Elias and His Trees Adapted from Jean Giono’s “The Man Who Planted Trees”
By Augie Rivera
Artworks by Romeo Forbes

“Your father and I, we both have moles on the soles of our feet!” my mother always told me while I was growing up. She was convinced that if your foot had a mole on its sole, you would always be itching to wander around the world. It must have been those moles that sent my mother and father sailing away in 1920 from the town of Tierra Verde in the Philippines to seek adventure and fortune in the sugarcane plantations of Hawaii.

I was born and raised here, but I was weaned on the stories my parents told me about the town they left behind. In my young mind, the map of Tierra Verde took shape and came to life - its verdant mountains, lush forests, pristine streams, towering trees, and crystal rivers. I wondered what sort of magic the moles possessed, to have charmed my parents away from such a beautiful country.

“Pareho kami ng tatay mo, may nunal sa talampakan!” Yun ang laging sinasabi sa akin ni Nanay noong bata pa ako. Marka raw yun ng isang taong hindi makapirmi sa iisang lugar. Marahil, ang mga nunal na iyon ang nag-udyok sa kanilang lisanin ang bayan ng Tierra Verde sa Pilipinas noong 1920 upang makipagsapalaran sa mga plantasyon ng tubo dito sa Hawaii.

Dito na ako isinilang at ngakamulat. Ganunpaman, ipinaghele ako ng matatamis na kuwento nina Nanay at Tatay tungkol sa nilisan nilang bayan. Sa aking murang isipan, nabuhay at nagkahugis ang mapa ng Tierra Verde – ang luntiang kabundukan, mayabong na gubat, sariwang bukal, matatayog ng puno, at malakristal na ilog. Ano kayang halina ang taglay ng nunal sa talampakan na nagtulak sa mga magulang kong lisanin ang ganoong kagandang bayan?

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