How Did We Get the DALANDAN?

When I was a kid growing up in the Sampaloc district of Manila, we had a neighbor who would come from her vacation in Lobo, Batangas, laden with fruit to give away to friends.

Included in this bounty are loads of dalandan: green-skinned citrus the size of baseballs, with sweet orange flesh and a delicate taste that is slightly different from that of its more famous (and expensive) cousin, the Sunkist orange.

We always ate dalandan out of hand, peeling the skin off and putting each juicy section into our mouths until the whole fruit was gone, which was no time at all. Years later, as a guest in a friend’s fancy pad in the Rockwell area of Ortigas, MetroManila, I was served fresh-squeezed dalandan juice in a frosted glass.

Why didn’t we think of juicing it ages ago? But no matter; dalandan is now juiced for serving at home and at buffets in hotel dining rooms, for sale in tetra-paks and plastic bottles, and processed into powder for making re-constituted drinks.

To some people, dalandan is dalanghita. Still others refer to it as kahel, although sometimes the latter name is used for local citrus with orange skin.

To trace the history of the name dalandan / dalanghita, we must first note that the orange — whatever the color of its skin or the degree of sweetness / sourness — originated in Asia, maybe in South China, maybe in South Asia (somewhere in the Indian sub-continent).

The English word orange derives from the Sanskrit naranj, meaning “orange tree.” In Persian, the word became narang; in Arabic, it remained as  naranj.

The Arabs conquered Toledo and Cordoba, Spain in 711 AD, held the Iberian peninsula for some 700 years, and influenced the local culture to a great extent. For example, the Spanish word for orange is naranja, derived from Arabic; its diminutive version, naranjita. These are the sources of the Philippine words dalandan and dalanghita.

The name tracing seems smooth, right? Naranj –>naranj –>  naranja / naranjita –> dalandan / dalanghita.

But questions still linger in my mind. Since the orange is indigenous to Asia, and both Indonesians and Malays had contact with India (where the fruit is called naranj), why do the former call it jeruk ?

Didn’t the Indonesian and Malay settlers bring jeruk seeds or seedlings to Panay and other islands where they found new homes?

Or, was the naranja, which Spain introduced into the Americas during the Age of Exploration, transported across the Pacific through the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade?


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