By : Leah Marlie Pagunsan-Tambanillo
I was lucky because I grew up seeing my fraternal grandfather whom neighbors and associates and in fact everyone in town, called “Maestro Abing.”
In the ancestral house built for his children, my Daddy among them, I would go to him and listen to his never-ending stories of old, watch him at work in his garden and orchard, and on starry nights, learn about the constellations.
Maestro Abing was a teacher trained by Americans and I remember he was very fluent in English. He would laugh when someone mispronounce a word, use/speak a grammatically wrong sentence and he was very willing to teach or to correct if you misspell an English word.
On summer mornings, I, my brother Val and cousin Ian would often tag along when he went fishing using his “isda-isda” or a wooden floater shaped like a fish. A long nylon with baits was attached to the wood, he would let this wood float in the water and it would go along with the tide. When Maestro Abing pulls the wooden floater ashore, there would be plenty of fish trying to free itself from the baits.
We had fun taking those fishes out of the baits and each of us would carry what our little hands could muster. Walking back to the ancestral house, we wore our broadest smile and proudly proclaimed that we caught those fishes ourselves!
On rainy afternoons, we would again come with him to the almost 2-hectare piece of land which he owned. Carrying a shovel or anything that can loosen the wet soil in one hand and coconut seedling on the other hand, we would be happily following him. Watching him make a hole in which those coconut seedling will be planted was such a joy, a priceless childhood joy which until now I still cherish.
Those coconut seedlings are now grown and produced much fruit and everyone in the clan had benefitted from the trees.
If anyone of you had passed through the national highway of our hometown Belison, you would notice the neat line of sturdy and almost a hundred year-old acacias.
I called them the acacias of my childhood.
We spent hot lazy afternoons under its shades, picking up seeds of tipolo. Those tiny white seeds which birds would pick from tipolo tree tops somewhere in the forest and would drop from atop the acacia crown. These tipolo seeds taste so yummy, just like peanuts when cooked.
Grown-up and working in my Province’s Tourism Office, I would pass by my hometown going North and I would smile with the memory of my acacias.
Lately, our 94-year old Aunt (Daddy’s surviving sister) told me that it was Maestro Abing who planted those acacia trees in his younger years. He planted those acacia trees together with his co-teachers, Maestra Cande Samulde and Mestra Elena Esquierdo (the great grandmother of Belison’s Vice Mayor Darell dela Flor.
Was I amazed with this information! And I remember that hearty feeling of attachment to those acacia trees!
Daddy would also commend me that “apo kaw gid man ni Maestro Abing” every time he sees me putting soil into empty tin cans and fruit tree seedlings into it.
The fruit trees growing in our backyard now are the proofs that I have in my heart and in my veins the gardener’s thumb and blood of Maestro Abing.
Needless to say, I also imparted to my children that love for nature and the environment. Planting and gardening and caring for fruit trees are parts of our summer and rainy day’s activities.
Fruits are abundant in our backyard and we don’t need to spend much if we want to eat fresh fruits.
And for this, I have Maestro Abing to thank for.