The Tambis (Syzygium Aqueum) Chronicles, Take II…


This post is dedicated to Isabel, a long-time, and apparently avid reader of, who rarely or never leaves a comment on the blog. She started reading the blog while a resident of Cebu, because her sister, an equally high I.Q., and utterly brilliant lawyer (and defender of Marketman on several occasions where we won or settled several legal cases to our satisfaction), mentioned it one day. Isabel has since travelled the globe, and from the furthest reaches of the planet has logged on to see what’s new on She even asked her sister, to ask me, if I could tell which unusual countries she was logging in from and I assured her that the country statistics were available, though I wouldn’t be able to discern if a specific hit was from her. She has now returned to Cebu. And I thought of her immediately when I saw this tambis tree in full bloom at the family office. Why Isabel? Because she apparently thought my first post on tambis was wickedly off the mark. And that Marketman’s native fruit credibility had sunk a notch or two. That I was clearly full of boogers as far as this particular fruit, tambis, was concerned. Heeheehee. I jest, of course. Her sister, the brilliant lawyer, simply let me know that I should revisit the tambis/makopa issue and I have had it on the back-burner for some two years or so…


All my life, my entire family referred to the fruit pictured in this post as tambis. However, in Manila, the same fruit in neighbors’ homes were often referred to as “makopa.” I therefore was pre-wired to believe they were one and the same fruit. Apparently, that is both true and untrue, to some degree. For many Cebuanos and Visayans, they make a clear distinction between tambis and makopa, though as best I can tell from limited resource materials and various web pages, the two are very closely related. In the same way that brothers often look similar, but aren’t exactly identical. To confuse matters further, Doreen Fernandez’s book on Philippine Fruit also refers to makopa as tambis in Ilonggo or Visayan and identifies the underlying fruit as Syzygium samarangense, also calling it a Curacao Apple. Desmond Tate, on the other hand, refers to a Malay Apple as a Syzygium malaccensis and goes further to explain that it is referred to as jambu bol or jambu merah in malaysian, and its closest cousins include jambu air (water apple) and jambu mawar (rose apple) in his book Tropical Fruit of the Philippines (odd that he doesn’t use the pinoy terms, but that’s because he published similar books for all Southeast Asian countries and used the same underlying text in many of them).


So apparently, even the experts like Fernandez and Tate could be confused, or at best, incomplete. And it isn’t easy to sort this out. First of all, everyone seems to agree that the fruit is part of the myrtle family, and that this particular bunch of relatives are “native” to the Malay Peninsula and were introduced to the rest of Southeast Asia in “prehistoric times,” according to Ms. Fernandez and several websites. The fruit was brought by the Portuguese to Goa, then westward and eventually to the Caribbean according to Purdue, etc., where it thrives to this day. Now, to the three similar but sufficiently different fruit – First syzygium malacenssis or Malay Apple, see this link here to Purdue University which has a comprehensive description and which lists makopang kalabau as a local name in the Philippines. The second relation is scientifically identified as syzygium samaragense, or Java Apple, also Curacao apple, as described by Fernandez, see link to Purdue’s site here. This is also referred to as makopa in the write-up, presumably to be distinguished from makopang kalabau. So where the heck is tambis??? Syzygium aqueum, or Watery Rose Apple, appears to be the right scientific name for the tambis pictured in this post. At Purdue’s site (which i find very comprehensive and helpful for identifying fruits and produce), their post on Water Apple also appears to correctly make the distinction that THIS IS the tambis fruit, different from the makopa and makopang kalabaw. Phew, did you get that?


So do they taste or feel or look different from each other? Apparently they do. I interviewed enough folks in Cebu a few weeks ago to be convinced that there was a difference between tambis and makopa, and even their seasons seem to differ slightly. When tambis was fruiting at a furious pace, there wasn’t a single example of makopa to be found. Now I have scouts on alert in Cebu and Bohol and I would ask any readers in the Visayas to please send me a picture of a makopa when they are in season. I would really appreciate a cross section photo as well. And if you are anal as I am, a whole trail of the fruit from flower to fruit as I have done here, for anyone out there in world who needs to bring closure to the Tambis vs. Makopa vs. makopang Kalabw issue :). My understanding is that while the tambis is lighter and crisp and watery, the makopa can be more dense and sometimes has a seed as well. The color of the fruit also differs a bit, but that is true amongst all the various cousins and hybrids of this fruit, and from region to region… Oh, and another thing… this fruit is a big deal in the Caribbean as well, known as Pommerac or Plumrose, and where it is apparently cooked into preparations like chutney, etc. I have always enjoyed this fresh, chilled and with salt, so it would be nice to see it used in other ways, such as salads, cooked food, etc.


