Balete Tree Cutter

I didn't think anyone would have the guts to chop down the balete tree growing next to one of the bedrooms, but the swelling roots and the cracking wall left us with no other choice.

In the Philippines, people are afraid of balete trees because the old folks say these are inhabited by certain spirits. If you harm a balete tree, you will get sick.

In some parts of Cebu, the old men would hack a balete tree once and leave the bolo stuck in the tree for one day. If the bolo falls to the ground, that means the tree is inhabited and the men leave the tree alone. If the bolo remains stuck, then they assume it is safe to chop down the balete.

Rolando Borrinaga wrote An old man and his balete tree, where he featured Doroteo de la Cruz, the fearless feller of balete trees. To Mang Tiyong, it is just a tree.

Although I wonder why he makes his wife drink some kind of water (for protection) before he goes on a balete or dakit-cutting mission. My guess is that's his way of calming down his wife, especially when neighbors openly worry about what will happen to Mang Tiyong.

Since Mang Tiyong has remained healthy in spite of his chopping track record, it comes as no surprise that the guy who cut down our balete tree is also free from physical harm.

So far.

It's just that I keep remembering the kids who told me they saw some guy on a black horse beneath our balete tree one evening many years ago.

I know, I know. It's the typical clash between science and religion, hard facts and mysticism, the Illuminati and the Church, and other stuff you'll read in Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.

But at least there's one nice thing that came out of this superstitious (?) belief in the powers of the balete tree: we now have a 600-year-old tree designated as the "Millennium Tree of the Philippines" located in Balete Park, Aurora, Philippines.
[ First posted on 01/20/2004 by Manuel Viloria ]



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