Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Memoir: My Funniest Gardening Experience in Taloctoc, Kalinga

I grew up amidst the splendor of Mother Nature in the hinterlands of Taloctoc. I’m sure many of you don’t know where Taloctoc is.

Taloctoc is a small ethnic village located in the heart of Kalinga, north of Manila. Previously it was inaccessible to vehicles, but at present, a narrow, rugged road was constructed that made traveling easier.

This story happened several years ago when I was in grade school. The significant lessons learned though are timeless, and these are what I want to share with you.

In the village, gardening was a way of life. It was unusual for a villager not to have a garden somewhere, because a garden was a crucial part of the village’s subsistence.

Our garden was a few steps away from the teacher’s quarters where we were staying temporarily, as we had just come from town.

My mother, Asuncion, was a grade school teacher, and as expected, she had to be a role model for the folk in every aspect - including gardening.

“Do you think you could help me with this?” Mother asked me, one sunny Saturday when she brought me to an area below our house.

I looked around and noticed verdant, robust weeds growing abundantly in the area.

“What would we do here, Ma?” I asked curious.

“We’ll make a camote (sweet potato) garden,” she piped enthusiastically.

I was not enthusiastic about it because I hated gardening, but I followed her instructions, anyhow, weeding and digging the area to make the soil soft and ready to form into plots.

We made small garden plots, creating small canals for water drainage. The soil was rich and soft and we had no difficulty planting the ‘camote’ tubes. I was instructed to plant them about 3 inches away from each other.

“The roots would grow more rapidly, and there would be more tubes,” mother said.

Afterwards, I was tasked to accompany mother in tending to the garden. Every morning I went with her down that small patch of land.

I began to appreciate my quiet moments with mother. It was also fun weeding and adding more soil, so that the tubers would grow bigger and more delicious.

Within more than a month’s time we began reaping the fruit of our labor from our small ‘camote’ garden.

One time there was a contest in school to bring a simple food that was nutritious, and that had many health benefits. I had thought instantly about my ‘camote’ garden.

Excitedly, I harvested the shoots and the tubers and cooked the shoots with anchovy and tomatoes, then I prepared vegetable salad from the shoots too. I had cooked also the tuberous roots into barbecues and prepared sweet jam.

Yes, I won the contest, because the shoots were rich sources of vitamins, minerals and iron. The roots were sources of carbohydrates and fibers too. They ate voraciously the delectable food I prepared for them.

There was an underside though; some people gave off unwanted gas that made people scamper away. This turned the event to a comedy scene.

This is not the significant story though; the most important thing that I have learned while tending the garden with my mother were the precious lessons in life that she had taught me.

I could still remember mother patiently digging small canals so that water would not accumulate on the plant’s roots.

“What would happen if the water would amass?” she asked me.

“Well, the plant would die?” I replied, unsure.

“Of course dear, so remember any good thing could become bad if it’s in excess.”

“Even love?”

“Even love. Genuine love is tough love. We love you, but we reprimand you when you get out of hand.” She said sotto voce.

“If we don’t nurture and tend to our plants, do you think it would still live?” Mother queried again.

“Some of it would die,” I stated, sure of my answer.

“Smart child and the few that manage to live could be unhealthy and lost.”

“Love is like a plant that should be properly watered and exposed to sunlight to survive. Having too much of either would be damaging to the plant. So, when it’s time for you to love, think about love as a plant that needs nurturing and proper care.”

These are only a few among the many lessons that I have learned from her.

Now, that I am a professional, I would always remember the lessons gleaned from these gardening moments with my mother. I hope you have learned something as well.

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