Friday, August 10, 2012

Trees and my childhood memories

Last night, the thoughts run in my mind, way past bedtime as strong wind blows from the window, when I could hear the leaves from the branches swish as they hit our roof. I thought they needed some trimming soon. Then, the memories of the trees of my childhood appeared liked screen shots in my head.

I was born in Manila and grew up in its concrete jungle. When I learned to walk, I'd stumble on cemented floors and hit my head on concrete walls. A little more years, nobody would know that I would get on the roof of our two storey-high house in Pasay, to pick some Santol from our rich neighbor's backyard. Up there I would wonder how the unreachable giant guavas taste, from the backyard of our other neighbor.  Sometimes, I would stand on a friend's shoulders to reach for some Ilang-ilang that fills the street with the scent of its blooms.

In the school where I spent kindergarten until second grade, there too were trees, bananas, coconut, narra and acacia, surrounding the swamp that was turned into fish pen. One big sampaloc tree also stands in nearby compound where I would play with friends in its vast lawn. In Sta. Ana, where my dad had put his car service shop, he would find often on top of the Aratiles tree, if I am not throwing my slipper to make a star apple drop to the ground at his friend's backyard.

Then we moved to Sta. Ana Manila. My family had lived there before we moved to Pasay, but we have to moved again to the new lot my father found for his car service shop prior to his passing away. There were six trees in there as I can recall, one sampaloc tree stands boastfully at a corner, a pico mango tree gives shade to my dad's working area, three guava trees on separate locations, and one achuete tree near the gate.

That was thirty years ago. All those trees I mentioned are not here in our place anymore. The sampaloc tree was cut down because my cousin extended their house. The mango tree was uprooted by one super typhoon. One of the guava tree withered because of the salty water coming from our pozzo. The tallest guava tree was cut down little by little until it died, because my uncle complained that its leaves are hitting their roof. The youngest guava tree died too when my uncle placed rocks on its roots to put a walkway. The achuete tree died because its always hit by the vehicles coming and going from the garage.

Though I am city boy, I had the chance of being able to climb up on trees, be it in our backyard, our neighborhood or in the province. Where my mom came from, I learned about the variety of trees that my grandfather planted around our ancestral house. Every time I would travel to Ilocos, my eyes will wander on the sight of the mountains with tall trees, as I try to identify what trees were those. Just the same, I was able to climb the trees and pick their fruits in my father's ancestral house in Bicol. My grandmother had kept there until her death several species of fruitbearing trees: kasoy, avocado, guyabano, balimbing, bugnay, langka, rimas, papapaya, caimito, suha, and a variety of plants.

Trees never really vanished in our backyard. At the time I knew the older trees were trying to bid goodbyes, I would pull up some shoots by the road and transplant them in our backyard. My mom claims, she planted the four fruit bearing trees we have left. I too claim I planted them. We'll I would not argue with my mom, if that pleases her.

We have two mango trees, the one in front our house was planted some 20 years ago. The other one I planted where I put a compost pit, this younger mango tree grew faster and bigger than the first one. The younger one is Hawaiaan, and the older is Indian. I planted a duhat tree also, it replaced the guava tree near where we placed the pozzo. It is huge and eating up the sunlight that prevents the older mango tree from growing bigger. At one corner, I also planted a santol tree from the variety of Bangkok santol. This used to bear a lot of fruits, until my uncle built a clinic for my cousin which kept it from growing.

When these trees are in bloom, everyone in the family would gaze at them. When the mangoes are in bloom, our compound will be filled the scents coming from their flower buds. When the younger mango bears fruit, it could fill several baskets. When the duhat bears fruits, they will just drop and turn the ground black and red. Sadly, the santol has lesser and smaller fruits now.

I would not want anyone cut them. At one time, when the duhat tree was uprooted by a typhoon and so is the older mango tree, we made them stand again. It took years for them grow, and we all benefit from their shades, their fruits and their ways of filtering the air. Even in the heat of the summer, we find comfort under these trees. Unfortunately, even though we still have a big space for some more trees, no one else among my younger broods have the attitude and interest to plant one. Rarely would I find my nephews attempt to climb the trees, but they would enjoy the fruits when someone else picks for them.

In my younger years, I'd pick seedlings and transplant them, or intentionally throw seeds in rich grounds, hoping that later on they will grow into sturdy trees. Others say I have a green thumb. I'd joked, I have a green mind, and my heart just can't take ignoring that we need to take part in keeping a green environment. Had I not have the trees with me in my childhood, I would not pay interest in planting one. Now, in our compound there are eight families, sharing the benefit of four trees I planted in my childhood.

Back then, when I would travel and see the barren mountains, I'd wish that I were rich. If I were rich, I'd ride a helicopter and bring seeds with me, and throw them from the sky, thinking that they will find their way to grow and make the mountains green again. Those were the days, when flooding and the threat of climate change were never existent in my young mind. My hope now is that trees won't just be an image in this generation's childhood memories.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

On LIfe's Storms

When one says his life is in a storm, he means he is in trouble. In another way, the word storm is used positively as in "the people stormed the show". We've been having stormy days lately in Manila. Due to a shallow low pressure, the storm named Gener has been devastating northern Luzon.

In central Luzon, floods inundate low lying areas, and landslide cover communities. Well, my country is an archipelago, surrounded by water, and in monsoon season, typhoons storm the islands. Storms can be devastating, life may be lost as well as properties. Hence, we apply it as a metaphor to our very own struggles.

Thankfully, life is going smoothly for me, at least when it comes to my personal concerns. With my mom and my kins I don't have any problems dealing with them. With my work, I deal well with my colleagues. Amiable as I am I keep smooth interpersonal relationships, not to avoid disagreements but simply to maintain influence that I need in most situations.

Ah, something reminds of that repeated question I was asked as to whether have I been in any disagreement with my colleagues, superior or any one I work with. I could not really remember anything. Disagreements are conflicting situations. I find them arising like storms when one of either parties think better of his self or thinks unequal with others.

It's like the storm, when the wind shows its strength over the waters, it brings water and gusts to destroy lands. I answered that question, fairly well I guess: that I am a peacemaker, and I act as mediator in most situations. I do enter into arguments. I do disagree with some views. But, I have my way in the argument and so accept my defeat with a better debater. I can cash in my ideas and obtain agreement without really disappointing anyone.

The point is I treat people equally. I don't think highly about myself. I appreciate, while I keep an eye on areas of improvement. I call it that way because I'd rather see the positive in things than otherwise, so I get to be in sync with others. I also apply this in dealing with my students and superior. The thing is I don't have to create a storm to make myself known. I'd rather be the humble breeze that chills a restless soul. I'd rather throw a sunny smile and vent my rage somewhere else, to keep my day bright.