MY colleagues in the native tree advocacy must be wondering why I have this peculiar love for talisay. Long before I encountered the group I have been into planting and nurturing this shade tree. At first we pulled seedlings elsewhere and transplanted these in our borrowed piece of land. Then I noticed that seed materials were aplenty. So it was easy to just leave the seeds alone for little germinants to emerge in the vast meadow of weeds and small flowering herbs.
My love affair with this coastal forest species dates back to several decades ago. It is almost ancient, albeit queer.
Chances are, you belong to my generation if you have memories of the talisay, too. For those who are not familiar, I just learned that talisay is a native shade tree with leaves larger than the palm, and some people refer to it as the umbrella tree. In my dialect it is salaysay. It is an erect tree that may reach a height of 20 to 25 meters.
Most fully-grown salaysay trees that I saw in my youth were in the vicinity of the provincial capitol park in Lingayen, Pangasinan. You heard it right. It is a park material because of its thick cool shade due to its large leaves and sprawling branches.
One of my colleagues told me to allow talisay to grow in order to have tree houses later. I remember spending early mornings gathering fallen fruits. Most of these have been dropped by bats, which had nibbled on the sour flesh and left the husky fruit with the fresh nuts inside a woody seed cover. After filling a small plastic bag, my sisters, cousins and I would rest on a paved corner near the road to feast on the loot. This came only after truly hard labor. One cousin always volunteered to break the woody shell open with a crude piece of rock that had edges sharp enough to cut one end or force open the seed to expose the nut.
What I enjoyed most was the time spent waiting for the nut to come out. We cheered everytime a nut was taken out, not crushed, not bruised. Oftentimes it came like a crushed garlic clove. Worse, the nut, being too thin, almost nothing would be left after the rock has crushed it open.
I can’t remember how it really tasted. It was that the joy of gathering and opening the woody pod brought that was more exciting.
I liked it when our uncles or my Tatay would slowly and gently open it with a hammer. The seed would come out whole and everyone would smile widely at the sight of a perfect nut.
White as garlic, juicy and creamy and crunchy against the teeth and molars, a bagful of talisay pods does not yield enough nuts to fill our tummy. It just filled our craving for the nut, and the tedious process of successfully bringing it out.
I remember that after school, we walked home past the capitol park planted with Agoho, talisay, siar, rubber trees, botong, kamagong and several others that turned out natives.
We would gather salaysay on the grassy capitol park that stretches from the beach to the national highway passing Maramba Boulevard. The park was then lined also with large acacia trees whose shade extended several meters. We often found the nutty treasure under these trees. We would look under a cushiony carpet of velvet leaves and pink flowers.
I do not remember getting these under salaysay trees. The bats might have taken the fruits and ate these elsewhere up in the high branches of other trees. We also found salaysay along the beach, even along the foot trails to the beach. There were a lot of fruits to gather on the ground that we did not care to climb the tree to have our fill of the creamy nuts.
Actually I remember too that our Nanay would tell us to avoid the talisay tree, which we defied. Why? Although it is beautiful, it has a lot of higad clinging on the leaves. It is actually a butterfly sanctuary too, besides being a bat home.
At present, we are starting a talisay nursery because bats keep bringing us seeds to germinate. I remember asking little hands to gather and bring me seeds. Now we realize that one Narra tree hosts several bats.
I like the beautiful young leaves unfolding within reach each day. I love how small trees hastily inch their way into the horizon of other native trees. Most of all, I like watching little wormy beings feeding on the large leaves of my own talisay.