Pine-Studded Land Hunkers Down


Have you ever observed that before onset  of a terrible storm, an unsettling calmness descends like an ominous foreboding upon the land?

It’s called the “lull (or calm) before the storm,” a period of unusual tranquility that presages abnormal weather condition.

This old adage of old folks long ago has scientific basis. The gasoline or energy that storms run on is warm, moist air which it sucks into its storm system, reason why air below altitude hardly moves.

Reaching the top of the cloud mass, the warm air sucked, is spat by the storm, and the vortex of the storm triggers roiling and dangerous, gusty winds, in the company of heavy rains, as both rains and wind descend.

As it happened last Tuesday. The sun was up, but everything was still. Anyone attuned with nature may have felt it, an eerie warning creeping up the bones.

As forecasted by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the storm, named Ompong barreled towards direction of northern Luzon.

PAGASA considers Ompong a super typhoon, spitting winds of over 150 kilometers per hour (kph) and gustiness of up to 185 kilometers per hour.

However, don’t be misled: winds of 150 kph can actually exceed forecast, in the same manner with the  stated 185 kph gustiness, due in fact to the storm accumulating  more warm mass of air as it roils on its way, further increasing a typhoon’s explosive and violent movements.

With the atmosphere becoming calm, Mother Nature has telegraphed her message last Tuesday. And northern Luzon was bracing for Ompong’s expected savage onslaught.

In Cordillera hinterlands where towering mountains rear their majestic heads skywards, people are battening the hatches for the savagery that Ompong will unleash with demoniac fury.

By a wise provision of nature for the cold parts of Cordillera, nature has clothed and blanketed its mountain with Benguet Pine trees as a hedge against destructive storms that bring the land and its people to its knees.

For the Benguet pine trees – it behooves us to protect whatever remains of our pine and other tree stands, as well as increasing their numbers.  For these give protection, shade to the weary and a reason to just laze around.

Like how this Cordilleran farmer, Segundo Pacis, from Benguet found out. One day, when he went out to inspect his fields, he found to his amazement his twelve gardinero’s lazing around and sleeping under the shades the Benguet pine trees.

Segundo pulled out 500 pesos from his pocket and offered it to the one who was the “kasadutan” of them all.

Eleven of the gardinero’s jumped up, asserting they were the laziest dog in the universe.

However, Segundo gave the 500 pesos to the twelfth, who continued lying down, not moving and his mouth open. When Segundo offered the money, the twelfth gardinero murmured, “Boss, mabalin kad a ipey mu sinan uneg di bulsak sana ay siping?” (Boss, can you put the money in my pocket?)

Forests have a human side. If we can’t simply understand this, then, kind readers, fools, we are all.

Try remembering John Muir, the Scottish-American naturalist, born April 21, 1838, and known as the early advocate of wilderness preservation in the United States.

Muir said: “”God has cared for

…trees…from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But God cannot save them from fools.”

Ponder for a while these: Some areas, (towns, barangays, cities), in Cordillera, Baguio, unfortunately being included, sometimes love to cut down trees.

But thousands of Cordillera residents nurture them like people. Likewise protecting the trees from being lost.

Such ardor reminds of a preacher who one day dropped by the house a daily laborer, who, whenever he’s sent on an errand, he can’t find his way back home and is always lost.

After making the preacher comfortable, the laborer’s wife asked the preacher, “Well, apo padi, no offense meant, but what might you be doing and looking for, up here in the uplands?”

The preacher said, “Birbirukek dagiti napukpukaw a karnero ta isublik  isuda  iti akem  ni Apo Dios.” (I am looking for lost sheep – meaning sinning mortals – to bring back to God’s fold.)

“Lakay,” the laborer’s wife shouted, “Umay ka man, biit.”

Ah Kong came over. Then Ah’s wife said to the preacher, “Daytoy, apo padi, ni lakay, what you might be lookin’ for.”

When people protect the Benguet pines, there is this agreeableness connectedness with their mountains that mere mention, mere sketch of their landscapes, fires the imagination and carries the region’s pride, that, only in Cordillera can one find the sweet-smelling Benguet pines.

Whoever has not ascended pine-studded Cordillera mountains knows little of the beauties this beautiful upland, the moss, the lichens, spicy shrubs and the fresh aroma of uncultivated soil.

The blade of grass on which we tread, the fly that annoys us with buzzing sound, the worm on which we trample are, for example, curious museum of the art of nature that a multitude of mountain trekkers find in their visitation along Cordillera mountain trails.

By nature’s dictates, only the onset of typhoons tends to disturb the fine thread of activity weaving in and around like a spider’s web in upland Cordillera, grinding to a halt a beehive of activity as the land, its people and its trees hunker down and wait out the storms.

Authorities always remind us to be extra careful and be alert when the land becomes awash with typhoons. Indeed, good readers, grumblers mortals are, when typhoons besiege the land, it’s no time grumbling. We take the situation of the weather with a grain of salt.

It reminds of Roberto Lupinos, a Cordilleran. This daily laborer who, too, loves lazing around by sleeping under a tree’s shade, know of no other man than Roberto who is satisfied of the weather at all times and under all circumstances.

When its summer, is stifling hot and the thermometer has risen, Robert would appear from nowhere with beads of perspiration on his face and says,” Splendid! Perfectly splendid! Fine weather for the poor. Fine weather for the seller of the ice buko, the ice cream vendor and the habanera.”

“Give me your payong, Ah Kong, while I will sit out at your porch with the payong over my head while enjoying the sun,” Roberto would often say.

When it’s rainy season, the cold severe to induce cough and cold and trigger rheumatism among elders, Roberto would say, “Caramba! Have you ever seen such a magnificent weather! Umapatigirgir ti lam-min ket ma-exercise dagiti tumeng!”

When there’s a thunderstorm, Roberto would shout, “Put me in a thunderstorm and let the lightning play around me.”

When there’s no rain at all, Roberto would exclaim, “Magnifico! No rains yet? Never you mind, but I want my weather dry. If anything, I despise carrying an umbrella.”

We delight to think of people pleasing in their imagination even as they somberly pray the hunkering land and they themselves, will be spared from a demon born from the ocean while branches of the Benguet pine trees sway with the wind to carry the prayers to the One Who knows all.