October 1, 2017


I found these towering buri palms in the panoramic ricefield  of Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro when I traveled there on August 11, 2010. Notice the tallest one is dying soon after it bears fruits. Buri palms are like that. To bear fruits is its swan song.
buri – (bu-rí; Tagalog, Capampangan, Bulaqueño, Waray, Ilonggo, and Bicolano palm)  [n.] raffia (sc.names: 1. Raphia ruffia; 2. Corypha umbraculifera, Blanco; 3. Corypha utan, Lam., Merrill; 4. Corypha elata, Roxb) \raffia palm \buri palm (Phil. English) \talipot palm

a.k.a. buli in Tagalog
a.k.a. ibos, bule or buli in Bulaqueño
a.k.a. ibus or silad in Bicolano
a.k.a. ebus, busi, or piet in Capampangan
buli in Cebuano, Boholano, and Ilocano
silag in Ilocano and Pangasinense
silal in Subanon
sirar in Bagobo
bagatai or taktak in Isinay

Buri palm is one of the largest palm trees we can find all over the country.  The leaves are sturdy and can be a strong binder for a bundle of firewoods. Sometimes, the strips taken from its frond or from the stalk of its leaves is used in binding farm goods, fishes, and crabs. The palm  leaf also serves as a good food wrapper or packaging for suman sa ibos, patupat, sinanglay, inutokan, tagoktok, etc.

A lone and towering buri palm in the town plaza of Baler, Aurora that I found in 2010.

The Capampangans and Bulaqueños  would use palms (leaves) of buri in weaving native hats called kupiang ebus and sleeping mats they called dase

The sweet tuba of Balongao, Pangasinan that I tried on the roadside food stall  in 2012. Read and see more photos of sweet tuba here.

The the Pangasinenses would harvest its sweet toddy they called sweet tuba  that they collected from the inflorescence of buri palm fruits. The sweet tuba was traditionally used to sweeten the Pangasinense patupat (sweetened glutinous rice in square-woven coconut palm) and the Capampangan and Tagalog bagkat (thickened caramel-like syrup of boiled sap of raffia palm). It was, because sweet tuba now is getting very scarce that folks are now using the arnibal (sugarcane syrup, a.k.a. pulot tubo in Tagalog) as substitute being it is now more abundant than sweet tuba in the region.

My own version of minatamis na buri has wild honey and star anise.  See my recipe here.

The young fruits has soft nuts with taste and consistency similar to that of buko of coconut that is eaten as is or sweetened by boiling in water with lots of sugar to become the Tagalog minatamis na buri.  

Matured nuts are harder to crack. The nuts would even get harder and harder that by the time the fruits gets fully matured and dried, the nuts will become too dense and look like marble that is used as cheap gem in some jewelries or ornamental decors.

When freshly harvested, the fruits are green. (Photo credit to Castle Panganiban's Facebook account)
The fruits would turn maroon to dark brown after few days, specially when stored in closed plastic bags or in the refrigerator.

 The ubod (pith) in the topmost part of the tree is used in salad or eaten as vegetable.

When it reached its maturity age, usually from 20 to 50 years, buri would start to bloom and that is when sweet tuba is gathered by the mangangarit (tuba gatherer) from the infloresence, in a process similar to how coconut tuba is being gathered, except that tungog (tanbark) is not used in sweet tuba. If the infloresnce is not disturbed, it would burst open into a bunch of flowers and after a month or two would become bunches of thousands buri palm fruits. Soon after bearing bunches of fruits, the buri will later on die. Our native species of buri palms are just like that - to bear fruits is its swan song.

The dying trunk is sourced for palm flour, similar to the lumbia palm of Mindanao that when processed and dried into powder, could be made into suman, pastries, and other delicacies, or part of the ingredients in some dishes. Other uses may even extend to some medicinal and industrial benefits. 

Personal note

Buri palm reminds me of some people, who upon reaching the peak years of their lives would become more passionate and productive of things they love to do. Then after delivering the best fruits they could give, they are gone and sorely missed.

While I was a little kid in Inopacan, Leyte,  my playmates would collect the round dried fruits of buli.  When dried, the fruits are dark. If not black, they are dark brown, and we played them as our  marbles we called bolitin. When peeled, the very hard nut inside looked like a white marble and we kept them as gem and traded them as money when we played games of tinda-tindahan and bahay-bahayan.

Some places, mostly barrios (barangay) and districts (sitio), were named Buri, Buli, or Ebus and bacame the derivation of other names: Bulihan, Kabulihan, Cabulihan, Burihan, Kaburihan, Caburihan, and more. The Brgy. Ebus of Guagua, Pampanga and the town of Cabulihan in Siquijor province are the examples. Most likely because the raffia palm used to thrive there.

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