By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
THE kaimito tree is gone. It gave way to “development”. I was hoping somehow that the new owners of the corner lot along Kalayaan and V. Luna Streets fronting Jollibee will somehow allow it to live, given the fact that for some time they did not cut it, as normal “development” workers would have done. Cut and cut clean.
There are no traces of this tree, except in my memory, and the memory of illegal settlers who once lived there before they were paid off to vacate, or forcibly evicted. It was because of this clearing operation that I saw the kaimito bursting with fruits, a Christmas tree in summer, standing alone, providing shade to the construction workers who reached for its juicy ripe fruits to ease their thirst and replace precious fluid evaporated by the heat of the sun. Probably that was the reason why they kept it for a while. The fruits were, one by one, gathered and munched, a Christmas tree slowly stripped of Christmas balls. After the construction, the tree was gone. No structure had been constructed where it used to be, which makes it even more difficult for me to understand. It was not in the way. It did not obstruct the “development” site plan.
Sooner than another fast food chain would have been constructed, the trees felled would not even be remembered. Development paradigms have a way of insidiously replacing our thoughts and cultural practices, they erase our memory.
Czech historian Milan Hubl was right, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its history, its culture. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster.”
Instructive observation, coming from a historian, not only because it is the predominant strategy adopted by those who colonize and subdue other cultures, in the guise of liberating them from ignorance and “oppressive” regimes, but also by multinational corporations pursuing “development” initiatives. Build and destroy, and reconstruct. New infrastructure, because of its imposing physical presence will dominate the landscape, and the new generation will never know we had thick and lush forests where fairies and gnomes coexisted with the magic and mythology of other life forms. The rape of our forests by big commercial logging firms and its drastic conversion to palm oil production deprive us of a sustainable way to relate to our natural resources. It robs us of memory that is essential to cherishing who we are. We forget, faster than we can begin to understand the changes.
ambilunget su tawen
may ari’n labus.
the sky is dark
he is descending again
the king, without robes.
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