Menagerie A Tree Story
A Tree Story
April 20, 2013
April 20, 2013

Edmar Borromeo(1)(1)

Once again another term is ending and many of our colleagues are busy packing up and started looking for things that they would do this summer, may it be a flight to Bora, or an interview to Unilever. As people go for the break, you cannot help but notice the things that surround you. An afternoon visit in the amphitheatre under the shade of a proud tree in Marian Quadrangle would be good to pass time for the next class or a grade consultation. The breeze that sways around refreshes ones weary body and the rustling leaves can give calmness to the mind. As you sit or even pass under the shade of the towering tree you cannot help to notice the chimes and the messages that hang in its ever growing branches. Or even the surprise fruit it drops every now and then. No matter how surprising it sounds to you, it is not all mere coincidence or ordinary course of everything. The 100 year old tree has its own story to tell, a story that found crafted from the fabrics of history, untold even by time.

 

It all started from a bunch of seeds found and kept by Fr. Perdido Buscador a Portuguese priest in one of the loots from their pillage in Southern America, serving the ship Victoria, a ship being led by the great explorer Ferdinand Magellan. As the great explorer met his demise in the shore of Cebu, Fr. Buscador had stored the seeds under a small tree hollow in the forest. Few days after, they found the tree all shriveled up with the seeds still intact.  Not knowing how to cook and process the seeds, many considered it cursed and the village priest or Babaylan has declared it symbol for bad omen. And those who lived whilst taking it will be considered as the man of worth of a vessel for great evil. The tree was then passed on to different generations, being kept by the Dela Raza family, the last family line who has swallowed the fruit, along with Fr. Buscador’s journal, written in Portugese, which has been said holds the key to its secrets.

 

They eventually came to Manila and because of the continuing land grabbing of the Spaniards they were forced to sell the seeds on the street as a tree that can create fruit that can be a panacea. Surprised by the shape and nature of its seed, Leon Garza a Filipino mestizo who have an ill wife due to Malaria, bought all of it. But unfortunately, his wife died before he could ever plant it. To his grief, he burned his home and commit suicide. His man servant Fajardo Pajarito, who was just a young kid at that time, got the last remaining unburned seed and eventually with the twist and turns of fate, he became a construction worker of the St. La Salle Hall. While working, he accidentally dropped the seed in a parcel of land, and poof, it became the centennial tree. The records of an old Spanish Land Registrar holds the document stating the history of how the first Anise tree (The centennial tree) had grown in the capital, despite the tree being only found naturally in the forests. The document was then handed down and can be seen in the National Museum of the Philippines under the records section.

 

When the Japanese came, Pajarito became one of the first victims of massacre. Because of the fond memories he had with the seed and the tree, his soul transferred to the cat that is always roaming around the construction site, and ever since that day a cat can always be found roaming in the grounds of amphitheater and the quadrangle. People today call him Amphicat, but he will be forever the guardian of the centennial star tree.

 

The tree had took part in different events may it be outside the campus. One would be the day that Ateneo De Manila campus was bombed. Many students have fled to their homes and had been injured. That day, surprisingly, the tree shed a single leaf. When the University of Santo Tomas was invaded and they created a concentration camp inside it. Many students fled to the streets to continue their lessons. Professors never abandoned their profession in time of great mishap. And amidst it, surprisingly, the tree shed a leaf. And when the University of the Philippines started their Oblation Run to declare their unique way of displaying their individuality and protest towards the illness of the society all of the sudden, as the naked man run began, the tree became brown.

 

During the Martial Law times, there was a student who tried to commit suicide because his girlfriend had been believed to be a member of New People’s Army and was seized by the military. It was around night time and he had already secured the rope to the tree and on to his neck. As he makes the jump, a strong wind blew and a leaf suddenly cuts the rope. The man lived on and died due to old age. But after his death a male voice shouting in agony could be heard coming from the branches of the centennial tree. They said it was the regrets of that man not being able to save his girl.

 

The first account of the centennial tree bearing a fruit is the day after massacre of countless brothers inside the chapel at the St. La Salle Hall. Amidst the blood and anger, Br. Egbert Xavier, a brother who is also in that accident, had escaped and found his way to the centennial tree, there he was found by the Japanese praying to God for the life of his fellow brothers and others who had been killed ruthlessly. The place became his execution site as he was beheaded faster than a blink of an eye. His innocent blood has watered the tree and a day after the unfortunate event, a single fruit had grown and can be seen hanging from the tree.

 

There had been countless accounts of the centennial tree fruit being linked to the cosmos. There is even a claim that whenever a fruit falls from the tree, a new star in the galaxy is formed, or vice versa. Some even said that the fictitious character Darna by Mars Ravelo is really inspired by a hungry female dishwasher in Malate who ate the fruit thinking it was Monay, and made her strength increase tenfold than before. The LaSallian never had the opportunity to verify the claims, but one fact that holds the most truth is whenever the fruit accidently falls and hits your head, you would slowly become a true genius and after a while become burdened by the problems of the today’s society. According to a biography of Br. Andrew Gonzalez made by his scholastic peers and close friends, his life in La Salle never started when he was a frosh. It began when he got a bump on his head as he was going to take his entrance exam test in the University. The bump has a somewhat star shape on it. It changed him in a way that made him the person he is known today.

 

Though whatever mystery it may hold, the centennial tree over the years upholds the symbol of great hope and has continually signified the three virtues of St. John Baptist De La Salle. And just like how it has been a part of the campus for so long, it has also been a witness to every student’s success and grief, continuing to offer its usual shade to the weary minds and burdened bodies. It may never be a tree who grants wishes, or have a fruit that can transform you into a superhuman, but it is a part of our stay in our school that signifies the greatest miracles we had achieved in such age. And our stories inside the halls of SJ and Miguel may never be known to all, but at least we can always recollect fond memories on that old trees that are worth the history.  But for now let’s give the old tree the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what the next 100 years worth of mystery and history it will make.