Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Path Less Traveled

Dear blogger, ever wonder who visit your blog? And where they come from? Or even what they visit in your blog?

Sitemeter can be a credible source enough to learn about them. Especially if your blog is pretty much like mine, where unique visits are few and far between. Currently, I get a little less than 40 unique visitors each day.

One or two are quite regular visitors, like fellow blogger PhilippinesPhil, and thus would not be representative for why a typical or casual visitor decides to open up on my site. Phil visits almost all blog entries I write, whether serious, fanciful, or even those which may be woefully adjudged by some as bordering on inanity.

But many (and I say that relatively and advisedly given my blog’s miniscule reach) span the entire globe – from Finland, to different African countries, to Palestinian occupied territories, to most Asian countries including the old homeland Philippines, and even to unfamiliar places like Stoke-at-the-Trent, UK. I have been introduced to so many unheard of places that Google had only been too happy to oblige. And for me it is addedly exhilarating to note that certain things I write about, which admittedly have some profound importance to me, are also sufficiently interesting to other people in the globe.

But what things?

When I wrote a little piece on Cartesian logic, really just a passing reference and a little exposition of its meaning, little did I realize that to this day I continue to get visits from different parts of the world, but more likely from France and neighboring European countries. Of course, this type of logic is oft described as a national trait of the French.

The same thing happened when I started the series on food recipes of the different regions of the Philippines. In any given cluster of visits, I could depend on one or two visits looking for recipes of regions they originally came from, that is, from Filipinos who are now living abroad pining for the local cuisine of their youth.

One time I wanted to find out what could make my blog garner more visits. And early on had decided that writing about a breaking news scoop could be a good vehicle. Try I did about a grisly suicide of an accused husband to a murdered Philippine actress, and immediately tripled my readership. Unfortunately, the spike did not correspondingly elate and elevate my spirits. It was sort of an empty victory. Don’t they refer to this as Pyrrhic victory? I wanted more, more in terms of what I felt was important for me too.

So immediately reverted to my usual tack, writing mostly about things that meant something to me, and as much as possible giving them a positive spin. This way I felt good about myself, and thus motivated me to regularly go back and reread the stuff I had written, not so much as an ego-trip but to try and relive the warm feelings engendered by my writing the entries.

Writing about the genealogies of my father, my mother, and my wife’s mother have also stirred continuing interest. Right now, the genealogy of my father’s family continues to get hits from around the globe which I suspect come from possible relatives who want to learn more about their past and relations.

But beyond this, and more like the wayward but equally delicious crust of a favorite pie, it also made me feel fuzzy to discover that strangers from some distant corners of the world, populated by people who do not even share commonly my background and predispositions could find some of my writings interesting enough to go and visit for a few minutes or so. Like entries about credit unions, some hobbies and pastimes, even deeply personal things such as sketches and drawings.

All these have helped make regular blogging to this day a sustaining effort for me.

Thanks to all visitors. You are most welcomed.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Pet Shop: Hobby or Business?

The pet shop has definitely garnered a firm foothold in the economic landscape of the old hometown. While their number may not approximate those of the lechon-manok eating places or the must have one in each corner bakeries, the pet shop certainly can be seen and counted among the visible players in the malls and some of the heavily-trafficked commercial areas of the city.

While people from other places may wonder why my sudden interest and/or surprise in the pet shop as a business, let it be said that when I left the old homeland about 29 years ago, the number of pet shops in the city was an absolute nil. You wanted dogs or cats, you simply asked your friends or our relatives who had them. Birds or fowl as pets? Again you asked your hunter friends. Okay, so some solitary guy may position himself conspicuously in the market and sell a monkey or two or some birds, or even dogs. But not as an established business, in permanent locations, and providing the whole panoply of things needed to acquire and maintain pets.

Click to read more.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Bridge to Nowhere No More

Now the tired of waiting residents can slowly croon the famed refrain of Six Bridges To Cross made known worldwide by the inimitable style of Sammy Davis, Jr.; though more accurately for Cagayan de Oro, five bridges, because that is how many ways people can cross over to the city’s poblacion from other parts of the city.

The not so new but still untraveled bridge that links Puntod to Kauswagan from across the Cagayan River can now be negotiated by car, albeit the fact that it is still not officially opened and work on the Western approach continues to chug along.

Frustrated by the heavy afternoon traffic during my drive home eastward, I threw caution to the winds yesterday and headed toward the bridge that could markedly improve your drive if you were coming from the pier area and were living across the other side of the river.

Though the bridge itself was completed way before the newest one in Carmen, problems with property owners, or more accurately I am told, with one stubborn property owner, on the Western approach has stymied the bridge’s prompt opening.

One city administration had since passed before this soft opening, or at least, what looks like an opening, could become a reality. There are no signs to signify that the bridge is indeed open, or will be opened once the unfinished approach is done. Government construction equipment is still on site.