Is being so accurate regarding tambis or makopa really worth the time to read or write this post? I would have to say it does. In this day and age where we are all getting so far removed from the simple fruit we enjoyed as kids, it would be nice to have an accurate record of what is what, before we go another generation and even more information is lost for good. Thanks, Isabel, for indirectly challenging me or egging me on to dig deeper on tambis and makopa. As for readers out there, this just proves you shouldn’t believe everything you read, even from such food luminaries as Fernandez and Tate… And for all you know, I still haven’t nailed this one on the head, yet… There is always room for a Take III! :)


47 Responses

  1. Wow! Can’t believe no one’s posted anything on this yet. ANyway, the makopa, as we call them in Mandaluyong, is a favorite of ours. The buds are used as mini-tops for playing and the fruits themselves chopped and mixed with ice and consumed from there. Pretty satisfying though not filling treats. Thanks for the post , as usual, another intereting one and, of course, well-photgraphed.

  2. Wow, this reminds me of my childhood days. We used to have a tambis (having grown up in Iligan City, we call it tambis, too) tree in our backyard that was so easy to climb. I used to bring up my books there and read. And played sungka all by myself! If I remember correctly, it bears fruits every other month. I would gather the fruits and sell it to my classmates. When we moved to Laguna, we had it grafted and planted in our farm here.

    There are small ones too, which can be light green or red which we got from Marawi.

  3. I have known this fruit for two centuries now as makopa in the Pampanga region. Yes, they have a seed in them. For me, they are the most beautiful looking fruits – their color is very attractive. I have seen ones that are reddish in color. They have a slight sweetness to them but no substance at all. If I will be a fruit I want to be a makopa – very attractive looking in color and shape. Like much your photo presentation from its different stages from bud to a matured ones. I love your table or whatever it is in your second picture – the wood is a head turner and beautiful craftsmanship!

  4. Roberto, now are you sure you were eating makopa and not makopang kalabau or tambis? :) Gay and Natie, if you click on the link in the post to an earlier post I did, there are photos of the green version as well… Maria Clara, funny you should mention the wood. Actually it is an overturned large sungkaan that I had made from a century old langka tree which grew in our grandmother’s home in Cebu. I had 5 nearly identical sized, but all uniquely grained, sungkaans made for all of my siblings from the same tree so we could all have a little something to remind us of the grandparents… They are all hand carved and without varnish or finish of any kind…

  5. We have many varieties of this fruit in Kerala – pink, red, fully white, green…We call it Chambengnka. It is not a fruit you find in stores though. At home we have the pinkish red one shown in the post which has a crisp bite to it. There is another type that is pink and white and has a soft texture when ripe. We call this one too Chambengnka!!. The flower is a bright purpley pink just like the white hairy flower in your post. Both have seeds in them. I am off to Kerala next week, will get you photos of both if the trees have fruit.

  6. We call it makopa. My grandparents have a makopa tree in the backyard but it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten one :)

  7. I used to climb a makopa tree and mansanitas(tiny apples) tree on my lolo’s orchard garden in nueva ecija when I was a kid.

    His tree bore sweet & juicy makopas.

    I remember trying makopa in Bangkok. Bigger size.

  8. We had a makopa tree in our backyard when I was a little boy. My mother always used to tell me that the English name for it was curaçao apple. Who knows if she was correct or not. Anyway, if memory serves, the bigger fruit did have visible seeds in them. Our backyard tree always used to bear fruit by the bushel. My brother and I, and all our help, used to eat them with rock salt after chilling them in the fridge.

