There is nothing more delightful than a perfect, golden ripe mango — except for maybe a festival celebrating the juicy fruit.
Colorful, pastel flags flutter as Route 2A becomes Route 2 along the drive into the Agat during the village’s annual Mango Festival. Closer to Agat’s community center, Sagan Bisita, the traffic slows down as visitors search for parking, but also as the cars make way for an oversized toy railroad train giving rides to children.
Hundreds of visitors fill the pavilions of Sagan Bisita, a community center built along the Agat shore, where vendors sell mango donuts, pickled mango, mango preserves and mango smoothies. Local musicians bring their talents to the festival where they perform either on the main stage or in the shaded courtyard within the community center.
It’s wisest to come to the mango festival with an empty stomach and a pocket full of cash. The food is definitely the highlight of the festival.
This year, Buen Provecho served up a Mexican style treat: whole, freshly peeled mangoes on a stick, with lime juice and chile powder. At another corner of the festival, Tunu, a company specializing in Chamorro barbecue, served up giant and flavorful smoked turkey legs. Next to the stage, festival organizers provided samples of mangos covered in different complementary spices. Mango and tabasco is surprisingly tasty, while the mango and bagaong, or shrimp paste, is palatable to those who have acquired the taste for the salty Filipino condiment. And a few stalls down, vendors sold all the necessary fixings for Chamorro barbecue, complete with red rice, pancit, lumpia and kelaguen. For a truly decadent dessert, mango latiya was on sale at several stalls to satisfy the sweetest tooth.
In addition to the culinary selections, every year the festival presents an opportunity for artisans, craftsmen, gardeners and hobbyists to sell their wares and collectibles. Everything from knives and swords to delicate handmade earrings are sold by local merchants. Under the large mango tree at the entrance of Sagan Bisita, a colorful selection of flowering plants and fruit trees attract aspiring gardeners and seasoned green thumbs looking for a bromeliad or a fig tree to liven up their home.
For the most rambunctious of children, a play area with bouncing castles and rides are set up for the little ones to enjoy in case they tire of enjoying the sights and smells of the festival vendors.
Local families grow dozens of different varieties of mango in their yards and ranches: carabao mango, banana mango, manila mangos and more. At the festival, each family can present a basket of their harvest, showing off the variety of the fruit found on the island. They also submit individual mangoes to compete for the title of “Most Beautiful Mango,” “Biggest Mango,” and “Most Bizarre.”
Mangos are never sweeter than they are during the early summer in Guam, so the Agat Mango Festival is the best way to taste the fruit’s range of flavors and preparations while they’re freshly picked from local trees that are heavy with bucket loads of the treat.
The Agat Mango Festival is the first village festival to kick off after the last day of the public school year. As festival fireworks sparkle over the southern village of Agat, so do the hopes and dreams of the beginning of summer.