I was then in grade school when my parents decided to move to Makati from Manila. I was old enough to remember, the hardships made it even more unforgettable. We live in a baranggay called San Antonio, a street named Bagtican. The town was made popular because Mayor Binay was one of its citizens. Almost all of the streets in the area are named after indigenous trees, with the exception of Estrella (the former Mayor) and St. Paul, one of Makati’s patron saints.
Bagtican, was an old street, our place was within the vicinity of the Paulinian lands, where there was a four-storey library & bookstore, a simple but lovely chapel and a seminary, where my brothers once attended.
We lived across the Magcale’s, a well-known family in the area, rich and generous, they have befriended even the poorest tenants of the calle, almost all of the Magcales’ children at some point became tv actors, like their dad. Their household left a lasting mark on me because it has an enormous book collection that was made available to me by Señora Amparo, the matriarch of the family; the whole neighborhood affectionately calls her Mommy.
We had an alatiris tree in front of our house, a fruit tree that was brought to our shores by the friars, renowned for its sweet marble sized fruit, magnate for flies and bats who enjoys consuming its ripe figs. I love eating those cherry like fruit until my stomach hurts, you see even as a child, I already took interest in eating. There was a time that trees do grow in Makati, now everything are concrete pavements, no one bothers to plant trees anymore. Makati has changed especially those small barrios, near the Ayala area.
When I was a kid, I was told that Bagtican (latin Shorea & Parashorea) is a tree. But when I ask people if they have seen one, they would tell me that it can only be found in the high mountains. Since then, I have this strong urge to see and touch one.
Last Saturday, I did some hiking at the foot of Maquiling entering it through the Botanical garden area of UP. It would not be long that I would be acquainted with a Bagtican tree; it was so high that touches the clouds up above. What a majestic looking tree! They are known for their resistance against strong winds and a lumber that is often used for joinery.
It is also known as White Lauan, with its natural color of pale to light red it is widespread in our country. The name Bagtican could have originated from Teak, another tree of a large deciduous family. It is know locally as Teka or Tekka, its Malayan name, far superior I was told than Bagtican as wood.
When we moved to Bagtican the house was the typical post American design and creation, we later on lost the land against its eventual owner Vic Chua. It is now an ‘imprenta’, printing stuff I don’t know what, the area is ugly. With its high iron gates, noisy printing machines, greased pavements, I could hardly recognize that this was the place where I spent most of my childhood years.
There’s always history behind everything, every name and every place. I love digging the one’s that I have come across with personally – its an addiction, I’ve got to find the meaning behind things I don’t know.
This strange desire has made me knowledgeable of my environment, people should start researching and getting to know the story behind their local places – the more local the better, it is a fascinating interest, who knows you might stumble upon something better than what a tree looks like.