Beyond the fruit and the tree

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

I was literally all curled up in my rocking chair on the veranda, both legs tucked up onto the seat, and hands warming deep inside my armpits. It was only 26 degrees Celsius, but most Filipinos are not used to anything that dips below the normal 33. The Amihan was coming in aggressively from the sea 300 meters away from where I am here in Carigara, Leyte. And a meteorological event called a shear line was lustilly egging it on.

As I sat there trying to figure out what to write in-between Christmas and New Year, my coffee swiftly turning cold on the table in front of me, a word from deep deep into my childhood suddenly popped into my brain. ANTWANGA. What is an antwanga? I know it is a plant, that it is a flowering plant. But what is it? The wife does not know either, it being a Cebuano word. So I Googled it. Hah! It is a gumamela! Jeez!

It just struck me that so many words I used to know in childhood end up getting forgotten from lack of use. As a child we used to have a hedge of antwanga all across the front of our house. How could I have forgotten? But then again, that was more than 50 years ago, during which time I had more things to do than just think antwanga. And so I forgave myself for forgetting. But I doubt if succeeding generations even know what it is.

Come to think if it, not many people care about flowering plants that they do about other things. I for one got to know about antwanga because we had it in abundance. But how many of those younger than me truly got to know about other things that are even more common, or at least interesting to people because they can, say, be eaten. Like fruits. From the veranda I could see the neighbor has at least two fruit trees.

There was bayabas and there was kapayas. Here in Leyte, I am certain kids growing up have had more experience with fruit trees than similar kids in my native Cebu. But just as certainly, the younger generations have far less experience with fruit trees than I and my generation had. Not even here in Leyte. Later generations get their fruit from stores. My generation got our fruit by climbing the trees that bore them.

And that is why a kaimito of today is just a kaimito to the child of today. To me, the kaimito is the tree from which I fell and gave me a knee wound that took eight stitches to close. The scars from that kaimito experience I still bear to this day. The best tree to climb is the bayabas. It is both sturdy and pliant. It hardly breaks. The fruit you eat, the branch you make into kasing (top). The leaves you chew and place over a wound to heal it.

Our generation experienced the world around us. We did it hands-on, in real time. Later generations get a kick out of experiencing the world virtually, in the safety and comfort of their rooms. Call me an old fogey, call me a hopeless romantic, but I would never exchange the scars of experience while wading through the rough and tumble of life as God made them.

You want the nangka, you bear with the tagok. You want the lomboy, you endure the purple gums. You want the sambag, you play cat and mouse with the til-as. There is always a story behind every fruit that I happen to know. Beyond every fruit is a real experience that has enriched my life over and above just the taste of the fruit itself. That kids today can hardly name 10 fruits they have actually eaten speaks truly a lot.

I tried counting the number of fruits I have actually eaten or at least tasted, and more than half of whose trees I have climbed, and I came up with 31, which is probably what my memory can now summon. And it truly amazes me how much the story of my life can be woven around those experiences. Try it. Try recalling your experience with a particular fruit or tree. I hope whatever your story takes you beyond the grocery.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with