Afflicted by ‘Plantdemic’ Virus

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Baguio City — It’s a word one can’t find in the dictionary. Neither in the Thesaurus.

But it can be found in the tongues of many Filipinos – now!  The Filipino or Filipina who coined the word, “plantdemic,” in this time of coronavirus pandemic should be credited as a wordsmith (person who works with words) in his/her own right.

Said person (we know not, from what region he/she happens to hail from) having designed the word “plantdemic,” is, to this highland and lowland Daily laborer column, capable, indeed, of painting with the use of the lips as brush paint and vividly coloring it with an extraordinary flourish of hope that people who will hear it, ket ag-esem da (smile) and goes on to repeat   the word to a friend or neighbor during friendly banter.

Re-echoing such word from a friend to a neighbor to another neighbor   has apparently become the fad nowadays, the word “plantdemic,” it becoming a national and household tongue virus, repeated by old and young folks and accepted for what the term connotes and understood generally by the public.

Perhaps, when the effulgent flash of intuition crossed into the mind of the inventor of the word, he/she pondered for moments, and by stroke of insight to a light bulb, found a way to connect the word “pandemic” to another word, simply the word, plant.

Having done so, that word inventor went on to re-invent another two words:  the wordsmith declared that thenceforth, anyone who becomes afflicted with the “plantdemic” virus will formally be called “plantito,” should the person be a male and for the female, be recognized as “plantita.”

Now, even authorities, guardians of any virus attack on citizens, apparently have also been hit with the “plantdemic” virus that they usually blurt out the word to explain a crazed planting mania or phenomenon that has gripped people in many regions in this nation of more than 110 million people.

One can’t help it but grin seeing someone who lacks even rudimentary knowledge in planting, but trying to put a seed to bed in the ground, rub his/her palms together and hoping that, that delicate and living thing ensconced in a seed coat will eventually sprout with promising, tender leaves searching for the sun’s rays.

One can’t help but nod seeing someone stab into the ground a plant cutting and trying to understand the feeling of that planter that somehow, the would-be cultivator   wished the plant cutting to sprout for another life in today’s face of unpredictable uncertainty.

So it is that the inventor of the word “plantdemic” has unconsciously offered himself/herself to the inkwell of what Daily Laborer column term as “wordsmith hood.”  The inventor shaped new terms of how Filipinos get to live in a world of come and go lockdowns, and introducing change.

A best case scenario: In suburban places in Cordillera or lowlands, one can immediately notice a beehive of residents busily tending to planting something within their surroundings, an activity many never ventured into or had really put their hearts in when there was no pandemic.

And you can really spot the inexperience of many of the would-be cultivators or beginners.

This column chanced upon a group of suburban women (with face masks) somewhere in Bayan Park barangay chattering incessantly and arguing among themselves about the proper way to plant. In the course of their activity, many ended up complaining instead that the cutex (nail polish) on their fingernails   were destroyed.

Another group of teenagers (with face masks) spotted between the boundary of La Trinidad and Baguio, near Sanitary Camp barangay were sober and subdued.  They discussed patiently how deep a seed should be embedded in the soil.

Asked   how they were going along as “plantdemics,” one lady teenager, who later identified herself as Myrna Ambilos, replied, “Sir, we endure, we persist, we hope and we keep sweet the way we plant so we can smell as roses!”

Others in the teenage group laughed at the way Ambilos described their planting fever; nonetheless they liked the way she explained it.

Random checks with agricultural stores either in La Trinidad, Benguet or in Baguio show an uptick in sales of   Poly nursery bags, flexible nursery bags or polyethylene planting bags and noticed by storeowners as bought mostly by non-agricultural people.

Stella Rimas, a pretty lady who works as store aide in one of the La Trinidad agricultural outlets heartily summed it: “Sir, nagadu ti natamaan iti sakit nga plantdemic, isu gapu addu gumatang ti planting bags.”

Pausing for a moment, she continued in jest, “Ngem maymayat, Sir, nga addu natamaan ti plantdemic, kesa diay matamaan da ti sakit nga sadotdemic, ittat-ta a pandemic.”

Gosh! Ramos suddenly became, too, an enterprising wordsmith by coining the word, “sadotdemic,” to imply a lazybones person.  This Daily Laborer grinned back, hearing Ramos with her vocabulary.

