Sunday, October 11, 2009


AFTER lunch at her home this week, my grandmother served this “sera gana” to sate our appetites: fresh “lomboy” mixed with dried “kyamoy”.

It was my first time to eat this combination. Instead of the rock salt of my youth, the preserved plums gave the “lomboy” its bite.

The brick-orange plums were in turn soaked in purple juice.

Popping into my mouth a dark moist plump seed and having my tongue discover instead the sweet-salty grittiness of the preserve was to be reduced to a state of startle-tongued pleasure.

But even this paled to my lola’s story: the “lomboy” was given to her by a nephew, who picked them from a tree that flowered and bore fruit for the first time in years.

As someone whose shirts were often smeared with the irremovable stains of “lomboy” juice, I can confidently place “lomboy” in the same season as “siniguelas.”

These are summer fruits, sweetest in May, when the sun drove us children so restless, we braved even the brittle treacherous branches to gorge ourselves on the black beads silhouetted against the sky.

In my 44 years, I’ve never heard of “lomboy” in October.

I have yet to hear my tito’s explanation for the strange behavior of his “lomboy” tree.

But if there is something I have absorbed from farmers and folks who live close to the earth, it is that there is nothing that happens without cause.

Trees bud. Fruits drop to the ground.

Cut trees. Without the bracing roots, soil slides away, forests slide away, lives slide away.

Yet, the calamities that battered us and will batter again, have not placed optimism and will in the list of casualties.

Just as typhoon Pepeng swept through the country, I received a potted seedling and an invitation to join a nationwide tree-planting spearheaded by the Aboitiz companies last Oct. 10.

The seedling of Cebu Cinnamon is endemic to Cebu. According to a company press release, 26 companies with a total of 800 volunteers are targeting to plant “approximately 1 million trees to offset the carbon emission of (Aboitiz) companies.”

Last year, when I visited the Kan-irag Nature Park located at the headwater of the Kotkot river watershed, the Cinnamomum cebuense trees pointed out by the Cebu Holdings Inc. guide towered over me.

The Aboitiz-given seedling enabled me to touch and observe for the first time the almond-shaped leaves with their perfect parallel stripes.

It is bracing to realize that two Cebu-based companies participate in conservation efforts to bring back indigenous trees. According to the Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation, Inc. (CBCFI), the Cebu Cinnamon is “one of the world’s rarest trees.”

My first sight of the tree that grows only in the last remaining forests of Cebu and nowhere else was the computer image printed on the CBCFI poster tacked outside the Natural Science bulletin board in my college.

Since it was first described by Kostermans in 1986, the Cebu Cinnamon has been the focus of community-based conservation, involving individuals, local governments and the private sector. A 2008 paper uploaded on notes that there were more than 800 Cebu Cinnamon trees spotted in the six largest forests in Cebu in 2006, up from only 49 trees counted in 2003.

When I transplant soon my Cinnamomum cebuense in the uplands of Alegria, I hope to notch one more tree to make up for my own carbon emission (“a tree can capture an estimated 0.7 tons of carbon dioxide in its lifetime,” notes the Aboitiz tag).

Selfishly, I hope, too, my grandchildren savor its shade some day. 09173226131

* First published as the “Matamata” column in the Oct. 11, 2009 issue of Sun.Star Cebu

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