You look at the narra tree, now all yellow for its flowers, with just spots of green for leaves, and you ask yourself: why haven’t we done to the narra what the Americans did to the Cherry Blossoms in D.C., where its annual blooming is cause for celebration and attracts tourists from all over the world? In other words, why haven’t we done more for what is supposedly our national tree, enough for it to thrive properly in our land and share its beauty with everyone?
Especially this year, when the summer that has just ended brought such scorching, searing heat, the narra trees have a spectacular blooming season and it is a pity we have not included this – or trees for that matter — in our landscape planning. You see them mostly in the roadsides of our highways, intermittent punctuations in the scenery often broken by buildings or clearings for buildings, especially now that “development” is taking over what is heretofore a primarily agricultural economy: regal, stately, awesome, these trees that have withstood time, whose beauty is unlike any other. Sadly, they are left there on their own in our public places, on the roadsides or perhaps the public plaza, and never as consciously cultivated trees that are meant to be part of the environment. Correct me if I’m wrong, but save for the old trees that still dot some of our public squares – the ones in Valladolid and Hinigaran and the Provincial Capitol Lagoon in Bacolod come to mind – there aren’t really places here where we have planted trees for the sheer pleasure of it, or even just for their utilitarian shade.
We rarely, if ever, include trees in our landscaping, and to this day, we have left them on their own to thrive and survive. We have gardens and plantations for vegetables and flowers and horticultural plants, but we hardly have tree parks; the orchards that we have are relatively young and very few.
Thank God for the new subdivisions, at least there non-fruiting trees the ones that grow into hard wood or bear rare flowers are included in the landscaping and this should assure their continued existence.
Like everything else that we have an abundance of, we have taken trees for granted – why, we even oftentimes forget that its takes nothing but years and years to grow them into the stately beauties that they become, and so we really have no qualms about cutting them anytime.
Have you realized that we have very, very few malunggay trees around, the ones that have sturdy and hardy trunks and stately crowns? Because of its versatility, most of the malunggay leaves that we use for cooking now come from plants that have not aged yet, but yes, malunggay grows into trees and we ought to get acquainted with them.
We have not paid enough attention to our trees that until Manileno gardener Ponchit Ponce Enrile came a few years ago to Negros we did not know how to propagate the batwan, source of pride of the Negrense sinigang. It was Ponce-Enrile who first commercially propagated this plant.
Indeed, no matter if our country is one of the few that has a tree planting law – do we still enforce that, anyway? – we have not, as yet, truly reached that level of appreciation for trees that will make us respect their age and beauty and give them their own space to thrive and to grow as nature meant them to.
Given their culinary value, the batwan and the malunggay is assured of a future hereabouts. What should concern is the narra and other trees like the acacia, whose populations is always under threat.
We’ve practically already lost tree species like the lawa-an and the molave – can anybody tell me how they even look? – we must do what we can to keep whatever trees we have thriving and yes, multiplying.*