It gave pause for this column to seek answers to what has gotten into the minds of people suddenly wanting to become green thumbs and be included in the roll call of plantdemics.

Daily Laborer pestered Baguio City Councilor Arthur Allad-iw about it last Monday. Allad-iw   delightfully replied, “It’s a new fad during this pandemic. It helps people in the mental stress brought by the situation by appreciating and collecting various species of plants.”

Allad-iw also hinted of the plight of the so-called “stranded employee,” a coronavirus problem the laboring world has never seen and hitting hardest many of our indigenous folks that they have turned as plantdemics, if to offset one among its worst effects – the lack of income.

Allad-iw explained “plantdemic” is “also for those displaced from their jobs and livelihood, an alternative means of sourcing an income to support the basic needs of their families.”

Allad-iw is well aware that ecosystems in nature functions similarly to the human body. When these are robust and healthy, they are less likely to be sources of diseases. And he emphasized, “But I hope that it (plantdemic) is an eye opener on the role of plants, trees in sustaining an environment that would help the health of the people.”

This gardening craze, according to those involved, is to relieve boredom and stress. Queried about probability factor of survival of the plants they seeded, they pinned their effort on what they said, “Hopefully, ag-survive da (the plants).

Hope! That little voice all whisper as “maybe” when the sickened and tired Earth is shouting no to pandemic.

Hope inspired and hoisted on plants was clearly articulated Monday evening by public school teacher Dominga Gravidez, stationed at Pinget Elementary School, Baguio City, when she adroitly explained in Tagalog, “Plantdemic is kung ihahalintulad sa pandemic, bigla ang pagdami ng mga taong nahuhumaling sa pagtatanim ng mga halaman gaya ng mga ornamental plants. Kahit di naman to kinakailangan, parang sa virus na di na mapigilan ang kabikabilaang pagkahilig ng mga tao na buwan-buwan may pausong mga halaman.”

“Yung iba nga, kahit walang kasanayan sa pag-aalaga ng uri ng halaman ay binibili para lang magkaroon ng collection. Yong iba naman a dulot ng pandemya, ay nagkaroon ng pagkakataong magkaroon ng panahon para maipalabas ang pagkahilig sa paghahalaman,” Gravidez pointed out.

Plantdemic marches for those who love to potter in the garden, now that they have time said Gravidez.

Curiously, obsession of planting has gotten to a point whereby stealing has been involved. Last September, Baguio’s City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) bewailed how ornamental plants at Mines View Park and Burnham Park were nearly wiped out and Session Road stripped off its rubber trees by overzealous would-be planters.

Such excessive enthusiasm has made Sam Kit Chan, resident of Guisad, Baguio City, to grin when she explained Monday, “Obsessing about ornamental plants to the point of stealing other plants, including repotting.”

Chan, a pretty and feisty lady known for her humor, cited about repotting taking a new dimension: “What used to be food mainly repotting to sell as ornamental plants, for example, the taro plant, used before as landscaping, but in this pandemic, it’s now included as house plant.”

Mae Faith Salinas, from Gibraltar barangay, Baguio, cautioned on the adverse effect of plantdemic, that may otherwise bear consequential impact when plants are taken from the wilds and re-planted in domesticated environment.

Removing particularly threatened species from their habitat is illegal and carries hefty fines. Collecting other native plants maybe allowed but with a permit.

Salinas said, “Plantdemic, from the words plant and pandemic, is the increasing and sudden obsession of Filipinos to plants, and since pandemic is not a good term, it has caused Filipinos to collect even the endangered species of plants.”

Jeannette Graal Lardizabal, resident of Pinsao, Baguio, explained Monday on plantdemic at barangay level scene as, “people who want more plants because of the pandemic. They have more time to spend. Plant different kinds of vegetables and fruits for their children or close families.”

“We, barangay health workers, give seeds to plant (to their co-barangay members).” But Lardizabal however bewailed, “Ngem sabong met ti makita mi.”

“But these kinds of plants help them (the residents) to be stress-free, and helps the environment, “Lardizabal concluded.

Seasoned planters, like those engaged in mass production of highland vegetables, opined also, giving their approval: “Bar-bareng, Sir, nga maika-ugalian ti addu ti panagmula ta nasayaat met dayta nga aramid. (Hoping many will make it a habit, for it’s a worthy activity).