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Fire trees and flags

QUICK, before the flame flowers of the fire tree melt, dissolve in the rains of June, drive around Quezon City or go south to Cavite-Laguna and see how the sunset-hued treetops have divided the year in two. Yes, before we know it, it will be Christmas, and Christmas traffic, alas!

Before the nightmare arrives, see what a beautiful sight they are, those sturdy trees so defiant of the rain and so-called thunderstorms, standing tall and proud, flourishing with their fiery heads even as they have begun to shed cascades of petals. If anyone talks of the resiliency of this nation, let them use the fire tree as a metaphor, those trees and those blossoms that look like flame-hued leaves, nothing more, withstanding sun and rain for weeks (sometimes a month and a half), nothing like the world-famous cherry blossoms of Japan that cling to twigs and branches for a mere three or four days before succumbing to the laws of nature. Our fire trees – why are they called “caballero” in Spanish? – are stronger, mightier, their green leaves and red-orange flowers playing hide-and-seek until, sometimes, there are no more green leaves left to count, everything transformed into a mass of petals on fire demanding attention.

We want attention, in the heat of summer as we look for shade and in the season of typhoons and floods as we hide from nature’s freaky moods. Fernando Amorsolo made it a point to include a fire tree in many, if not most, of his paintings. The 17th Congress could pass a law making it a crime to chop down a strong and sturdy, mighty and mightily beautiful tree.

On the way to fire tree-friendly Tagaytay, taking the old route and avoiding SLEX, what an eye-opener, the sight of a long, long stretch of the highway decorated with thousands of flags on the center islands along the towns of Imus, Bacoor, and Dasmariñas! Each pair of flags framed by wooden sticks to show off the blue, red, white, and gold – no fluttering, no folding in the breeze – for as the traffic islands stretched from one town to the next, the passenger in his vehicle and the pedestrian walking on two feet could not help concluding that Cavite must be, has to be flag country! Cavite, home of the first republic, Cavite showing the rest of the country what love of country looks like as a physical expression of prideful patriotism. (JULLIE Y. DAZA)