Chickens and coconuts

Truth be told, I was already half way through another column item where I wrote about Oxymoron, Paradox and Moronic aspects of the government’s anti-COVID-19 program. I was beginning to believe that the government was gaining control of the situation after vaccine supplies started to arrive in bulk and with regularity, when vaccination centers and programs were rolling out the “jabs” and as the number of cases in the NCR started to drop.

But sadly some talking heads with no medical degree or qualifications started to declare that being fully vaccinated was not enough basis for slow normalization of movement, especially for senior citizens above 65 years of age. How crazy is it that the government allows millions of unvaccinated workers and employees to commute, travel and come into contact with others but deny movement for those fully vaccinated?! What incentive is there if, after being vaccinated, you will continue to be detained? I call it NUTS and now choose to write about coconuts!

Many years ago when our place in Lipa City was more open space than fenced properties, the only markers we had were coconut trees planted in rows approximately 20 feet apart. I never did find out why the trees were planted with this distance between trees 50 years ago, but most farms have the same feature where rows and rows of coconuts are planted with symmetrical accuracy. Unfortunately, there are fewer coconuts left, as many of them were destroyed by the Cocolisap or the coconut scale insect back in 2014 or because owners decided to sell the trees as “coco lumber” rather than maintain them. Yes, owning several coconut trees comes with serious responsibility and in order to make that point, allow me to share a real life comic-tragedy concerning a rooster.

As I was saying, our property did not originally have fences or barriers so when it came time to pick a chicken for lunch or dinner, it often involved a chase where two to three persons would try and grab the chosen sacrifice. In general, the chase would be no longer than five maybe 10 minutes but in one rare case, we could not catch this clever rooster who could have been a champion dodge ball player. Even four or five expert chicken catchers were no match for this high flying sprinter of a rooster. We could not even catch it at night because it always roosted on the highest branches that would not hold the weight of a small boy. So often, we would end up getting the second fastest runner or another chicken through dumb luck. It got to the point when after many failed attempts and dirty looks from said rooster, we would simply declare: “May araw ka rin!” (One day we’ll get you). Believe it or not that day came, but not through a chase.

I was walking past the rooster one day as he eyed me suspiciously and I returned his dirty look with equal contempt and a promise he would soon be a rooster in coconut milk. As I looked away, I hear a loud thud followed by a squawk! A coconut fell from above and landed on the back of elusive rooster. God had provided me with all the necessary ingredients for dinner!

Most people who’ve never spent a lot of time around farms or coconut trees may find this hard to believe, but such accidents happen more often than you know. A coconut recently missed me by a meter and we are trained to instinctively run away from a coconut tree when we hear sudden loud rustling of leaves because that can only mean that an old branch weighing several kilos is crashing down your direction.

These potential accidents are the common concerns of owners and so we have to regularly pick fruits or clear old branches. In the younger days, most of us could manage to climb an average tree but as we got older, our knees and confidence began to tremble and those darn trees seem to get taller. So now we have to find other people to do it, which turns out to be a process that takes weeks of canvassing for prices and extreme haggling.

Two weeks ago the quote was P400 per tree. When I balked and called it highway robbery, the price went down to P4 per coconut. Other quotations were a combination of per tree plus per coconut. Others would only do one tree a week, etc. I finally got the price to P3 per coconut but after seeing how laden with coconuts the first two trees were, I think I’ve just been had. I actually went out to ask the 50-year-old climber how many coconuts there are per tree on the average and he said 150 pieces because every bunch often has 20 coconuts in it.

Now I understand why many farm owners simply contract their coconuts to haulers or Viajeros who bring the coconuts to Metro Manila and sell them for P35 a piece. If you’re not much into “buko” or coconut juice, getting rid of the risk and getting a pittance is better than paying a month’s wage to a climber. After taking down the coconut bombs, my next challenge now is what to do with the “packaging” or coconut husk and shell that takes forever to de-compose! I guess that’s why buko is expensive, considering trucking, distribution and disposal. Rather than be stuck with nearly a thousand nuts and husks, the perfect solution is to start my own “coconut pantry” outside the compound!

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