Five years ago, in a fit of decisiveness my mother ordered the concreting of half our backyard, fed up with my pussy-footing. When we moved to this village 18 years ago there was a flurry of landscaping, but all that had to stop when we realized it was a maintenance thing. That like human beauty and age, there were recurring costs involved. Thankfully we had trees planted during the first spurt of our landscaping. The first year we stuck seedlings of Ferrante orange, avocado, belimbing, jackfruit, chico and a marcotted pili. One of our original carpenters planted a “libas” (common hog plum) sapling beside the fence and by some miracle it survived. Bananas are all around us, with my mother planting more, especially the variety they call senorita. This is my brother Melvin’s favorite, with thin-skinned fruits that are small but sweet.
There is an existing coconut tree right by the river’s edge, so prolific that at any one time it would bear over 50 nuts, though small-sized, in varying degrees of maturity.
Believe it or not when our backyard went into a state of disarray some seven years back I ignored it. But for issues that needed my personal attention I never went to our backyard. I hated being reminded that there was something I needed to attend to but would not, for various reasons.
My mother did not lose faith, though. A few years ago, when it became apparent that the belimbing would never bear fruit she had it cut down. The pili tree had spurted a few kernels but had suffered mortally by some typhoon; no matter, for my mother had replaced them with longgan, rambutan and lanzones seedlings. The jackfruit grew tall and bore fruit but had to be cut down because it was too dominant, stunting the growth of the Ferrante and avocado. There are other jackfruit trees beside our lot, so its demise was not too painful.
If I’m giving the impression that our backyard is wide, it isn’t. My mother’s persistence is. I was tolerant of her planting trees almost beside one another but would often complain someday it would damage the foundation of our house, through their roots. Her solution was to trim off her trees frequently; she says they would grow like bonsais – not too tall.
Off our kitchen at the back of our house were a few meters that we had cemented to make it nicer to walk in, but through the years the concrete had cracked and broken, which was unsafe for the senior citizens of our household. And there were the holes and diggings that Mando, our carpenter and general fix-it guy would do when he’s making new drainages, plugging a leaking faucet, etc., etc. Those potholes never got refilled, which created such a mess of our backyard all the more.
It was my goal to complete the kitchen extension that year, but Yuri, the compact car I acquired buried me in a series of expensive maintenance issues. So, my mother took matters in her own hands and bought 20 sacks of cement. When it was all over, only a third of our backyard remained green. The trees stayed, though, unperturbed in their turfs, islands of green amid the gray, curing cement flooring.
I usually have coffee by the gurgling spring at our backyard, slowly rocking the swing to and fro. Early mornings are a good time in this area, as it is situated in the southeast portion of the village. It’s cool and peaceful then. The afternoon shadows reach the swing sometime at four o’clock.
In time the lanzones trees will be strong enough to bear the weight of an occupied hammock. The chico has suddenly sprouted buds of fruits, so numerous that everyone in our household was astounded and expectant. The fruits ripen fast. Yesterday I picked thirteen of them, leaving the immature ones to sweeten some more. Dozens more are budding. The bees are going crazy, buzzing here and there, maddened by the fragrance of nectar. Even birds are alerted by the promise of blossoms and buds. The avocado saved itself on time, because my mother had decided to cut if off – thinking that it was barren. But lo and behold, when Maricel, our house help, was about to hack its trunk off, she looked up and saw a few small but unmistakable fruits. I know these avocados will be perfect because they come from good stock. One of our gardeners had bought us some fruits from its mother plant, and it was rich and buttery. The Ferrante orange is puzzlingly similar to the pomelo tree, without the longish thorns. Their fruit tastes the same and has normally shaped, less citrusy leaves.
Mando is the main beneficiary of our libas tree. His favorite viand is mackerel stewed in coconut cream with the young and tender leaves of the libas as souring agent.
The single coconut in our backyard gives us more nuts than we need, and if we harvest all the coconuts in and beside our lot then we sell the produce for a profit which we use to defray clearing and gardening costs.
Nothing is more gratifying than when trees that you’ve planted from a seed shoot up, mature though slowly, and then bear fruit one day. It validates the principle of life and birth, the basic truth that when you plant something and allow nature to take its course it will grow and produce fruit. Nothing is sweeter than fruits from your own backyard, just reward for years of patience and your own mother’s faith.