Yesterday I bought a pack of nangka or jackfruit from the grocery store. The smell was so enticing that I had to pick one and convince myself I wasn’t splurging. One pack has 10 seeds and costs 50 pesos. Immediately after paying, I pulled the bubble-wrap, took out one seed at a time and savored every bite. I planned to finish all in one sitting and not have any leftovers inside the refrigerator for later. My Nana, or Yaya, as many would associate her, used to tell me that the smell of this fruit extends unsolicited to all other elements in the fridge, like a surprisingly sweet gesture.
Before transferring to study and eventually own a company based in Davao, I used to live in Dumaguete City. There, we have a two-storey house fenced by a number of mango, chico, and star apple trees, as well as, a good growth of garden vegetables to harvest by season. To welcome visitors in our front yard are other plants such as a line of orchids and relative flowers. The main attraction is like a CTA widget inviting neighbors as it consistently bears two fruits every month. It is our Nangka Tree located on the right side, facing the gate. My Nana would wrap each of the tree’s fruit upon its birth and when it matures, it would reveal a large sweet and fleshy product enough to make a family of five happy. My twin and I, the Nangka and its interests were among Nana’s primary concerns.
Usually, our friends from the subdivision would visit our house just to ask for one fruit for free. And Nana, upon our parents go signal, would offer a fruit, without hesitation. For as long as I could remember, there was always a fruit ready for anyone in need.
In high school, my parents went through a wave of unfortunate events, leaving me and my twin sister with uncertain fates. We hardly had funds to reach school for lack of food provisions and fare. Nana was told to leave the house, if she wished to, because our family could no longer afford her services at that time. Her pay was already three months overdue. Besides, she had already created a very competent resume, having fended for me and my twin for eight straight years. So she could easily find other children to take care and families to work for. Our family was really close to nothing when I was on second year in high school. What we had left visible as our own was our house and two large jackfruits hanging in grandeur beside the support column of our home.
I remember one time, it was a hot day. My parents were off trying to revive finances by going for a quick business trip, then. That morning, I remember staying at the front porch, anxious about being unable to go to school on that day. Quite expectedly, I witnessed Nana put a ladder beside our Nangka Tree. She was a petite woman. I often wondered where she got her physical strength at 42lbs. Her harvest was about 10 kilos but she shouldered it untroubled just like a pro. Then she went off without saying goodbye.
Breakfast had arrived so my twin and I cooked for ourselves. We were alone in a huge house mantled by a favorite tree that felt as if it had turned its back to suffocate us, instead. I honestly thought that was the first time I would take absence from school because I didn’t have any penny inside my pocket. Our house was located almost three hours away from our school by foot and an hour by transportation. In Dumaguete, to go from one area to another you should at least have one of four – a family service, fare for pedicab, enough time to walk from house to school, or have a really good person in your life who is willing to lend you some help.
I wasn’t expecting Nana to arrive thirty-minutes later, wearing a huge smile on her face. Usually, a woman, who takes care of other people’s children, has two kinds of smiles. The first is a smile that shows pride for a new skill mastered by a child under her care. The second is a smile of pride for being able to help solve her family’s problem. Nana wore the second smile. “Gibaligya nimo sa tianggi ang nangka, Na? (Did you sell the jackfruit to the market, Nana)?” my twin asked her.
And she replied with a huge smile, “Oo! Tara. Hatod tamo sa eskwelahan (Yes. Let’s go get you two to school)”.
Our Nangka Tree still stands beside the column of our house. I’ve eventually changed, grew up, and turned out to help my family. Aside from the Nangka, what remain permanent are Nana and her reminders about the tree that will always make every Nangka and its fruit invite an astonished sweet and appealing taste of home.
Glorypearl Dy is co-founder of Switotwins, Inc and head of Switotwins Digital Storytelling.