at matubig ang makopa…pero malutong at mabango samantalang ang yambo ay ”mayabo” hindi malutong at mas matamis mas malasa lalu na yung itim na sa kapulahan….

  54. I agree with el_jefe. I have just eaten a yambo from my Uncle’s farm in Mindoro last Dec. 19. The flesh is mayabo, and the color of the skin is dark red. Makopa and yambo are related but they have different characteristics. Yung makopa ay medo light ang pagka pula, may pink at mayron ding white. Yung yambo ay mas matamis at masarap pag dark red to purple color ang skin at ibig sabihin nun hinog na. Para sa ating lahat, parehas lang silang masarap dahil naalala natin yung childhood natin. Hindi ba?

  55. In Zamboanga, we call the one on the left tambis and the one of the right makopa, as well. But my Manila born and bred partner said that they’re both just makopa. But we both agree that we like the one on the left more. The other is mapakla.

  56. that’s right…I am from cebu…i used to debate with my Kapampangan husband about the Makopa and Tambis. as i lately learned that they only knew Tambis (Makopa as they say) in their lives. we have both tambis and makopa trees at the backyard but sad to say, hubby wasnt able to taste the real makopa during our vacation as last December they were still flowers and did not even see the real fruit of it. so he had some Tambis only which I fond of looking at him eating a lot.

    I love them both because our Puti and Pulang tambis are sweet so as our makopa. our Makopa fruits are bigger than the one on the photo above. they were brought from Negros and they both taste very gud. sweet, watery and delicious. we used to eat it with salt.

  57. I would like to add more to the disagreement of our kababayang Pinoys. Most people from Luzon call Camansi as Lanka. They are 2 different fruits, two different trees, leaves differ as well as the part of the trees where the fruits grow from. Lanka, since the fruit is larger and heavier, they grow from trunk. While Camansi fruits grow from branches even from higher branches. Lanka is usually raw to eat but can be cooked and used only as fruit may it be cooked or raw. Camansi is only used for cooking not normally eaten raw.

    Camansi is cooked usually with coconut milk and or with chili pepper. And the Tagalogs call it Lanka. They are 2 entirely different things. Two different scientific names also. Not just because some call them the same, we would agree with them. Make your research and you will realize they are 2 different hings just by looking at the trees and the fruits.

  58. The cooking lanka is not lanka/langka. We call it ugog is Nueva Ecija (the tagalog part of Ecija).

  59. this article really helps. i always get into debates with friends from Luzon about this TAMBIS/MACOPA thing. people in Luzon usually calls tambis as macopa and vise versa. they’re from the same family of fruits but yes, they are two different fruits. i can tell whether it is macopa or tambis by just looking at the tree. i always tell them, even if they consult foresters tambis is not macopa and macopa is not tambis..sasabihin nila ang tagalog ng tambis – macopa..haha whatever.. no more debates..some of my friends, hindi nakontento at nagtanong talaga sa foresters. so yun, kahit na galing na sa prof. yung sagot, ayaw pa rin maniwala..bakit ba ganun tayong pinoy minsan no???hehehe thanks to this article, i can share this with my friends..

  60. In Iloilo, tambis is different from makopa and although they look similar, their tastes and textures are distinctly different. We call the latter markopa or markopas. Lomboy is Ilonggo term for duhat (T19 says it’s also Ilocano), while what we call seralis is aratelis in tagalog.

  61. Yes, I agree that “tambis” is quite different from “macopa”. I grew up in Mindanao and I have eaten several tambis and macopa. Also, they are given two different scientific names which just proves that they are quite different. Tambis is crispier than macopa. The former has color that ranges from light pink to fuchsia pink, while macopa normally takes a bright red to deep purple when fully ripe. Tambis is juicier while macopa is a little bit sweeter, soft, and denser. Thanks Marketman for the very important distinction.



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