By Vina Medenilla

The province of Zambales is widely recognized for its sweet mangoes. 

Found in between the towns of San Marcelino and San Antonio in Zambales, Rosa Farms has been growing mangoes since the early 2000s. 

This 12.5-hectare farm, as the owners say, “is home to 888 mango trees, most of which are of the Philippine Carabao Mango varietyconsidered to be the sweetest in the world.”

Rosa Farms is a family farm that used to grow rice in the 1920s. The land was passed on to the original owners’ grandchildren, one of whom is Nelda Zulueta, who now operates the mango orchard with her husband Ding.

Rosa Farms is owned by husband and wife Nelda and Ding Zulueta, who are both hands-on farmers.

The Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991 devastated the farm, leaving just a few surviving mango trees. Several years later, the Zuluetas began rehabilitating the site, which led to the total conversion of the farm into a mango orchard.

In November 2000, Ding, the farm director, acquired 5,000 scions of mango varieties from the National Mango Research and Development Center, which he grafted into local mango seedlings and then planted to the ground in 2001.

Now, the sweetest varieties that grow at Rosa Farms include GES 73, 77, 84, and 85, which are planted 10 meters apart.

More than 800 mango trees thrive on Rosa Farms. Aside from Carabao mangoes, it also grows other mango varieties like Millenium and Pico.

Ripening patterns of mango trees

They have been harvesting about two to three tons of mangoes every summer.

According to Nelda, “Mango production follows an intensive cycle that spans four months before the trees bear fruit.”

The level of sweetness of Rosa Farms’ mangoes was analyzed at the President Ramon Magsaysay State University laboratory and found to be at 22.5 degrees Brix (the measurement for the sugar content of a fruit.)

It starts with the flower induction stage, in which “mature trees are sprayed with safe chemicals for them to flower” and bloom at least once a year instead of once every two years. 

The other stages, as per the mango farmer, have something to do with pest and fungi management. 

In Rosa Farms, they wrap the budding fruits in paper as soon as they reach the size of an egg to protect them from harmful chemicals.

Restaurant and activities inside the farm

After strolling around the farm, visitors and family members won’t leave hungry. Aside from the fresh mangoes, their farm-to-table restaurant, Rosa Café, offers mango-infused dishes such as mango pizza and mango medley salad. 

Some of the mango-infused dishes.

Rosa Farms also cultivates vegetables that they incorporate into the restaurant menu. 

Nelda has made it her mission to bring people closer to nature by using the farm to hold educational tours and seminars for individuals who are willing to learn mango production. 

As an agritourism destination, the farm holds outdoor events and activities like pick-and-pay. 

Families may participate in activities on the farm, such as mango picking.

These are the things that help keep the farm filled with guests pre-pandemic. However, when the pandemic arrived, the farm owners were forced to cancel events and temporarily close the place to tourists. 

Nelda,  who’s also an organizational development consultant, said that their current focus is to recover from the impact of the pandemic on their agribusiness.

The farm offers products for those with a sweet tooth, such as dried mangoes, chocolates with dried mango bits, and mango graham cake.

More than a working farm and home to the sweetest mangoes, Rosa Farms and its produce are grown and rooted in the values that the founding family has established over the years.  

Photos courtesy of Rosa Farms

For more information, visit Rosa Farms