The parable of the Tublay trees-A A +A
Monday, August 19, 2013
WE DIDN’T know each other then but we surely crossed paths in the Adenauer and Rizal Buildings at the SLU more than a decade ago when we attended BS Biology classes. Our paths crossed again two years ago in a program at the BSU, this time to know more about each other. Juna S. Dawaton, from Tublay and a teacher at the Irisan National High School in Baguio, completed her MS Biology. I miss studying biology and the ecology of the Cordilleras and she shared a thirst-quenching dose of new knowledge: the ethnoecology of trees in Tuel, Tublay. This was actually her master’s thesis which earned the best technical thesis for her batch in the BSU Graduate School. Professor Romeo Gomez Jr. was her adviser.
Her study provides knowledge about indigenous and cultural beliefs of the Ibaloys of Tuel, Tublay, Benguet with regard to their trees. Identified were trees which have medicinal, ecological, cultural and miscellaneous uses. The results of the study may provide encouragement among the Cordillerans to conserve, preserve and propagate trees for utilization. We extract some of her findings in studying two forested areas in Tuel, which have been the community’s hardware store, grocery shop, pharmacy, park and all.
The 15 respondents, aged 39-85 years old, identified 15 species with ecological significance. The fruits of “amogaoen”, “mata ni orang”, “balete”, “kagiskis” and “tuel” serve as food for frugivores like birds, bats and cloud rats. Based on the interview with the key informants, “sangido”, “darew” and mango are considered as habitat of bees while “agat- at”(big red ants), most likely thrive in colonies on “tuel”, “manava” and “alimando” trees. These insects tend to ward off people and animals from their homes with their painful sting and bite. “Balete”, “diw-diw”, “tebbel” and “alumit” on the other hand, are believed to be ground water indicators. The presence of these trees indicates a source of water nearby.
“Kamading” is said to have a sap that cause rashes on people and other animals that comes in contact with the sap, these rashes can last for weeks. This tree can also cause intolerable itchiness in the skin; hence it is considered one of the untouchable trees. Some informants also claim that there are individuals who are really sensitive to this tree, that by merely looking at it or passing near it, they can already feel the itchiness on their skin.
Seventeen tree species were identified as medicinal or with therapeutic use. According to the informants, locals boil the leaves of “amogaoen” and drink it as tea to cure diabetes. Moreover, “tagumbao” barks are heated directly on fire and placed over wounds for faster healing. Decoctions of guava leaves are also used as disinfectant when applied directly on cuts or wounds, especially after circumcision of boys or after castration of animals. Barks of “balete” are believed to heal wounds. When boiled, the decoction can be directly applied to the wounds for faster healing. Fruits of “mahogany” are used to cure stomach ache. Tea from the boiled leaves of “tuel”, “taliptip” and barks of “bangbanget” are perceived as treatment for UTI (Urinary Tract Infection). “Mango” leaves are used to cure rashes caused by “kamading” and “ot-otoy” leaves are effective cure for boils.
With cultural relevance, the following trees were noted: the “balete” is believed to be enchanted, and the “alumit” and “tihem” are used during the “segpang” or “shelos” rituals and “afal” or “topja” rituals, respectively.
A total of 30 species were identified to have other uses. “Sangido” (Pistacia chinensis) is one of the hardwood species in the Cordillera mountain range which is highly preferred by wood carvers. The bark of “ashaan”, according to the informants, is being used effectively to catch fish as it has a dizzying effect on fish and eel. The bark’s sap is released in the area of the river where fish cluster, after few minutes, it will render the fish dizzy but not kill them. “Kanumey” is also used in fishing like the “ashaan” but its leaves are used instead of the bark. With the wet nature of its wood, “diw-diw” is used as “shakilan” or support for pots being cooked in a dirty kitchen, due to its ability to resist fire. “Duban aso” and “mata ni orang” are most often used as “payatoha” or fence in farms due to their hardness that it takes a long time for their wood to rot. Fruits of “malikafas” and sap of “pahak” are both sources of paste; only, paste from “pahak”, termed by the locals as “pihet” is used to catch “beshing” or house birds that are pests in the rice fields.
“Belbel” according to the key informants is a source of “saleng” which was used since time immemorial as torches during the night, and also used to start a fire for cooking. “Ipil- ipil” leaves are fed to pigs, carabaos and tilapia while “tebbel” leaves are being fed to cows. During the early times when detergents are rare in the market, the leaves of “shomenay” are made into detergents due to its bubbling effect. The folks pound the leaves and squeeze it to the clothes to wash. The trees are sources of food as most are also fruit-bearing trees.”
Joyce Kilmer commenced her Trees poem this way: I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. I conclude: I think I shall never see a thesis lovelier than a thesis about trees.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 20, 2013.