Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Battling the balete


Just looked up “balete” in Wiki and found this: 

Balete tree (also known as Balite or Baliti) are several species of the trees in the Philippines from the genus Ficus that are broadly referred to as balete in the local language. A number of these are known as strangler figs wherein they start upon other trees, later entrapping them entirely and finally killing the host tree. Also called hemiepiphytes, initially, they start as epiphytes or air plants and grow several hanging roots that eventually touch the ground and from then on, encircling and suffocating the host tree. Some of the baletes produce an inferior quality of rubber. The India rubber plant, F. elastica were earlier cultivated to some extent for rubber. Some of the species like tangisang-bayawak or Ficus variegata are large and could probably be utilized for match woods. The woods of species of Ficus are soft, light, and of inferior quality, and the trees usually have ill-formed, short boles.


Sounds pretty effete and ineffective for a mainstay in Philippine folklore (says something about superstition, of course). You see, even though the strangler fig sounds nothing like narra or mahogany, once they have grown, they are known in stories to be the habitats of fearsome elementals. For years, the shadows of its leaves and branches struck fear in a notorious haunted street in Manila (later proven a hoax).


Easily dismissed in botany, in the field of metaphor, they sound awfully familiar. If only the branches of bad habits are as easily cut and trimmed – if only we can burn away the ghosts of our past that have decided to make homes of our memory.

Short-sleeved shirt, Diesel
Jumper, Workshop
Jeans, Lee
Sneakers, Converse, thrifted
Bag (below), Armani Exchange
Belt (below), A.P.C.


Surrounding me in this picture is the unwanted growth of one of the balete trees in our backyard, which has set root in the air and grown lush from the rust of an old water tank.


One morning when I went outside I was just surprised by how much was removed. Neat texture for the background of an old canvas and suede bag, as well as firewood for this morning’s reflection.


Inferior of wood and almost useless for rubber, but nonetheless overpowering. Left to their own devices, not just bad habits but also empty words can house the most fearsome of nightmares.


Yesterday morning – because this post is also about what I wore yesterday – a moth visited our pictorial. Temporarily homeless, it had probably sought refuge in the cleared foliage.


What can I say but: nightmares no longer seem terrible after waking up. Dreams have wings after all.


Hope is buoyed by air.


Terrible things lurk in the shadows, but understanding can be decisive as scythes. We are creatures of the light. Be careful in which habits you decide to build your home.

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