BATWAN, our beloved souring agent

NVC Batwan Powder

In the Philippines we celebrate Filipino Food Month in April. A time for proud lutong Pinoy consumers to promote and advocate for choice gastronomic delights.

Filipino cuisine is a fresh and often underrated cooking on the global scene. Although part of it has been influenced by its colonial past and local Asian cuisines, Filipino support around the world is waking up palates and igniting interest in Philippine gastronomy.

“(Food) is part of our cultural identity. It’s important that people know where their food comes from, who made it, and where it was made. The Slow Food Movement’s principle is food that is ‘good, clean, and fair,’ [its] traceability... knowing where your food comes from.” ~ Jam Melchor, food ambassador, chef and founder of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM). 

Philippine cuisine is the evolution of Filipino culture served up on a plate. A reflection of the various cultural influences - imposed or embraced, traditional or fusion - its impact and domain through time. 

Influences on an island nation over the course of its history as trading partner and occupied territory. Effects that affected its people - in home grown comfort food, inherited recipes passed over generations, and tweaked or fused variety through migration and mobility. 

“It would be nice if people reconnected with where their food comes from and what produce actually tastes like.” ~ Charlene Tan, founder and CEO of Good Food Community

Fresh and powdered batwan fruit

In sustainable support, Negrense Volunteers for Change (NVC) Foundation introduced batwan - a plant native to Negros and Panay islands - in an accessible and convenient powdered form and packaged commercially for sale in stores and online

Locals have been using the batwan fruit as a subtler souring agent in native dishes for quite some time. We wanted more people to know about this unique fruit and how it can be included in their favorite dishes as well. 

Batwan or batuan (Garcinia binucao) belongs to the genus Garcinia, which includes the mangosteen. The plant produces fruits that are ovoid and vary in shades from green to yellow and red as they ripen. 

It is a popular ingredient and culinary icon in the Visayas region - especially in Panay and Negros where it is the preferred souring agent. Batwan is often used in sinigang, cansi, inasal, and KBL (kadyos, baboy, and langka). 

Batwan in our beloved cansi

The growers can now truck in their produce to augment local production and guarantee sustainability as it gains popularity in kitchens around other parts of the Philippines and abroad. 

NVC provides their own quality control upon receiving the batwan fruit. Their process involves washing, chopping, dehydration, grinding and pulverizing, for final packaging.

They sell the finished product in their showroom and online at and It is also available in supermarkets and pasalubong centers in Negros (ANP Showroom, Virgie’s). There are also several resellers all over the country. 

The batwan powder is 100% natural fruit - pulp, seed, peel - with no additives. Studies prove this fruit is rich in antioxidants and anti-Inflammatory properties, and medical research shows it aids in managing diabetes and weight loss. 

This local batwan project has helped support and sustain livelihood among small farm communities. Proceeds from sales support various NVC projects that also provide feeding programs for malnourished children. 

Batwan is endemic not only to the Visayas Region but also exists in other parts of the archipelago. Where it is called by other names - binucao/kaw, bilukaw, buragris, etc. 

A batwan tree in Negros Occidental

Where batwan used to only grow in mountainous areas locals now grow it in their urban backyards. Some who have migrated have brought this souring agent with them - propagating its growth in other parts as well. Toboso, Calatrava and Kabankalan are areas where batwan is now cultivated and offered at our local markets. 

The species is becoming rarer in the wild due to deforestation and other intrusive or destructive practices. It is currently listed in the Ark of Taste, the Slow Food Movement’s catalog of endangered foods from across the globe. 

There are some helpful sites with tips for ways you can propagate the plant on your own. For those pining for this unique flavor of home we hope you find these convenient options to feed your palates. 

Ka-on na ta! 

Text by: Issa Urra
Photos by: Bem Cortez

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