KODAK Digital Still Camera
Bunches of bananas for sale along a Philippine highway.

Pigafetta wrote:

In this island of Zubu there are dog and cats, and other animals, whose flesh is eaten… there are also figs, oranges, lemons, sugar-canes, cocos, gourds, ginger, honey…

In this island, which we learned was named Palaoan, we found pigs, goats, fowls, yams, bananas of various kinds, some of which are half a cubit long, and as thick as the arm, others are only a span long, and others are still smaller, and these are the best…

============================================================================ Pigafetta, let us remember, was from Venice.  He wrote the account of the Magellan expedition in Italian, which was translated into French… In the meantime, the original Italian manuscript was lost.  The French was re-translated into Italian, and from there to other languages, such as English.

The above material is from a translation into English by Lord Stanley of Alderley.

The “figs” seen in Cebu by Pigafetta were probably bananas.  Never having come across the fruit before, he had to rely on previous concepts.  The fig, an Old World fruit, has an interior that looks similar to what turned out to be bananas.

fig - Fruit Photo (31188699) - Fanpop Figs

Banana Cross Section cross section free photos absolutely for download ... Banana

Following their misfortune in Cebu, the Spaniards planned to sail back home, but along the way visited Palawan, where they saw more… bananas.  It is unknown why Lord Stanley chose to use the word bananas instead of figs during the Palawan sighting of the fruit.  Go back to the quote above and see if you can figure out the varieties of bananas described by Pigafetta.

Can you name some varieties?  These are what I remember…

Photo of four several large green, smaller red, very small yellow, and medium-sized yellow bananas
By Timothy Pilgrim on en.wikipedia
Left to right:  plantain, red, latundan, and Cavendish bananas

For sure, there are more I haven’t named.  Cavendish is the most popular variety sold in Western markets.  They are grown extensively in the Philippines and other exporting countries.  Cavendish bananas keep well during transport

Archaeological evidence suggests that bananas were cultivated in Papua New Guinea as early as 8,000 B.C.  The natives called it biku in the Hiri Motu language.

It is likely that other species of banana were domesticated later in other parts of Southeast Asia.  Southeast Asia is comprised by mainland SEAsia and Maritime SEAsia. Mainland SEAsia (known historically as Indochina) includes Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, and West Malaysia.  Maritime SEAsia is comprised by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Christmas Island.

From SEAsia, the banana spread in all directions, to China, India, Arabia, and to Africa.  The word banana is thought to be derived from the West African word banaana.  The theory is that Portuguese sailors picked up the fruit — and the name — in the 1590s.

A search across languages in reveals that banana translates, thus:
Pilipino         = saging
Indonesian   = pisang
Malay            = pisang.
Spanish         = platano

Looks like I have more digging to do in order to discover the root of our word saging, which is a really old term, considering that our islands are some of the incubators of banana development.

The Spanish platano is akin to  plantain, which is the English word for the starchy cooking banana, sort of like our saba.


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