I grew up in a rural area. The place got to be a city when I was ten or so but even then it was still pretty much your typical rural municipality. Unlike the mostly crowded barangays of Metro Manila, there were lots of trees in the neighborhood and the atmosphere was relatively cooler. Back then there were only two houses in our compound and we got six fruit bearing trees of which one mango tree was very special.

Like most children of our age, I think, I and my sisters grew up believing various folktales of supernatural beings associated to trees and places and we used to think that that mango tree was a home to some. While we never really had a firsthand experience on anything strange about the tree but mere speculations on its involvement with rather minor misfortune, we never played around it on noontime and sunset. Our parents said we might disturb the spirits and we might get hurt. Nevertheless it was a big part of our childhood.

Unlike the others, that mango tree seemed to lie on its side with branches nearly as large as its trunk spreading to different directions offering some sort of platform large enough for ten children to play on. And with its rather strange appearance, it was everything in our various games of pretend. It served as a house, an island, a ship, a plane, a store, a diving board, and a lot more including the Voltes V robot piloted by us. It was also a place of countless childish debates, mini art projects, and homeworks.

On hot summer days it gave shade to our folding beds and rattan sofa whenever we chose to have our siesta outside the house. It also showered us with unbelievably large fruits that were incredibly sour when young but could be sweet and delicious when ripe. I remember that my mom used to ask our neighbors to go up the tree and gather some fruits for us. We owned the tree but we never really learned how to climb it. Also, some were afraid that it would shake you off if you offend the spirits. It’s really quite funny, but thoughts and stories like that got us excited as children. It helped us a lot in coming up with interesting stories to share during break times in school.

The tree was also my shelter from storms. Whenever I was down or hurt, I would climb up the lowest fork that had enough space to sit on and I would stay there for a while. Sometimes I would hum a tune or break to a random song and sometimes I would just sit quietly, pretend to sleep, or enjoy the gentle wind.

I loved that tree. It broke my heart when they had to cut it down to give way to an extension of my aunt’s house. As a child, before we left the place, I prayed that it would be strong enough to protect itself. It didn’t happen of course. During my infrequent visits, I have witnessed it lose its beauty and die slowly as every inch of the formerly spacious compound got occupied. The memories stayed but the happiness in those memories died with the tree.

Perhaps that somehow explains my feelings for F. Sionil Jose‘s Tree. For I was once a meek little boy and there was once a tree that had been a witness for a good part of my childhood life. -aB

This post was written in response to a daily post prompt which I should start entertaining more often from now on.

Featured Image by: ~Dipeshnov


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