APPT Cebu: Ode to the mango

If it seems that we at the PokerStarsBlog are fixated on food at times, well, it's because we are. Of course we enjoy the poker aspects of traveling the circuit with PokerStars. We love watching unheralded players make surprising runs, love studying the pros as they ply their trade in masterful ways, love donking it up with our friends and a few beers in the side games late at night.

But, if I may recycle a metaphor I've used at least once before, coming to a place like Cebu and spending all your time focused on poker is like ordering the swordfish at a steakhouse. You may get what you came for but you missed out on the real deal. And in the Philippines, the fantastic food is definitely something that you don't want to miss.

Yesterday, it was roast suckling pig (lechon). We have another one today, with APPT President Danny McDonagh telling players that if they want a photo with the head, we'll put it on the blog. But I want to talk about the mango.

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With no mangoes in the tournament room, we settled on a photo of the sweet APPT Cebu reigning champion and Team PokerStars Pro, Vivian Im

I was ruined for mangoes forever the first time I came to Cebu in 2009. The mangoes here have a sweetness, and a ripeness, that has been unmatched in my extensive travels. That's not to say I can't get sweet, ripe mangoes elsewhere. Cebu certainly doesn't have a monopoly on the world's mango supply.

But Cebu mangoes are not the green-and-red eggs that you might find in the produce aisle of your local market. They are heart-shaped, with a yellow skin when properly ripened. And what they have, that I've never been able to find anywhere else, is a soft, buttery quality to the fruit itself. The fruit of the Cebu varieties doesn't have any of the stringiness or wooden texture that is often the main complaint mango newbies level at the mango. Cebu mangoes are a soft mass of sugary deliciousness that almost dissolves in your mouth.

This is my third trip to Cebu. I was here in Season 3 and in Season 4 and I'd estimate that mangoes accounted for more than 50% of my diet for each of those trips. That's not an indictment of the rest of the food here (as the suckling pig can attest). It's just that Cebu mangoes are that good. They are world-famous, in fact, and one of the biggest exports from this part of the Philippines. The mango is so important to the local economy and the local population that the main street and main square in Cebu City are both named after it (Mango Avenue and Mango Square).

Here in Cebu, you can eat mangoes with breakfast. You can eat them as an after-dinner dessert. You can drink them in juice form throughout the day. You can cook with them, make ice cream out of them. If there's a way to prepare a mango, trust me - the Cebuanos have already figured it out.

So yeah. The poker in Cebu is top-notch. Don't get us wrong on that at all. But please forgive us if we spend the majority of our time here stuffing our faces with a buttery, orange fruit. We'd be remiss in our duties as food-fixated, cross-cultural ambassadors if we didn't.

Dave Behr
@PokerStars in Day 1b