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The Old Tree

A fictional story about a seaside town
Told via the perspective of an old tree
But it's history all its very own
About a people longing to be free
~Vic Evora

A gigantic tree, a hundred feet tall
Its canopy akin to voluminous drapes
And its knuckled branches are twisted
Into gnarly arthritic shapes.
It’s been around umpteen generations
From misfortunes, a thousand escapes
But it held its own over the centuries
An assured presence in changing landscapes
 
The tree sprouted on a barren hillside
Among small rocks and giant boulders
Open spaces from the hills to the sea
But now lined with fences and borders
Livestock, nipa huts, irrigated fields
Younger trees, mimicking gallant soldiers
Dispersed in the rolling contoured terrain
The old tree stood taller to all beholders
 
By the seashore a small village was born
When hunter tribesmen turned to farming
Then the white men came to subjugate them
Built a stone church, started proselytizing
Peace and tranquility ruled for generations
But underneath, seething discontent churning
Under the old tree rebellious youth met
Inciting resistance in all freedom-loving
 
Alas! The colonizers were cunning and deceitful
Over the centuries the old tree saw atrocities
Against the downtrodden native people;
Their iron-fisted rule unleashed calamities
Still in calmer days, much happiness been had
Around the old tree, a gathering of families
Teens carved initials, hearts, love pledges
That survived upheavals over the centuries
 
For three hundred years the invaders prevailed
Local intermittent uprisings unsuccessful
Each one followed by periods of faux tranquility
Always there’s apathy for conditions dreadful...
The tree witnessed all, suffered in silence
When young and old visit feeling vengeful
Venting violent anger on the passive tree
With arrows and knives; sullen and resentful
 
But at last, the young heroes banded as one
And cleared the countryside of the invaders
Who retreated to the city in the big island.
The town finally led by its own leaders
Wild, jubilant celebrations around the tree
Festooned with buntings and colorful streamers.
For a short while, the townspeople independent
In their abilities, they soon became believers
 
Alas! A new tribe of white men swept the town
More powerful than the previous colonizer
They came to evangelize the natives too
Same God, same faith, powerful tranquilizer
To pacify the natives and keep them satisfied
Lull them to stupor, lest they be any wiser
Thus, convinced they’re white men’s burden
For them the new masters can’t be any nicer
 
The old tree witnessed a lovefest for fifty years
As nearly all soon adored the Nordic overlords
Adopted their language, albeit heavily accented
Native tongues lisped over the foreign words!
But the old tree flourished in the peacetime high
Though calm serenity maintained by alien swords
Its girth grew bounds in the town’s embrace
And watching the old tree thrive their just rewards
 
Sadly, a fireball sent the world into a tailspin
Most destructive pitiless of human activities
The quiet town escaped not the global tinderbox
As overlords left, stragglers came from the cities
Along with new masters from the rising sun
Violent taskmasters bent on committing atrocities
Townspeople went underground to fight the occupiers
Despite the fear engulfing the town’s communities
 
Fortuitously, the occupation lasted only four years
The previous overlords came back claiming primacy
But in the town’s reconquest, a monumental fiasco
The iron birds missed the target, hit the old tree
One powerful bomb enough to split its trunk in two
Scorch all its branches; begone its leafy canopy
In its place atop the hill overlooking the town
A tree stump all that’s left visible from the sea
 
Epilogue
 
Seventy years hence, no sign of the tree remains
But in its place there exists a granite monument;
The statue of the general who promised to return
Overlooks the town, blatant political mis-statement
Few feet away, a plaque commemorates the old tree
Olive branch to those who view statue with resentment
The tree lives in pictures; but remains in all their hearts
For it symbolizes their history, their joy and torment!
 
07-16-2021
© Vic Evora

“Can you imagine the feeling of being an oppressed colonial being addressed respectfully by a colonizer in the mother country?”
Ambeth Ocampo, Rizal Without the Overcoat

2021

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