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By these trees

/ 08:59 AM August 04, 2013

I was one of the lucky recipients of a copy of the Manual of Native Trees in the Visayas produced by the joint partnership of the Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (RAFI) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources  in Central Visayas (DENR 7). I thank and congratulate RAFI for coming up with a book that greatly contributes to the awareness and appreciation for the natural heritage of the locality. Trees have always intrigued me. They  are among my favorites in the environment together with the sea. I was born and grew up surrounded by rows of giant acacia trees in Luanluan, Carcar (around 20 of them). They provided shade and shelter to crowds of people every Sunday which was market day, a rehearsal area for the local artists and theatrical performers, our playground, site of amusements during the local fiesta. Planted during the second decade of the 20th century, they withstood the frequent floods which drove  some families to transfer to another part of town, and survived the Japanese bombings of WW II. Going to the city  was also made pleasant because we passed by a long row of fire trees in Perrelos before passing the famous acacia arcade. Teaching for a long time and studying in the UP campuses of Cebu and Diliman have been encouraging and animating because of the trees in the campus.  I remember a forum where an architect – environmentalist said that it is good to have a big tree beside your room (bedroom or working room) because it gives energy.

Travelling from UP Cebu campus to Ayala Center, whether walking or riding, we pass by four parallel roads named after the native trees. Fronting the Parklane Hotel is Kamagong Street, parallel to it just beside the ancestral house of the Osmeñas stretches Apitong Street, moving one block away lies Molave Street, and still one block more is the Acacia Street. The Manual on Native Trees in the Visayas tells us that another name for Kamagong is Mabolo and there is one Mabolo tree in the UP Cebu campus that has borne fruit for several decades but only the late Miss Carmen Bunagan picked the fruits and brought them home to relish. I came to know about Apitong from Dr. Erlinda ALburo’s Dictionary of Cebuano Arts as a native tree whose wood was used only for construction of houses. It was when I conducted a heritage forum then a local history writing workshop in Bantayan in 2005 that I saw a Banilad and Bogo tree. For local history and culture classes, a review of the names of places in the province and city reveal that they originate from either trees or plants like Banilad, Bogo, Catmon, Mabolo, Talisay, Carcar (from Kabkaban), Argao (Saliargao), Sibonga (fruits from the trees), Dalaguete (dakit), and it seems even Samar is named after a plant.  Researching and writing about the origins of a place is a very good exercise for students.

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But there is something about trees as a therapy or cure. I remember as a child the expression “Igaid sa doldol.” (Tie to a kapok tree.) I only knew about doldol or kapok as the content of our pillows.  But  I heard about  relatives and neighbors who were registering violent behavior being  tied to a doldol.  It was only when I was teaching that I asked the science teachers why tie a person to a doldol tree. It seems the trunk of a doldol tree is very cool. The Manual on Native Trees in the Visayas cites the medicinal uses of each tree from its bark to the leaves, extracts, fruits. With the high cost of medicine and other cures for all kinds of diseases at present, all we need is just look at the trees around us, then we don’t have to be enslaved by all kinds of testimonials or advertisements for our maintenance or food supplements. In this way, we can protect our trees not cut them.

I can’t help but tie up the Manual of Native Trees in the Visayas with the heritage/cultural mapping which I did with my students  2005 to 2009 in the barangays of the southern towns of Carcar, Argao, Dalaguete, Alcoy, Boljoon and Oslob. The first category for mapping is the community’s natural heritage. The mapping revealed that very few residents know the names of the trees and plants that abound in their locality. The section in the book that illustrates the different kinds and shapes of leaves provides inspiration for designers and artists. Let every school and office have a copy of this book for everyone’s welfare and advancement.

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