  9. What a marvelous idea that sungkaan is! F’s ancestral home — over a century old and quite historical — is about to be torn down. We want to try and save as much of the old narra wood as we can, even though we’ve no idea as of yet what to do with it. You’ve inspired me to think of a use for them apart from the original purpose, or the usual table.

  10. Having grown up in Cebu, I knew from childhood that tambis and makopa are not one and the same; related but not identical. We have a tambis tree in our backyard from which we enjoyed several bountiful harvests. Our tree yields fruit like the one in the photo: translucent pinkish red, round at the base, tapered to a point at the top, crunchy and very juicy. Makopa, on the other hand, is deep red on the outside and milky white inside, opaque, and oblong-shaped. The key difference lies in the texture: makopa flesh is compact, like compressed cotton ball around a small seed. It’s chewy, has very little juice, and as I recall, more tart than tambis. Even in Cebu, makopa is rare. I remember there were makopa trees in Carcar in the 70’s, but I’m not sure where it can be sourced present-day.

  11. wow, macopa! that’s my childhood fave. they say that it will bring you good luck if you plant it in front of your house. :p

  12. That’s tambis to me (I’m from Iloilo), makopa is similar but denser, darker and juicier, at least in my book. We did make a distinction between the two, at least in my family. The fruit vendors in Bangkok sell the lime-green one (as mentioned by another commenter) but the taste is exactly the same.
    I miss this fruit, it’s been a while since I’ve had some!

  13. The distinction at home was well drawn; tambis was greenish white, almost always russetted, same refreshing flavour as makopa but more often much sweeter, roundish and never conical, makopa ran various shades from pale pink to deep dark red, rarely russetted, often larger than tambis and came either roundish or conical. Fruiting seasons are kind of staggard too with tambis coming early summer while makopa trailing towards late May and so often get rained on after which you want to avoid them since they would be crawling with worms.

    Maria Clara, I set my mental image of Maria Clara to Rizal’s so was truly surprised that you are two centuries old.

  14. tambis=makopa…we grew up inter-changing both names quite often that to this day, we still mix them up (hehehehe).

    One thing I can remember though is that its great with rock sea salt!!

  15. Photo posted is tambis, the green variety is now available locally too! The one we know as makopa is deep purlish red, it is dense and softer than tambis. You’re right, you can’t find makopa if it’s tambis season. The season for makopa is different.
    Have you also seen or tried the variety that are really small,like 25 centavo coins or smaller, bright red and sour, which can be used for sinigang although the color renders the soup pink?
    Between tambis and makopa, I like the former best with salt of course, especially when they are big, sweet and juicy its so easy to finish off 8-10 pcs.

  16. I think I used to feast in “tambis” back in my younger days. Picked from the tree, wiped on a shirt sleeve and eaten with salt or toyo.


    Love the photo series: The Life Stages of the Tambis

  17. Additional comment, I submitted the previous prematurely. Being Bisdak from Cebu, its easy for us to distinguish tambis from makopa because in the first place, the names are different, meaning we don’t refer to the same fruit. Tambis is tambis, makopa is makopa!! So, how do people from Luzon distinguish which fruit is being referred to if the name is the same? I’d really like to know.

  18. That’s tambis, makopa is different (almost maroon in color, softer, not as sweetish and has a different texture). The distinction between the two is well-drawn at home (I’m from Iloilo).

  19. I am from Antique and just like those from Iloilo, for us there is a clear disctinction between makopa and tambis. But now that I now live in Manila, tambis is being referred to as makopa. We have a 3 year-old green tambis in our front yard and it is bearing fruits now. Can’t wait for the fruits to ripen!

  20. We used to have a “makopa” (that’s what we call it in Cainta)tree in our backyard in our old house. Although, the fruit is not as sweet (like our neighbour’s) and sometimes it’s a bit “mapakla”. I also remember that the fruit itself is more of greenish colour rather having a more dark pinkish colour (photo above). I remember snacking on them and dipping them in salt. :)

  21. just a personal observation: fuji apples sliced paper thin almost tastes like makopa(at least as i remember the taste of this fruit from childhood), tart and sweet at the same time, although fuji apples lack the makopa texture and accompanying crunch(similar to when you bite on kamias and starfruit)

  22. Wow, I was just talking to my husband about this. He grew up in Manila so we were going over the many fruits he hasn’t tried– TAMBIS, lomboy, mangosteen (!!)… tsk, tsk, tsk. :-)

  23. makopa also has a distinctive doesn’t have the crunch that tambis has..hehe–so many dialects. yen, lomboy a.k.a. duhat..

