Known as the goat capital of Pangasinan province, and recently crowned for having the longest zipline in Southeast Asia, Balungao’s tourism industry continues to blossom.
And to further raise the Municipality’s treasure, the 2.5-hectare dragon fruit farm in Mt. Balungao is seen to attract visitors.
Dragon fruit or Pitaya prefers free draining soil with sandy to clay loam types or sandy soils like the land that can be found in Balungao.
Dragon fruit farming is widely popular in Central and South America. But thru research, it has reached different countries in Asia including the Philippines.
The Mt. Balungao Dragon Fruit farm is located in Napudot Road. The farm was developed in 2010 but the hefty harvest started just 2 years ago. According to Johnny Espe, owner of the farm, an expansion is planned due to the higher demand.
Espe is a nurse in profession but when he learned about the different benefits of dragon fruit, he started growing a few in their ancestral land in Balungao. Her sister who’s in California has helped him research on ways how to grow dragon fruit. And now, the whole family helps in the business.
“From June to November po ang fruiting season. Hindi mahirap itanim basta’t gamay mo siya. Kapag mainit ang klima, mas maganda ang tubo. Kaya swak na itanim dito sa Pilipinas kasi tropical country tayo”, he explains.
The potential of dragon fruit is very much brighter because it commands a very high price in the local market. It costs around P120 – 150 per kilo. Espe said three-year old dragon fruit can produce 5 – 6 tons per hectare amounting to P720,000 in the local market alone. It is no wonder that dragon fruit is now dubbed as the new money crop–truly, a high revenue earner.
“Marami kaming mga standing orders sa Manila. May mga kumukuha dito para ibenta sa market. Sa ngayon, P120 ang bentahan namin at nagbibigay kami ng discount kapag bulk order ang kukunin”, says Espe.
The Espe family plants different varieties of dragon fruit including red, white, and yellow variety. The red varieties are used to combat anemia. While the yellow is sweeter in taste and contains the heart tonic called ‘captine’.
The Mt. Balungao DF Farm is open for public where sightseers are free to pick their own fruits, and then pay afterwards.
“Enjoy ‘yung farm tour pati ‘yung fruit picking. Feeling ko, sa amin ‘yung farm. Pati mga bata, nag-enjoy. Syempre, aside dun sa experience, ‘yung benefit na makukuha mo sa dragon fruit, maganda kaya kumakain kami nito”, says Nathaniel Gancenia when he visited the farm.
The deep pink almost bright red scaly skin of the dragon fruit may be weird for some and looks like just a cactus, but the benefits are numerous. Some say that dragon fruits are called “priceless treasure”. It can be taken as fruit, flower, vegetable, health product or medicine.
Named the cleansing fruit for the whole body system, the dragon fruit is rich in vitamins and minerals and the fruit, including its flowers and peelings, are edible as well. It is also effective for weight loss, and it helps reduce risks of cancer.