When I was a little girl, in the provinces of Mindanao, we often climbed trees. It was no big deal; everybody did it. It was fun, and free, and an easy way to grab a ripe fruit or two.
One morning, when I was about six years old, several of us decided to climb a guava tree. There were about five of us: me, my older sister, several of my cousins, and a neighbor boy. You may not know this, but guava trees are tall and skinny, and very flexible, and under the weight of so many children this tree bent way, way down, almost to the ground.
I don’t know what inspired me, but I decided to climb near to the top of this tree. There were lots of fruits up there, and, besides, it was fun! I remember sitting there, feeling proud of how far I had climbed. Just imagine if that tree were to be straight again, how high up I would be!
While lost in my thoughts, I did not notice that all of the others had gone to the bottom of the tree. As they jumped off, one by one, the tree slowly began to return to an upright position. My sister yelled “Jump!” at me just before the last two jumped off, but by that point I was too scared to move.
I was now wrapped around the top of a guava tree, some twenty or more feet up in the air, holding on for dear life!
My sister started screaming, and Mama came running. She took one look at me, yelled at me to, “Panghawid! Panghawid!”, (Hold on! Hold on!), and ran to get Papa.
After what was probably just a few minutes, but seemed to me like an eternity, Papa arrived. He climbed up the guava tree, to the top where I was clinging desperately. His weight bent the tree back down, close to the ground, so that I could jump off.
Hooray! I was safe! I was still shaking with fear, so Mama gave me a big hug.
Then came the punishment! Papa had us all line up, and then all of us got a hard whack on our bottoms! Papa lectured me not to climb guava trees anymore, then we all went home.
My older sister was mad at me for the rest of the day. “Why didn’t you jump off when the rest of us did?”, she hissed at me. I didn’t answer. It was my fault; I should have been paying closer attention.
It was years before I climbed a tree again.