COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Only a few trees remain in our residential lot now where once upon a time there stood so many kinds of fruit trees, a few of which grew several varieties. The wire fence has long been gone but the aging caimito along the border still stands, occasionally bearing fruits but now in small sizes. The sturdy mabolo tree still towers near the middle of the lot along with the jackfruit, breadfruit, pili, durian, and a few coconut trees scattered in the area.
When I last inspected the laguerta, the pili tree had many cuts and slices along the length of its trunk and it looked sore. People who passed by made random cuts on the bark to extract the sap of which I suppose are being used for healing purposes. The whole lot looks bare now with only a few trees standing here and there, a stark contrast to what it used to be in my childhood when it was a bountiful yard.
We had a lot of fruit trees in our yard, at least fifteen kinds, and ours was the only residential lot in the village with the most fruit trees planted in one small plot of land. Our house stood on a corner lot about one thousand three hundred square meters and surrounded with different plants; fruit-bearing trees, flowers, vegetables and some root crops. Since the fruit trees were planted at random – simply spread apart but not in straight lines – the back yard looked like a forest.
Living in a home with a lot of fruits around was a joy in my childhood and one thing I miss most in Consolacion. We can have mabolo, avocado, or papaya for breakfast or supper; and even our sweet and juicy star apple would do for a meal. The very sweet ones like atis, chico, and langka are usually eaten as desserts. While the others like piña, pomelo, tambis, balimbing, and lanzones are mostly taken as thirst quenchers.
We even grew a few fruits of the rare kind like pomegranate, pili, and durian. The durian bore fruits (and usually only one or two reach into full maturity) about once in a year and only Lola and Nanay ate them then. The pili grew so tall with a few branches up so high it was only Mano Dan who could climb it, and my eccentric brother used to climb that tree wearing a pair of combat boots. The pomegranate, though, is delicious.
Guava, of which we had three varieties, was the most popular fruit simply because it was readily available at more time of the year. Like the banana, it was one fruit that we could eat anytime of the day, and we were eating guavas then like how we eat chips now. There was one variety which was deliciously sweet and crunchy that I have not tasted the likes of it anywhere. I could climb the guava trees and my cousin and I would sometimes hang like Tarzan from their willowy branches.
When a fruit is in season like the star apple, mabolo, guava, and avocado, their trees bear so much ripe fruits in a day that we cannot possibly consume them all. We gave a lot to neighbors and passers-by; sell some at times, but still many fell simply to the ground to rot. Some of the avocados and other longer lasting fruits were packed and sent to my siblings in Cebu and Dumaguete. Our mabolo was the first in our place and mother taught the village folks to eat that sweet and creamy fruit which is also a favorite of the owls.
I remember now that we seldom harvest the jackfruit, about only once each year. Like the durian, the jackfruit really has to be pruned in order for a select few to reach the ripening stage. But the breadfruit was a specialty we looked forward to eating, cooked and served with latik. The pineapple was also an occasional treat, and each time we harvest one we’d plant back the crown to the ground. A portion of the yard was solely allotted for that thorny plant.
Living in the city has to some extent made me yearn for the availability of fruits like we had in Consolacion. I just find our native fruits in the market too expensive, and not harvested at full maturity that they lack the sweet, rich taste. The imported fruits come even cheaper that I usually buy pears, apples, and an occasional orange to quench my thirst. There seems to be an unnatural order of things here, when native fruits are not within reach.
June 26, 2010