SEEK the marrow.
The first thing I found in Silang this year was half a seed pod of mahogany.
Our street explodes when from the stand of trees across our home a pod cracks open and drops its outer shell.
The sheath of a mahogany pod has a variegated speckling of brown hues. Rock-hard and heavy, the pieces, listing like small boats, accent my desk and keep in place piles of papers and notes.
Inside each pod is an egg-shaped core. Freed of the outer casing, the inner sheath left on the branch cracks open with maturity and unfurls, ochre petals of an exotic flower hanging upside down.
This is the moment revealing the true core of the mahogany: spatula-like capsules that tightly spoon inside the chambers.
The symmetry seems perfect until the wind whips off each mahogany seed and starts its free flight. The lightest part of the pod and shaped like the blades of a helicopter, a capsule twirls to the ground, where it may continue the next phase of changing from seed to sapling, from sapling to tree.
Some seeds end under car tires or on desks and cabinets, catching dust.
I think of mahogany pods as nature’s version of the matryoshka. Like the Russian wooden dolls that open to reveal diminishing versions of the outermost “little matron,” the mahogany pod is an unboxing, a laying bare of what is essential.
Following the livestreaming of the novenario held at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu, I heard Father Ric Anthony Reyes of the Order of Saint Anthony (OSA) frequently drop the Cebuano word, “uyok,” in his homilies.
Sometimes sleepy, I always got jolted as the word, “uyok,” brings to mind “utok,” referring to the bone marrow that was Sunday lunch treat when I was a child and is now a dangerous indulgence in middle age.
If I could not suck out “utok,” I slammed the bone until the fatty and fleshy leached onto my plate. The “uyok” referred to by Father Reyes is harder to come by.
Father Reyes urges an indwelling to begin finding the core of one’s belief in the “Batang Balaan (Holy Child)” of Cebu. This seeking of the core comes to fruition when the believer finds the Sto. Niño not in the beloved visage of a family heirloom or decades-old rituals of worship and petition.
The core of faith is the face of a stranger in need, the mask of paradox since to the beholder, the stranger is one he or she needs more than the other way around.
Unseen, mahogany fruits mature and launch a cycle beyond my head. Pods and capsules adorn my desk but it is the absent filling the silence.
* First published in SunStar Cebu’s January 24, 2021 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”