Before this colorful monstrosity was built,
it was a large grassy pot of land with two trees on the opposite corners. The tree on the right didn’t play a very big role in this story, but the Balete on the left was where everything began.
Balete trees have long been associated with demonic, out-of-this-world creatures that kidnap and possess humans. Its wide branches, tendriled and vined, weighed down further by heavy leaves form a menacing shape that spawns the superstitions. The one in our schoolyard proved to be no different. Our entire second grade class, from sections A to D, was lined on the second floor of the building just beside the empty lot. Our young, overactive imaginations, coupled by the fact that the material for speculation was an easy distance away, resulted in numerous rumors circling this infamous tree. My memory’s fuzzy but my contribution to the rumor mill was branches and leaves that “move” on their own. In my head I’m yelling at my seven-year-old counterpart, pointing out the effects of wind, gravity, and atmospheric pressure.
Paranoid little second-graders blamed this oblivious tree for practically anything–rash, psychological headaches, imagined colds. That Balete was the plague, the moldy cheese slice of St. Joseph School.
Only a few dared to go near… those who were literally dared to. A group of girls from section B was one of the braver ones who actually went there voluntarily. Vivienne, Lorraine, and Cassandra (I think). Cassandra was the ringleader of their little bevy. One of the few regrets I have of my school is the culture that the kids from the honors class avoided mingling with the other sections–a malpractice encouraged even by the teachers. Anyway, those three girls spent every recess climbing–guarding– that tree, barking at anyone within a five-meter radius. One day, when the end-of-recess bell rang, the three hurriedly ran to their respective line but something was different. Cassandra was, apparently, possessed. She pushed and angrily shouted at everyone in her line of path. Whispered prayers went underway in between fearful requests of Shen Fu blessing the damned tree.
It was probably a couple of months before everything went back to normal (including Cassandra who recovered just in time for dismissal to meet her parents). The Balete finally consumed its 15 minutes of infamy.
I don’t think Cassandra (?) ever graduated from our school. I wonder what happened to her. A few years after the mass hysteria, the Balete was cut down, along with the other tree to build the new nursery building. I’m not sure which is worse–a demonically possessed medicinal plant or a massive construction that’s an insult to architecture everywhere.
Other tree-related stories:
1. Back in the old Kindergarten grounds, there was a three-pronged tree that everyone wanted to lounge on. I used to love laying around there during recess with whoever was my favored friend for the week. Hahaha. I’m such a bully. There’s a little hole in the rightmost “prong,” roughly the size of a vienna sausage. Some person said that snakes exit through there, since then, no one stuck around that tree again.
2. There’s a tiny coconut tree in the small field between the old Grade 4-turned Glee Club building and the old Kindergarten area. Over time, that tree had curved into a slight “c.” It was the sad victim of a favorite running-high-kick game we used to take turns playing. Unfortunately, our mad kicking skills caused that tree early onset osteoporosis. 😦