On houses and orchards
On "Mother´s Day," second Sunday of May, may I share with you the place or house where I was born in Infanta, Tayabas (now Quezon) after a big typhoon and flood as well as the various rented houses where I grew up prior to the time when my parents were able to buy a house and lot of their own.
Those houses of wood and nipa roofs were made a warm, comfortable home for us because of a mother´s loving care, sacrifices and devotion to her children, husband, family and relatives.
With best wishes.
Rudy / Papa / Tito
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ORCHARD, OLD HOUSES & GLOBAL WARMING
By Rudy A. Arizala
5 May 2007
i. Vanishing Familiar Rooftops
In bygone days, I could easily identify the owners of the houses in my hometown from the architectural designs of the rooftops, building materials, fences, gates and orchards. Now, the houses are no longer identifiable through such peculiar characteristics. Concrete structures and galvanized iron roofings have replaced houses made of wood, bamboo and nipa. Most yards of houses are now bereft of fruit-bearing trees, bananas and bamboo trees.
And this recalls to mind when I was a growing up child. I remember the various houses where we stayed before my parents were able to buy a house and lot for their growing family. We used to live in rented homes or houses. The first house where my parents lived when they were newly-married was a small wood and nipa house along Balagtas Street in Infanta, Tayabas (now Quezon). When a strong typhoon followed by flood came to Infanta in 1929, my mother was heavy with a seven-month old baby inside her stomach. My father and mother decided to seek shelter in the house of my grandpa, Carlos Azcarraga, near the Municipal Building. The house of my grandpa was made of stronger maerials. In said house, I was born.
Subsequently, we moved from one rented house to another - to the house of the photographer Mang Nano Espeña, then to the house of Nana Miyang and finally to the house of my uncle and auntie (Tata Apin and Nana Cinta) at the outskirt of the town. All of these houses were made of wood and nipa roofs.
II. Characteristics of Old Houses
The house of Tata Apin and Nana Cinta was located across the "Sapa" river from the main street called Plaridel. It has a relatively huge yard planted with various kind of fruit trees. Near the wooden stairway on the left some three meters away was an orange tree called "kidyang Tsina". (Chinese lemon). A little farther to the left toward the West was the concrete dug-in well - the source of our drinking water and household needs for washing and cooking. Around the well which is always dump or wet, grow many aromatic and medicinal herbs. For example, there are "tala", "sampaga Maria," "balanoy," "tala-taladuan," and even "salay" (lemon grass).
Along the edge or boundary fence on the West, grow banana plants and at the corner toward the South is a bamboo thicket. These bamboo thicket and banana plants served as "windbreakers." Behind the house are orange (lukban), coffee, cacao, avocado, and papaya trees. At the Southern corner toward the East is a lanzones tree. My cousins and I used to play inside this yard, climbing the lukban, avocado. papaya and coffee trees as well as the lanzones tree when there are ripe fruits to pick. This is our world as growing up children. My auntie, Nana Cinta, would allow us enjoy the sweet flesh of the coffee and cacao seeds on the condition that we should not throw away the seeds. She would wash the coffee and cacao seeds after we have sucked the sweet flesh; dry them under the sun and then roast them. The roasted coffee seeds are grinded into very fine powder-like matter and made into coffee for breakfast, while the cacao seeds are also roasted and grinded and made into "tableyas". The "tableyas" are either made into chocolate drink for breakfast or used in making "tsampurado" for merienda.
On the Eastern side along a dirt road are wooden (bangkawan) posts which serve as fence. This fence is covered with a climbing plant or vine called "Cadena de Amor". This vine has tiny white and light yellow flowers. Under the leaves of the "Cadena de Amor" are small moths or tiny light green butterflies called "kulasisi." We love to catch them with our fingers, examine them and then let them fly away again.
During the month of April the wind is good for flying kites. So we cut some of the bamboo stalks which grow at the corner of the yard; spliced them and made the bamboo stick as framework for paper kites. We then fly the paper kites at an open- field nearby. And during rainy days, (months of June & July), when the nearby "Sapa" river becomes swollen, we make out of "saha" or banana stalks toys of fish and boats and float them on the river.
The house and lot which mother and father bought later as our home is located at 20 de Julio Street, also near the "Sapa" river. It was made of wood and nipa roof with a huge yard planted with orange, (lukban), banana, avocado, katmon, mabolo, santol, balimbing and three coconut trees.. My brother and I used to play in this yard with our friends. And of course, we enjoyed climbing trees to get the ripe fruits.
III. Form of Bonding Process
Going back to the house of my grandpa near the municipal building, it has also a big yard with orchard-- santol, lipote, lukban, balimbing , avocado and other fruit trees. It is the custom during those days for our family to visit our relatives - aunties and uncles who live in the huge yard of the house of my late grandpa So, it is not unusual that we spend Saturday or Sunday afternoons in the yard of my grandpa and enjoy eating santol, lipote, or lukban fruits. While the old folks engaged in small talks, we children played with our cousins inside the yard. Said Saturday or Sunday visits were forms of bonding process or strengthening ties among relatives in a small town like Infanta when we were kids.
As I look back, methinks, one cannot forget or disown his hometown-- his place of birth or where one grew up; its customs, habits, traditions and culture including the architectural characteristics of his home.. A place where one belongs to -linguistically, geographically and historically. This is so because they provide the feelings of self-esteem and belonging that are as essential to human survival as food and water are to the body. For one must be at least part of and rooted in a place where he was born or grew up..
Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times newspaper columnist and writer, in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, (Anchor Books, Random House, Inc., New York, 1999, p.31), succinctly observed that everybody must have their respective "Olive Trees," because:
"Olive trees are important. They represent everything that roots us, anchors us, identifies us and locates us in this world-whether it be belonging to a family, a community, a tribe, a nation, a religion or, most of all, a place called home. Olive trees are what give us the warmth of family, the joy of individuality; the intimacy of personal rituals, the depth of private relationships, as well as confidence and security to reach out and encounter others. . . ."
For people from Infanta like me, their "olive trees" are their homes surrounded by orchard -either of coconut, lukban, lipote, santol, or banana and bamboo trees of their youth. The old wooden houses with nipa roofings surrounded by orchard in towns of the Philippines such as Infanta with their peculiar roof designs were manifestations of our ancestors awareness and capability to adapt themselves not only with their environment but also with the tropical weather or climate. Their own way of mitigating if not helping prevent global warming. They knew the cooling effect of building materials used, the design or shape of the roofs; location and direction from where the wind blows; accessibility of water supply and of course, the importance of of an orchard or fruit-bearing trees surrounding one´s home.
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