The Ylang-ylang of Anao, Tarlac

Sunday, March 25, 2018

ylang ylang anao tarlac
We Travel, We Care is a series of essays discussing and exploring issues related to travel and tourism.


Green-yellow trees leaned over the road like curious spectators. They stood in rows, marching into parallel lines that went on as far as the eyes could see. Their canopies, latticed and rustling, turned sunlight into fractals. I was on a moving bus, peering behind glass, but I was sure that if I crack the window even just a tad, fragrant air would fill my lungs. We were in Anao, after all, where air is basically perfume.

Every breath here carries a hint of ylang-ylang – a tree ubiquitous in not just the roadsides but in all of town. It is cultivated here, grown for oil extraction. Anao's low land elevation, acidic soil, and tropical clime make it an ideal place to grow the trees. Three varieties thrive here: malasaba, malakawayan, and kulot.
ylang ylang extraction

It may be the tiniest of Tarlac's towns, but it compensates by being the country's largest producer of ylang-ylang extract. The industry began in 1994. More than two decades later, it still remains as a cornerstone in Anao's economy. But progress, even after all those years, is slow.

The extraction process remains laborious. It begins at the crack of dawn, around four in the morning, when the flowers are hand-picked from trees. The blooms are then left to air-dry for two hours before they are sorted, again, by hand. The mature blossoms then undergo a process called steaming distillation. It has three phases: steaming, condensing, and separating. All in all, this process takes about eight hours.
ylang ylang anao tarlac

ylang ylang extraction

ylang ylang oil extraction

ylang ylang oil extractor

In a month, Anao produces about 25 liters of "first extract", exported in its entirety to South Korea. The second extract is sold to local perfume and soap manufacturers while the third is siphoned into the three community cooperatives that produce the town's own line of ylang-ylang items called Anao Aroma.
ylang ylang products tarlac

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That may sound like Anao has got a great thing going – and for the most part, it does – but it continues struggling to reach its full potential.

Demand is quite high for this base note of the iconic Chanel Number 5. An estimated monthly demand of 250 liters hovers over Anao, seemingly taunting it. To fulfill it, the town needs about 60 hectares of land for growing ylang-ylang. Currently, it only has two.
tarlac ylang ylang

Much of Anao's land is used for agriculture, and farmers are simply refusing the government's offers of subsidies to convert to ylang-ylang cultivation. On the other hand, partnerships with other towns are being explored, but, so far, there's nowhere near that has the same ideal growing conditions. The Department of Trade and Industry has been extending assistance, considering other alternative ways to expand operations.

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In the meantime, Anao is not being too aggressive in putting all its blooms in one basket. Of course, there is frustration from all this unrealized potential, but even amidst the ylang-ylang-heavy air, the scent of hope is still pervading. 

To know more about Anao's Ylang-ylang extraction industry, contact Anao Tourism Officer Joey Astrero at+639062007467 or visit Anao's official website.

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