We don’t exactly remember the year but it is certainly more than ten years now when we visited the farm of Flor Librero and his better half, Dr.Aida R. Librero, in Lipa City. Before we left, Flor gave us a couple of seedlings which he said were native of Batanes where he comes from. He said that up there in Batanes, the tree is called Chayi. In the household of a friend, the house help who also came from Batanes said the tree that we described was called Chawi. Whatever name it was, it didn’t actually matter to us.
We planted one of the seedlings in the corner of our farm and we noticed it was a fast grower. We had to cut some of the branches because they were shading many of our small plants below. The tree continued to grow upwards and today it is a very tall tree.
Recently, Wendell, our nephew, surprised us by bringing several green fruits about the size of pingpong balls. He said, the tree at the corner of the lot bore a lot of fruits and some of them just fell to the ground because they were overripe. We opened one and tasted the white aril that enclosed the big seed. The aril is rather thin but it tastes very nice. It reminded us of the smooth consistency and milky flavor of a newly opened makapuno nut.
We remember Flor Librero telling us that the Chayi produces good quality lumber. It could be good for reforestation or for commercial timber plantation. At the same time, the fruits could provide important food and source of income. Production of seedlings for tree plantations could be another source of livelihood.
We wanted to learn more about Chayi so we searched the Internet for whatever information is available. And that’s how we found out that Chayi is botanically known as Pometia pinnata. The tree is said to be widespread through Southeast Asia, Malaysia and the Pacific region. Common names are Matoa, Taun Tree, Island Lychee, and Tava.The short information says that the fruit is somewhat like a lychee, is edible, and is a popular fruit for eating.