Sunday, March 3, 2013

Buko De Garapon

I have been meaning to drop by this place in Cebu for more than a year now. This is along Echavez St.. just a few steps from its corner with Mango Avenue (aka Gen Maxilom). I sometimes pass by the area and have been itching to get a closer look and learn any bit of information about the fresh buko juice being served in glass (and lately even plastic) jars instead of drinking glasses. Finally did so yesterday! And oh boy was I happy I did so!

Why the "garapon"?
That naturally was my first question and the husband-and-wife team selling these, gamely educated me. They told me that most commercially available drinking glasses are rather too small that each serving of the buko juice (and meat) would be "not enough" to many patrons. Okay fine, I loved that explanation. But the wife added that it is also an advantage using jars since these have lids/covers to protect the "concoction" from flies and other insects. PLUS, they can just cover and tighten the lids when no one is buying (yet) and store them inside styrofoam boxes with ice to chill them and keep 'fresh' longer!

I asked how come they now use a few plastic jars (similar in size) instead of glass jars. The husband told me that it is now at times difficult to find the glass jars since mayonnaise manufacturers have started using plastic jars. Mayonnaise?! So I looked closer (at the lids) and yeah, I saw that most of these jars come from the Kraft brand! I further asked where they source the empty jars whether glass or plastic. Wife said from restaurants and stores while husband added that at times they do buy from lamp-makers in Carbon and everywhere else these may be available. Lamp makers? Well yes, I now remember the "lampara" used in many rural areas and city shanties that don't have electricity!

That was it?
Well, I learned what I wanted to know! But since I was already there and savoring the "buko juice with meat", I lingered around to ask more questions and/or observe the activities. Here we go...

How is it made?
Simple, said the manong. Just chop the coconut to make a small whole, pour the coco-water into a pitcher, hack the now dewatered fruit into two, scrape the coco-meat and place in a separate container. Then, pour coco-water to the jars, place a few strips of the meat, twist cover with the lid, place inside the waiting styrofoam chest with ice to chill. When somebody buys, get an already chilled  jar, open the lid, pour a bit of milk, place a spoon, and serve!

Milk? Yep, they do add about a spoonful of milk. Evaporated milk that is. I asked why they don't use condensed milk and the manang said that would be too sweet to already overpower the real buko taste of the buko-water! There is sugar on the side anyway, she pointed, for patrons to scoop and stir into their drink if they want to. Ah, reason why there was a spoon served with my jar!

I noticed this, but I still asked "don't you add water"? And the husband said "no", continuing to clarify that this is why people like what they serve since it's pure coco-juice! [In my mind I said plus the milk and sugar]!

How much?
Each serving – a jarful of the coco-water with a few strips of the coco-meat is P25. Yep, twenty-five pesos. It's not that cheap a refreshment after all. Reason why most of those I see enjoying the drink are the working class or even older folks. Understandable, since grade school or even college students would find P25 too steep for a daily drink, right?!

How many jars per coconut?
The manong said they do not measure per fruit since they just pour the coco-juice unto the pitcher. Instead of asking more, I instead just watched them. I estimate that as about 4 to 5 jars of coco-juice per fruit. And about 8 to 10 jars of coco-meat per fruit. Not bad for a business ha?!

Does it sell well?
You can look at that pile of coconut husks. I asked how many days or months worth were all of those. They almost chorused with "2 weeks kapin" (about 2 weeks). Hmm, wow! Not bad at all! I don't want to estimate that anymore hehe! I just know that if you multiplied that pile by 24, then they could actually build a hill of coco-husks (with shell) in one year! Hey, we can call that a coco-hill!

I asked why they have to accumulate those instead of just giving to the trash trucks that roam the city everyday (or at least a day in a week). Hah, they told me that their silingan (neighbor) in Talamban comes to buy and haul them. Whoah! So I asked what the silingan does with them husks and shell. Hmm, I learned that those are dried under the sun and sold to restaurants as fuel to fire up their constantly cooking pots. Coco-husks and shells are purportedly more efficient than gas (and cheaper I'm sure). Their neighbor's big clients are the "litsonanan" (that means the litson makers)!

And a lola's voice came from behind me saying "besides, dili ma na dawaton sa basurero". So I went near her (in another table also selling the same products) to ask why. She told me that the trash trucks just don't get their husks saying "dili ma na basura". Duh!

This jolly Lola with a scattering of English words when she speaks was busy scraping coco-meat that comes out like strips the size of spaghetti strands. And she was putting them into a container that obviously belonged to two ladies waiting for her to finish. I knew what it was for (fruit salad) and said to the two ladies "wise kayo ha"? One of them smilingly said para wala na hasol ba! True!

Now now, do I think I wanna become a buko-vendor? I think I do!

ISSN 2516288.375-1723


  1. That's interesting, and it sounds yummy!

  2. Never been to the phillipines but it looks great.