GROWING up in the village, there is a tree that stands out during the night. It is the gabgab tree (Erythrina orientalis Merr.) During this time of the year, it lights up in the evening. Night fireflies tend to gather in mass numbers and light up the tree. It is one of the most fascinating scenes in the village.
During the day, the gabgab is just an ordinary tree. With lesser leaves as compared to others and with its thorny stems, the gabgab is being avoided. It is also choosy on where to grow. Not all locations are suited for the tree. They tend to grow on steep areas with more soil. There are even places named as Gabgab due to the abundance of the tree in that specific area.
Another characteristic of the tree is its flowers. In the past, it blossomed from February to June. The small red petals that we call hablang also make the tree visible from other mountains. Birds from all directions visit the tree daily when the red petals start to show. No wonder, it is one of the most nested trees in the muyung (woodlot). Matured gabgab are also taller than other trees making a safe haven for nests.
Since its wood is not suited for firewood purposes, they are most likely left to grow and reach their maturity. But it has other purposes. The wood is usually used to make wooden floors for chicken cages. They are light, soft and easier to tie to the rattan-made cage. Sometimes, the wood is also used to make shields since it has lighter and cottony features.
But in recent times, the powers of the gabgab cannot even summon fireflies. From being the light post in the night in the past, it is now becoming a lonely tree in the evening. The disappearance of fireflies is telling of the changing landscape in the village. The harmonious relationship between humans and nature is changing.
As folks slowly find their way nearer to the road, the original settlements are left behind and in the process the rice fields are also being abandoned. In recent years, the mountains have been terraced into garden areas for highland vegetables. This has led to the increasing influx of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in the village. This market shift in the village is proving to affect the delicate balance of biodiversity.
If this situation continues, the community’s memory of fireflies will be forgotten. There is a need to re-examine the interconnectedness of nature and humans as a way of life. We need to value not only cash but also a healthy environment. We do this not only for us who are living at the moment but for those generations to come.#