The river at the side where the house of “Nang” (a Filipino term for female elder) Estela Pangca and the power cable of the Cagayan Electric Co. (Cepalco) are situated now in my hometown of Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental in northern Mindanao, Philippines used to be occupied by acacia trees (rain trees) many years ago.
This same area is close to where the house of “Nong” (a Filipino term for male elders) Nato Sanches stood. There was also an acacia tree that serves as a giant “green umbrella” to the washers doing their laundry just below the culverts of “Nong” Toto Nacasabog.
The acacia trees were so big and there were no landslides at the time. The old roots simply clung beneath the green earth, soaking up the rainwater. There was no river dike back then.
I messaged Air Force General Gerry Paduganan to check up on my old hometown because he was also raised there beside the river.
“There were about three on the street going to the river that fell down when the culvert and hollow block business of “Tiyo” (uncle) Dolfo moved on the area. There's another tree near where the house of Estela Pangca, daughter of Iyo Bentong now stands,” Paduganan said.
That time the acacia tree was already old as seen in its deeply entrenched roots I saw as a child and later as an adult. Back then, I heard stories about the acacia trees being home to “engkanto (enchanted spirits)” or “diwata (fairies).”
These spirits either bring blessings or curses on those who do good or harm to the forests and mountains. There were also stories about “white ladies” living near the acacia trees.
The story was so real to my mind that I remembered uttering “tabi po (excuse me)” every time I pass by the trees at noon or night time.
Tabi po is a term of respect to whoever resides in the tree so that good vibes would be passed on the passerby. As kids we were told not to be noisy near the tree.
On Saturdays whenever I get up early to do the laundry, I would have this eerie feeling when I reach that area that creeps up on the back of my neck.
That feeling of dread was confirmed when I heard reports that a daughter of one of the neighbors was believed to be caught alive by the spirits. The elders of the community decided to head to the forest and implore the spirits to return the girl.
The girl was fair-skinned and beautiful and the residents believed she had been adopted by the spirits.
I was young that time but I joined the group that camped near the acacia trees. We made noises for so many nights but the girl never turned up.
The family then transferred to the city. I don’t want to name them as they are close to the family. At the time, I felt then that the acacia trees were the companions of the river, as if they are constantly communicating to each other.
That incident only cemented my fear of the trees. It was only when I began to form my own opinion and looked back to what happened that I realized that the girl may have drowned in the river.
But to my young mind then, I believed that there may be some truth to the rumors that the Tagoloan river claims a life every year.
On the other hand, if only we can respect the trees like we did before we can help each other in protecting and preserving them for our own protection and those of future generations. I can only ask, are the acacia trees of my childhood still there? (Photos by Jong Casino and Elma Egama Gamones)
(Susan Palmes-Dennis is a veteran journalist from Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao in the Philippines who works as a nanny in North Carolina. This page will serve as a venue for news and discussion on Filipino communities in the Carolinas. Visit and read her website at www.susanpalmes-dennis.simplesite.com. Read her blogs on susanpalmesstraightfrom the Carolinas.com. These and other articles also appear at http://www.sunstar.com.ph/author/2582/susan-palmes-dennis.
You can also connect with her through her Pinterest account at http://www.pinterest.com/pin/41025046580074350/) and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Straight-from-the-Carolinas-/49415695067…)
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