Sorsogon City cooks biggest ‘conserva’

BIGGEST PILI NUT CANDY. Twenty women spread even with long bamboo slats a newly cooked ‘conserva’, a local sweet pili nut concoction in Sorsogon City, in a plywood frame measuring 4.8 meters in diameter to enter it in the Guinness Book of World Records. The Bicol Region has about 1,904 hectares planted with pili trees compared to Western Visayas with 238 hectares and Eastern Visayas with 213 hectares. CELSO AMO

By Celso Amo SORSOGON CITY --- The Province of Sorsogon in the southernmost tip of the Bicol peninsula has 1,373 hectares of Bicol’s total 1,904 hectares of land planted with pili trees. And this month, Sorsoganons are proudly celebrating their Pili Festival. The pili nuts which are endemic in Bicol, according to connoisseurs, are of superior quality than the more popular almonds and macadamia nuts. Among the other Bicol provinces, Sorsogon is followed by Albay in terms of lands planted with pili trees with 340 hectares, Masbate with 197 hectares, Camarines Sur with 111 hectares, Camarines Norte with 67 hectares and Catanduanes with 11 hectares, according to Doods Marianito,Pili Festival media organizer.. The cap the festival, twenty women are cooking the biggest pili nut candy delicacy, known as ‘conserva’, as they hope to enter it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest of its kind. “We have the raw materials and this is our first attempt to hopefully make it to the Guinness Book of World Records,” according to Sorsogon City Mayor Sally Lee. Sorsogon City Councilor Dennis Duran said Sorsogon City is now the pili capital of the Philippines. He said almost 70 percent of the Pili Festival is aimed at showcasing the pili industry such as the holding of the ‘Tiriladan’ Contest. ‘Tiriladan’ is the manner how the nut is taken out whole from the pili shell which is cut into half by a small bolo without crushing or cutting the nut. Pili nuts, whether raw or processed into caramelized candies or pastries, is one of the most popular tourist and gift products which are now available in selected malls and stores inside and outside Bicol, with the more modern food processors exporting their products to other countries. “We also have a different strain of pili tree planted here,” Duran added. He said the city government is now trying to provide more income and livelihood to local residents by producing more pili tree by-products such as the ‘emeli’ to supply the huge demand from the perfume industry globally. Although pili tree is grown in other Bicol provinces, Sorsogon produces the best pili in terms of taste and texture. “Our pili nuts taste better. We don’t claim that but those who tasted it said so,” according Christine Lee Rodrigueza, Sorsogon City executive secretary to City Mayor Sally Lee. “Since we have that (pili), why not tell the world we have the best pili nuts,” said Rodrigueza. Trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records is one way to promote Sorsogon City pili nut industry, she added. “If we can achieve it, pili nut from Sorsogon City will be known throughout the world.” Mayor Lee claims the pili’conserva’ is one of the sweet delicacies popular in Sorsogon City and in the Bicol region. “Conserva-making is one of the livelihood programs for our women organizations engaged in processing,” she said. She said there are about 29,875 pili trees planted in 245 hectares in the 64 barangays of Sorsogon City alone. “We want to increase the present number of pili trees to 409 next year by replanting about 6,400 seedlings,” said Lee. She said the target of the city agriculture office is to raise the present number of hectares planted to pili trees to 665 hectares in 2023 to make it sustainable to supply the market of pili nuts , especially its high value emeli oil. A pili tree can produce about a liter of emeli oil which fetches P6,000 per liter in the local market. “Our gross income from emeli oil is about P113M and for pili nuts we eye for P29M more next year,” said Lee. Emeli is the soft, fragrant exudates from the trunk of the pili tree and resins called pulot are traditionally used to fire up the poor man’s kitchen stoves. Its distilled essential oils are now sought after by the fragrance industry both here and abroad.