A Visit to Butuan City (aka "Durian City")

Heaven on Earth

by Keith Agoada

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When I stepped out of the airport in Butuan City in the Philippines, I knew I had come to a special place. The taxis carried "Durian City" signs, and there was a huge statue of a durian outside!

Despite the wretched smell, I am a durian freak. It's true. I absolutely love it. I seek it out at specialty supermarkets in Panama and California; I’ve spent up to $45 on one durian fruit even when my bank account was low.

The fruit has a creamy texture and succulent flavor, which can really only be described as “durian.” In many parts of Southeast Asia the durian is considered a delicacy—a way of life, even.

Butuan City is one of those places where the durian faith is strong.

I, too, would like to construct a durian statue to show my respect to the Durian Gods. This fruit elevates my spirit and brings me a deep peace. It is worthy of such veneration.

I was visiting Butuan to tour some coconut plantations for export development purposes. However, I was also in Butuan to eat durian and visit durian farms.

I was able to visit a small durian farm up in the hills above Butuan. While there was no ripe durian during my visit, I did get to see the fruit growing under its ideal conditions. I asked the farmers the key to growing durian. They were confused about my question, because at their farm, it just grows! No pesticides, no fertilizer. They just harvest it when it is ripe.

After my farm visit I returned to my hotel and quickly asked around for where I could go and buy some ripe durian. To my amazement, I discovered that there is a small market in Butuan City dedicated entirely to the sale of fresh and frozen durian. What a blessing!

I grabbed a taxi and headed straight to the market.

I think I found heaven on earth. I went to the first stand and bought a fresh durian. With a huge smile, I ate the first durian and ordered a second one! I took my time on the second one, careful not to overdose.

I then proceeded to buy another package of frozen durian to take back with me to my hotel. As I was passing through security at my hotel, the guard stopped me in my tracks and searched my bags for durian.

He found it and made it clear that I would have to leave my durian in the outside refrigerator. It was the hotel policy that no one was allowed to enter the hotel with durian, as the smell could upset other hotel guests. Not everyone is a follower of the durian faith!

Want to learn about other extraordinary foods and the farmers who grow them? Follow Producers Market on Instagram!