  24. macopa. . .MM, is this different from rose apple? cause i often see this in markets in singapore and served in hotels which they refer to as rose apple, it is a bigger version and the fruit has a deep red color and sometimes it would be yellow green, almost like a pale granny smith, and looking at it. . .it is like macopa, although we have it in pink and smaller in philippines. . .

  25. Maria Clara and Apicio: Two CENTURIES?…as in 200 years old? If eating makopa makes one live that long, i’m going to eat a bilao-ful of makopas every day!!!! ;)

  26. Yes, this is tambis MM. Makopa is darker in color, less sweet, definitely – we can also easily make a distinction back home where I grew up in Antique province. The tambis in other Asian countries seem to be a lot sweeter though, and bigger

  27. I didn’t know that there is a TAMBIS or MAKOPANG KALABAU.. we have a tree and it is makopa, which has a seed inside..

  28. Cecile J, I do not take delight in bearing bad news but if you do that please be forewarned that the fruit has the opposite effect of a laxative, hrrmp..

  29. i haven`t seen a green tambis until icame here in the co-workers call the fruit wax apple.back home we call tambis as tambis.makopa is a cousin with dark red or purple color and much sweeter when ripe.

  30. Apicio, so I’ll be a constipated 200-year old? Uhm, thanks for the warning, will look for other “user-friendly” fountains of youth instead. :)

  31. this makopa/tambis entry brought a lot of childhood memories.. we have a big tree in the province and my cousins and i loved to climb that tree. as for the shape, my aunt used to have a variety that was more rounded/dome-like than the makopa (bell shaped).. and sometimes, depending upon the season, the color’s different also even if its from the same tree.. pink to red.. the dome-shaped ones are more on light pink/white

  32. i came acros this fruit in mlaysia as it was called jambuair there. i have not tasted macopa but i do know how it looks like so i was intrigued to seet his slightly elongated and redder jambuair. i tasted it and reminds me of a more watery apple.

  33. The last time I ate Makopa was 30 yrs. ago.From whatI remember there was only one tree in our small town. I haven’t seen this fruit for along time. Is there a specific part of the country that this is available? Lots of memories, we used to climb this tree without the owners consent.

  34. We call this fruit (be it white, pink, or reddish) macopa in Ilocos and I’ve never heard of the term “tambis.” I used to have a friend in highschool who have a macopa tree and we would go to their house just to throw stones at their macopas.. which was a bad idea since the fruit has a soft/thin peel. This prompted his dad to make a special fruit picker, the one with the net and rake-like thing-a-majig. I could eat a basketful of macopas! I like mine dipped in salt and vinegar. hehe!

    spill: I just came across this website today and this is my first comment. Yay me :-) Great blog/website btw!

  35. In Iligan City, Mindanao, we call this fruit as “Tambis”. I love to eat fruits like this! Tastey and watery, I like the color, too.
    Actually, I’m conducting a study about this tree.
    Many thanks to all of you, I have gathered some informations about this fruit that’ll help a lot. :)

  36. It’s me again! I visited to review once more the informations about this tree. :) Hope you can post more informations next time.

  37. My fiancee is from, Dipolog City, her Parents lives in small town called Godod , they speak both Tagalog and Visaya, they have this tree in the back yard when i asked her what they call the tree she said Tambis, i have the picture of the tree and ripe fruits, and i am from Toronto, Canada.

  38. Tambis and macopa are different. I agree with the anology, like two brothers — related, alike, but different. Personally I like the macopa better than the tambis. Others may disagree, finding the macopa’s flesh too white and cottony for their taste. I love it, especially when it has ripened to a deep maroon color. I used to eat it with salt. Used to because I cannot find Macopa here in Manila! Tambis yes (which everyone here calls macopa) but not the macopa I ate as a child. We had a tree in our backyard in Dumaguete. I miss eating macopa. Thank you for the information marketman!

