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Four Years at the Mount

Freshman year


Angela Tongohan
Class of 2020

(4/2017) When I think of a tree, I imagine the tall, narrow trunk of the coconut tree, the long rib-like leaves that sway in the wind, and the little clumps of coconuts gathered at the very top.

In the Philippines, there are many trees. Trees of different shapes and sizes. There is the mango tree, which has a small trunk that carries a large afro of banana-shaped leaves. The mangoes hide in between the leaves, clumped together like giant grape clusters.

Then there is the guyabano tree, a small tree, easily found by the side of the street. Its oval leaves are often sparse and delicate, which is quite the contradiction when you see the green, prickly skin of the guyabano.

It is a wonder to imagine my mother growing up in the Philippines. She would always tell me stories of when she was young. She said that whenever she was hungry, she just had to walk outside to the large guyabano tree outside her house and pick the fruit off the branches. She told me of how she would often spend hours on my grandfatherís farm, sitting under a mango tree and eating as many mangoes as her stomach would allow.

When I visited the Philippines a few years ago, I was determined to live life as she did when she was young. I ditched my cell phone and fancy clothes, and prepared myself to embrace the culture my mother called her own.

The Philippines is a green place. Everywhere you look, you find nature. Our house was surrounded by all types of trees. There were trees that bore fruit and trees that bore flowers. Down the street, the rice fields begin, and acres and acres of land are littered with the little sprouts from the rice plants.

Hidden in the hills surrounding our town, there were magnificent, tall waterfalls. These waterfalls slowly dripped into separate lagoons, encased in walls of silver rocks. The air was clean, fresh, and never too humid.

The days went by so slowly when I was visiting. My uncles were older and were enjoying the fruits of their labor. They no longer worried about working in the fields because they were finally wealthy enough to hire someone to do it for them. They often slept in the hammocks outside their houses deep into the afternoon, waking up every so often only to jump on a motorcycle and buy some food in the town proper.

I found myself spending my days wandering around. Sometimes, I would explore the creeks that ran through the woods, or I would sit on our front porch and watch mischievous monkeys try to steal food from small stores. My favorite thing to do was to take a trip to the city at night. Cars were only used for long trips because they were too big and bulky for the narrow streets of the countryside, so my cousins would take me along on their motorcycles.

Imagine driving down a long road with nothing but the outline of mountains on either side of you, and a scattered disarray of twinkling stars above your head. Those were my favorite nights in the Philippines.

During the few times my mother and I were not too busy, she would take me to my grandfatherís farm.

My grandfather had built a house when he was younger just for my grandmother. It was a stately house, with marble floors and columns. The inside was filled with custom made furniture and blankets. He had it placed in the very center of his citrus farm. Behind the house towered an army of coconut trees, while in front of it sat a small cluster of pineapple plants.

My mother took me to a more secluded area of the farm, where a small hut had been built beside a large mango tree. The mango tree was rather wide, and its branches hung low to the ground. She showed me how to sneak under to a spot where there was just enough space for us to sit without hitting our heads.

She showed me a small spot on the tree where the bark had been chipped away. Etched in the trunk, now quite faded away with time, were my motherís initials.

As we sat under the tree, I imagined how different life must have been for her and my family. How simpler and happier life must have been. They grew up without the distractions of technology, without a dependency on social media to interact.

Her memories are eternal, imbedded in the places she visited and the trees she laid under. I thought of myself and the memories I created, how they were always interrupted by the need to take a video or snap a selfie.

They were enjoying life to the fullest, and taking things as they came. They felt no need to record every insignificant thing that happened to them, or to post it for all to see. They enjoyed their surrounding nature as they saw it, and I find it truly magnificent.

When I think of a tree, I imagine the tall, narrow trunk of the coconut tree, and the memories I made in the Philippines.

ey could make Annie as happy as she was at this moment. That she didnít need to live like a princess to be a princess. She was so utterly content with life and living life that she found no need for materialistic things that money could give her. She was satisfied and she was happy. And that was good enough for me.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan