Saturday, November 7, 2020

Breaking The Curse

THIS PICTURE SAYS IT ALL. HAVE A GREAT THANKSGIVING CELEBRATION, ALL!
 
All members of the community and visitors had to touch the pig to transfer the curse to it. We were told the ritual would last for three days because all members of the community had to touch the ring and pig and not all were present on the first day. Here people start to move in to touch the pig. The pig was eventually killed and the meat was divided amongst the village. (Photo and caption by Jacob Maentz)

Monday, October 12, 2020

A Little History

A GOOD READ this Indigenous Peoples' Day/Dia de la Hispanidad/Columbus Day is Antoon Postma's study on the history of Calavite, a lost settlement/mission on the northwest hook of the island of Mindoro, its Parthenon on the hill. "The Calavite site, while still called Pinagbayanan or "former townsite" has only some Iraya Mangyan resident families. A certain Domingo Venturero, residing in Talaotao, a village on Golo Island, has claimed to own the area, including the ruins. Aside from that, the only visitors are treasure hunters who go inside and around the church, breaking open and destroying the stone walls, and looking for supposed wealth hidden there by the missionaries, as if the Moro pirates had overlooked something. Unless someone takes care of the church ruins, it is doubtful whether it will survive much longer as a historic monument." That was when Postma visited about 50 years ago; I wonder how the site is now.

From Punto Mindoro


Wednesday, October 7, 2020

In My Crap Or Sullen Art

ANOTHER ONE TO CELEBRATE is West Coast journal ZYZZYVA's 35th year of existence (it was first to publish Murakami in English translation in 1988), so I'm sharing a few signed selections from an old anthology launched 25 years ago by its founding editor Howard Junker--Strange Attraction: The Best of 10 Years of ZYZZYVA (University of Nevada Press, October 1, 1995), the affirmation I needed to tell myself I was good to go with my arse poetica. Have a great one tomorrow, and thanks for the recognition, Mr. Junker.



Saturday, September 19, 2020

Traveling Light

DRUG SLANG CAN BE colorful. I was in the middle of working on this piece when COVID-19 struck, and the project was delayed for months because I had to work the reality of the pandemic into it. Of course, racial discrimination and homelessness among Pinoys in the U.S. have always been there, though largely unwritten about. So this narrative exercise, a product of this year's growing season, is for kabayans who are the lowest of the low: the homeless, undocumented, discriminated against and diseased drug addicts. One can have it all, I think. Thanks to the Mary Evans Picture Library for The Ignis Fatuus drawing (1860).

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

For The Fignorant

"I have not cut down any fig tree. Why then does calamity befall me?"
                                   --Ravana, the ten-headed demon-king of Lanka, in Ramayana                      

GLAD TO FIND this book order in the mailbox upon our return from our trip to Binghamton for Sara's 18th birthday last Labor Day weekend: ecologist Mike Shanahan's fascinating book Ladders to Heaven, published in the U.S. as Gods, Wasps and Stranglers. This highly informative book could be among the Complete Idiot's Guide titles.

“In his insightful book, Mike Shanahan combines poetry and science, history and humanity, to tell a story not only of the fig tree but of life on Earth in all its beautiful and astonishing complexity.”--Deborah Blum, director, Knight Science Journalism Program, MIT; author of The Poisoner’s Handbook

"A must read."--The Daily Mail

"The tree in the Garden of Eden was very likely not an apple but a fig.”--Annie Proulx

"Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles in the dawn of civilization. They feature in every major religion, starring alongside Adam and Eve, Krishna and Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad. They evolved when giant dinosaurs still roamed and have been shaping our world ever since. These trees intrigued Aristotle and amazed Alexander the Great. They were instrumental in Kenya’s struggle for independence and helped restore life after Krakatoa’s catastrophic eruption. Egypt’s Pharaohs hoped to meet fig trees in the afterlife and Queen Elizabeth II was asleep in one when she ascended the throne. And all because 80 million years ago. these trees cut a curious deal with some tiny wasps."--Mike Shanahan

From Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel fresco


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Buwan Ng Wika

FLORANTE BOUND to a big higuera or balete tree. This famous soliloquy of Francisco Balagtas' hero in a dark Albanian forest reverberates in my brain from an advertisement of a Manila memorial park called Himlayang Pilipino when my siblings and I were kids, watched on our neighbor's black-and-white Radiowealth console TV when the dog was fed and dishes done after dinner and mother said yes. The stanza was translated into English by Luisa Igloria who writes a poem a day and is Virginia's Poet Laureate. I have a grit of discomfort with her translation of the words "lilo" which in Mindoro means "traitor" and "ininis" which means "suffocated" as in overcome by coronavirus, so I had to do my take.

Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi
Kaliluha’y siyang nangyayaring hari
Kagalinga’t bait ay nalulugami,
Ininis sa hukay ng dusa’t pighati.

Inside and out of my broken town,
The tears are the king,
Good and kind are getting tired,
irritated in the pit of martyrdom and grief.
                        --Francisco Balagtas, Florante at Laura, trans. by Luisa Igloria

Inside and out of my ill-fated land,
Treachery reigns supreme,
Righteousness and reason are sunk in defeat,
smothered in a grave of suffering and grief.

                        --My Take

Fig tree next to an abandoned military facility on a hill above the city of Sarande in Albania

Saturday, August 15, 2020

The Good Bride

AND THERE SHE IS. Not in a sham marriage but one with a hairy roasted wild boar. "Although the courtship period has a varied set of rules and ceremonials, the marriage itself is as simple as possible. After the consent of the parents has been obtained, the unceremonious first sleep of both the spouses together is considered as wedlock itself," according to Mangyan Heritage Center. And true to her nature as a shy, self-effacing Mangyan girl, she chooses a quiet life deep in the jungle, far from the prying eyes of land-hungry lowlanders.

The groom was waiting
And here came the bride
This hidden wedge high up the branches seemed like the spot
Where she could make a happy home, singing an ambahan. Maybe to a baby?

Ako gabay putyukan
Ako dayo mangaptan
Baliti nan gubayan
Nakan kis-ab sugutan 
Bunglo kasagunsunan
Ho bay si dis mangaptan
Sa sanga panulusan
Bilog bag-o sangbayan

I'm a common honeybee.
I don't want to settle down
at the side of the fig tree.
The reason: because I saw
many marks of ownership.
The place where I'll settle down
is a branch close to the top.
Only there will I be glad.
                    
                    --Ambahan 216 ("Marriage" from Treasure of a Minority, trans. by A. Postma)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Bridget The Midget And Goliath

GIANT FICUS salicaria '89 and miniature orchid Haraella retrocalla. Is this unlikely New York marriage possible to kick this growing season up a high notch? Will it work sa pangarap lang? Abangan!

Front: for the grand finale
Back: the epiphyte's alley
Left side: a longer pot is obviously needed to stabilize the center of gravity
Right side: the kneeling giant
Close-up of the nebari
Bridget the midget and her citrus-scented blossom: is she up for the fantasy? 

Friday, July 31, 2020

Strangler Willow

I REPOSITIONED the aerial roots of this willow leaf ficus '89 to reflect its real character: a strangler that strikes terror like a flayed hand, but had to exercise extra caution digging up the roots. I thought I was done with this ficus job this growing season, but this little fellow, a small-leafed non-mutant willow ficus from the Big Island, is arriving next week, not my purchase but a friend's who asked for my training wisdom. I don't know; maybe come back in a year. 



Sunday, July 26, 2020

Willow Leaf Ficus '89: Trick And Treat?

MY FINAL FICUS purchase is this willow leaf Ficus salicaria or neriifolia '89 ($200+$31 shipping+$40 repot), native to Asian countries (India, Burma, Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, China where it is raised for cattle fodder) in a latitude more northerly than that of the Philippines and altitude up to 2900 meters (9500 ft) above sea level. The American willow leaf variety has smaller leaves and is shorter, but the Florida deep freeze of 1989 (I was living in sunny San Diego then) restored its original Himalayan DNA.  The cold snap froze the nursery stock of a planter named Jim Smith in Vero Beach, Florida to the ground, but the figs did not die, growing faster and with larger leaves instead after the big thaw. Is the freak cold snap of '89 nature's tricky vaccine that made the American willow leaf ficus more robust and cold hardy?

Jim Smith with his mutant ficus
Andrea's find at the nursery
Repotted after aerial roots were repositioned
New front view: the bole above the soil line looks as mystical as a monk