A ready-made community will be at hand to welcome this bridge’s eventual traffic. Already, scores of old and new houses line up on both sides of the approach, encouraged by the access provided by this infrastructure. Resourceful little sari-sari stores eagerly anticipate the quick inflow of business once the bridge is fully operational. From a distance one could easily recognize the steady parade of jeepneys passing through the road in Kauswagan, one way going toward Carmen and the other way toward the beach community of Bonbon.

Personally, this new bridge ought to hold some childhood nostalgia for me since the family used to own large tracts of land on the Puntod side of the bridge. In the accompanying pictures, the imposing grain silos of LKKS, reputedly the biggest in the Far East when first constructed, stand on real estate that used to be owned by my father, and which estate used to be their family’s ancestral home prior to being inherited by my father.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Lowly Tambis Tree

This morning as I sat on my comfy bench parked on a shaded side of the house, wearied from the early morning heat aggravated by another electric blackout, I espied the tambis tree of the neighbor and was immediately transported to my youth. By the way, this neighbor’s lot used to be owned by an elder sister who was responsible for planting this tree when she still owned it.

The tambis was starting to fruit, laden with a lot of blossoms that will eventually become the pinkish ripe juicy fruits very characteristic of the tambis in these parts. I had though to exert some extra efforts to first of all properly identify the tambis to those unfamiliar with it. Thus, learned second-hand that its scientific name is Svzygium Aqueum. And in the process also learned a bit of confusion about whether tambis and macopa, another local fruit tree, are one and the same. In our old hometown, we had both, bearing different looking fruits, coming from two different looking trees, and definitely not one and the same.

Here’s a bit of the confusion as brought out in this site, and one commentor’s statement was most telling:

Tambis & Makopa are not the same fruits! In the Visayas, Philippines, we have both. They may come from the same family but are definitely two different fruits. Makopa has a smoother skin while Tambis’shallow furrows are more pronounced. Makopa’s fruit is finer but has a faint tart taste. Tambis fruit is coarser & no tartness. Makopa has a deeper red color. Tambis is lighter like pinkish red.

This necessary distraction has made me veer away from the reasons why I was reminded of the tambis and its tree.

So, meanwhile back to the ranch ……

As an adolescent but not quite a teen yet, I was kept mostly indoors or within the confines of our small house, credit a rather solicitous mother for that. Our house stood at the corner of a common lot, owned jointly by two other sisters of my father. While one sister had also built her residence flushed to one side of our house, the other sister who lived out of town left hers vacant. This became our playground, the only playground for nine kids bursting out of a house that measured only 100 square meters.

In the middle of this vacant lot was an old tambis tree, whose age we never bothered to find out so long as it kept bearing fruits when its season was due. As maybe a giveaway for its ancient age, beside it was an old rusted and overturned steel safe that served as planter. It was a remnant of the last war, we were told.

With nine kids composed of 5 precocious boys one can bet that that mute and unmoving tree must have endured some form of abuse from the boys. And it did. I can recall that in instances where I pretended to be the famed swashbuckler Errol Flynn, I would do battle with the unmindful tree, thrusting into its gnarled trunk whatever I had in my hand that passed as sword or rapier. I can even recall using a big Moslem kris that I threw like a knife into its fleshy trunk and not being satisfied until the perfect throw landed the bolo’s tip deep enough into its trunk to quiver and stay in its place like in the movies. Who cared then about the welfare or life of that living flora. So long as it bore fruit when its season was due.

Because when its season was due, it was laden heavy with those luscious fruits, from the low-lying branches to the topmost skyward ones that must have towered two-storey high. The fruits surely were very tempting even to a pre-teen who could not rely on old siblings to do the picking.

So learning to climb that tree was the big challenge, a much more visible and urgent challenge then than learning to ride the big bike of an older sibling. Naturally, the first attempts were tentative and limited to the low-lying branches. But like most things in life, acquiring the most temptingly delicious ones involves more risks and dangers, and more scary heights. Thus a summer or two may have been devoted to the process of acquiring the expertise, but more importantly of generating enough nerve and courage, to climb to the lofty branches where those huge fruits seemed to arrogantly challenge my puny attempts.

The conquests were very exhilarating, and rewarded amply with very juicy fruits that went deliciously well dipped in table salt. Pretty soon, climbing that tree was second nature and the tree itself appeared resigned to its fate, bearing fruits that were easier to retrieve. Though at times unsuccessfully attempting by subtly hiding some of them in the thick foliage, playing a failed hide and seek.

Thus, the once mighty tambis tree of my early youth became the lowly tree of my teens, scarred not only with the ravages of time but with the many unheralded conquests made at its expense.

When my father’s sister decided to build on the vacant lot, that tree was the first to go, trailed behind by the old steel safe that must have been given away or sold for its scrap value.

From vacant lot to spanking new house, the memory of the old tambis tree faded from my memory, replaced with the many more worldly cares and recklessness of teen youth.

Until this day, when the heat of the sun joined by the fruiting season of the tambis tree . . .

November 30, 2012, today found an old picture showing part of the tambis tree of my youth, located on the right side of this picture.  This was our old house where we all grew up.