Saturday, January 8, 2011

Nana Juaning's Bantulinao

I got my very first bantulinao from one of our old cooks, Nana Juaning. She would see me tending to the garden and would always utter 'ay wala kang bantulinao!' (you do not have bantulinao). I remember asking what bantulinao was but she always kept on describing it vaguely to me. 'Ay, ang ganda ganda nun!' she always added. I tried googling it then (in 2003) but there was always no result. Her accounts decribed bantulinao as a native species in her hometown in Samar. She said grows in the outcrops of limestone along the coastline.

Two years after, Nana Juaning was not anymore working for my family, I got a call from her niece who just got back to Manila from Samar. She said Nana Juaning sent me 3 seedlings of her fabled bantulinao. It took a good friend to fetch it from the niece's house in Paranaque and another 3 months for the bantulinao to finally reach me (as the friend also stays in Paranaque and we rarely see each other). But when the plant finally arrived in the house, indeed I was immediately enamoured by the bantulinao. It is a bushy plant with very attractive dark glossy leaves. The stems are also deep colored, almost black. Since I already had specimens, it was easy to research what the plant in question was. It turned out that bantulinao is a Diospyros species related to the kamagong or mabolo. That is why it had almost black stems, reminiscent of the dark ebony wood common in Diospyros. Bantulinao is argued as being either Diospyros ferrea or Diospyros littorea. But it is probably littorea which connotes it is common along the shore.

Now, five years later, Nana Juaning's small seedlings are about my height, growing potted in my garden. Occasionally it brought out very tiny tulip like flowers. But this year, the bantulinao gave us a special treat by fruiting (which did not develop fully). Which proves that the bantulinao is capable of fruiting in cultivation. Our old cook's legacy has truly become one of my treasured collections in my garden.

1 comment:

malensky said...

we have plenty of these at home. i never paid attention to them until my father said they can be styled as Bonsai. i tried googling more info and landed here somehow

:) nana juaning would be happy to see those bantulinaos in your garden