  39. Visayan MAKOPA is the Tagalog YAMBO…..YAMBO is very common is southern tagalog specially in San Pablo Laguna…though it is very rare nowadyas because it is of no commercial importance in the region …yambo is larger, juicier, softer and deep red in color like apples compared to makopa…I like YAMBO’s texture compared to Makopa…yambo trees growth habit and leaves and flowers is somewhat similar with that of mangosteen….I prefer yambo than our macopa or the visayan ”tambis” because of its sweet-sour taste, flavor and texture.

  40. Hi. I am currently making my 4-year-old daughter’s flash cards in Filipino to be used in her school (well, actually its just an aid for her Filipino subject for her to lessen the difficulty in familiarizing and memorizing the things in Filipino). We are certified Bisaya from Cagayan de Oro City so it’s really hard for my daughter to study Filipino since we use our own dialect and English in our daily communications.

    I am about to make all the common things that starts with the letter M. In her book, there is a drawing of MAKOPA but more likely drawn as “tambis”. When I tried to search for “makopa” pictures here at the net, i was so surprised when most or all of the pictures appear to be “tambis”… so I thought, the drawing really in my daughter’s book is really what we knew here in Mindanao (Cag. de Oro City) that is tambis! I tried to search for other images which are close to what i know as makopa.Thankfully, I came to this site which explained everything about this certain fruit.

    I still want to stick to what we really have known here in Mindanao and Visayas so I decided to choose a picture of Wax jamboo or Java apple which is likely tambis in shape but makopa in color. Well at least, its less confusing because the drawing in my daughter’s book is likely the same i.e. bell in shape. I got the picture from which also showed the makopa I have known and loved here in CDO which they called in Thailand as Malay Apple or Macopa (round in shape). I assume both the Malay and Java varieties have the same taste, well, this is just according to their appearance and their leaves… hehehe…

    But really, for me, tambis is very different from makopa especially in taste, texture, and appearance. Well, that’s what we, from Visayas and Mindanao knew… Sakto ba ko mga kauban kong bisaya? :)

  41. I stumbled across your excellent blog here after researching syzygium species for new entries in my tropical fruit encyclopedia. There’s a lot of confusion over taxonomy with the Asian / Pacific syzygium species, mainly because the fruit and leaves are so similar.

    It appears that three distinct species being discussed in your post. This confusion occurs even in identification guides, which of course only confuses the matter further. However, after growing each of these myself, and comparing these trees and fruits side-by-side, I might hopefully indicate with some certainty which is which…

    Syzygium Samarengense = Tambis – Java Apple, Wax Jambu. Bell-shaped, commonly found in light red / pink, green, white. These are common and prolific.

    Syzygium Aqueum = Water Apple / Water Cherry. Small, bell-shaped fruits, usually only in pink (sometimes white). These are basically a small “Tambis” only 1″ or so in diameter, with sweet/tart flavor. It is a different species.

    Syzygium Mallaccense = Macopa – Moutain Apple, Malay Apple. Darker red fruits, which tend to lack the distinct bell shape (more pear-like), being rounder in all aspects and having a more dense flesh.

    If anyone has pictures of these delicious species which they’d like to share with me, it would be immensely helpful in expanding my free reference guide (with full credit + a link if you desire).

  42. Timothy, I am not sure if you saw this other post I did with two species side by side in the photos, here. My first confused post on the fruit, here, also included a photo of a pale green variety.

  43. i just posted pictures of our macopa tree at
    i’m not really sure about the difference between tambis and macopa but like you said they are being used interchangeably by many.
    we had another plant similar to macopa in our province in Bicol but the difference is they have pink flowers instead of the white one’s that the macopa has. my mom calls the fruit “yambu” ( so it’s probably “jambu” mentioned here by one blogger) it seldom bears fruit and if there’s any it was limited to one or two only (but it’s a lot bigger in size) unlike our macopa here which yields thousands of fuits.

  44. I really like to eat that kind of fruit cause it can quench my thirst and besides it is my family name….TAMBIS. Well, I am Mr. “Weng” Tambis.



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