27 Sep2011

Sometimes, the planets just seem so misaligned. First of all, I hope all readers and your families are safe and sound after the passing of Pedring, the latest typhoon to blow through Luzon which I am sure wreaked havoc with trees, homes, crops, etc. over the past two days. Days like today make you seek the bright side of any situation, and that is how I choose to end my day… I was in Cebu earlier today, and in the wee hours of the morning, during a particularly gusty windy period (not sure if this was related to Pedring up North or not), one of the massive kapok trees in the garden just snapped and keeled over. It was an extremely sad loss. I love large old trees (this one probably 50-70 years old and standing at least 6-7 storeys high) and they are often mentioned on this blog. Boohoo.

I think I first featured this particular tree in this post from 4 years ago, just before the Bourdain visit. The tree was also featured, here, here and here. It was the perch for a visiting sea hawk, here, and the focal point of a sweeping camera shot at the close of the No Reservations episode. Folks who have attended the two eyeballs in Cebu would remember the tree, here and here; and it was right beside the new outdoor space of Zubuchon.

On the bright side, the tree chose to fall at perhaps the only angle and space where it would do minimal damage. No one was hurt. It missed the new outdoor space that was finished just a couple of months ago, breaking just a few tiles on the steps leading up to the terrace. It crushed the kamuning hedge, took down all of our phone and telecomms lines, but then lay prostate on the grassy lawn, narrowly missing an electric pole and transformer, and its smaller branches just reaching the cement wall some 60-80 feet away! It missed falling on three company vehicles/vans just inches away, and it spared our offices, where it could have literally flattened several desks, computers, files, and important sculptures and artwork. So yes, we were extremely lucky and fortunate that the tree “chose” to take a kinder path down… Now the task of clearing several thousand kilos worth of wood will fall on the gardeners and hired hands with chain saws who will hopefully get the gardens back in shape for several events scheduled in mid-October, less one beautiful tree…

It seems the culprits were thousands of termites who had eaten much of the base of the tree, weakening it from inside (there were no obvious signs on the bark of the tree) and making it snap in a gusty windstorm. But with every death, there should be new life. Over the past three years, we have planted over a hundred hardwood trees on the property, and many of them are thriving. So while we will definitely miss the large and imposing kapok tree, others will grow to take its place. All of the wood from the felled tree will be used as kindling for our lechon and chicharon operations, so hundreds of Zubuchon clients will in some way benefit from the tree in the months ahead… Which takes me to around 9am this morning, just as we found out Philippine Airlines had no planes flying today… Scheduled on the 8am-ish flight was a VIP (a Very Important Pig for a Very Important Person). All of of our clients are very important to us, but inevitably, some lechons are headed to seriously VIP VIP’s… And it was booked on PAL cargo. So no lechon for VIP VIP today. Thankfully, the client was aware of the PAL issues and fully understood this was “force majeure” of sorts and out of our hands. Next problem, how was I going to get home on the 540pm PAL flight if there were no planes flying? This was a major issue as Cebu had some 2,000+ other folks in the same predicament.

The short story? I am home. And happy to be home. And I won’t narrate what I had to do to get home. I commiserate with the thousands of passengers who are stranded or discombobulated by the PAL strike/walkout/slowdown today. At the airport this evening, after a stunning landing on an Airphil Express A320, in wickedly stormy conditions, I glanced at an amazing yet sad sight — some 28+ PAL planes all parked and double-parked at the PAL terminal. Operations disrupted today will affect thousands of passengers around the country and the world. I wouldn’t fly PAL for the next few weeks at least until things get back to normal. So goodnight, it’s time for me to get some much needed sleep, but I will think of the kapok tree with a smile on my face as I doze off into lalaland.

Note: Top photo taken by JD.



  1. la emperor says:

    Wicked! Glad no one was hurt which is the important thing. Interestingly enough, we had a storm here in Vancouver in the last few days, and guess what. Lots of fallen trees as well and power outages for 15000 utility customers. The storm was brewed from a remnant of another storm in Japan and brought in by the earth’s jet stream into the West Coast. Talk about long travels.

    Like the photo of your long table setting. ( without the fallen tree..:-) )

    Sep 28, 2011 | 12:31 am


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  3. cwid says:

    What a beautiful setting for an outdoor dinner, especially with the candlelight. Too bad that Vancouver is always too cold for dinner in the garden even in the summer. For me anyway.

    I am sorry for the loss of your kapok tree but life goes on with the hardwood trees.

    I hope that the damage from the typhoon will not be too severe in other parts of the country.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 1:03 am

  4. dhayL says:

    bye bye kapok tree, im sure it served its purpose well.. im glad that no one was seriously hurt! stay safe all!

    Sep 28, 2011 | 2:54 am

  5. marilen says:

    A noble giant felled. Thankfully, MM, you did not experience much damage. Always sad at the demise of 50-60 year old trees.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 4:21 am

  6. giancarlo says:

    I don’t know why the fall of a large tree is making me reflective, maybe too reflective.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 5:02 am

  7. Natie says:

    Lots of blessings to count,MM. I watched the news of Pedrong’s wrath. Terrible floods! Hope fellow-readers in the Phil are as blessed..

    Sep 28, 2011 | 5:32 am

  8. Ging says:

    Dont worry MM. Just plant a new tree in its place. Kapok trees grow very fast.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 5:40 am

  9. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    Hopefully, you went home to electricity. Susie B posted in her wall that she was stranded in manila sans electricity at her sister’s house.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 6:24 am

  10. Betchay says:

    They say most times misfortunes come in threes: your fallen Kapok tree, non delivery of VIP VIP and your flight home with PAL in the middle of their strike at the height of typhoon Pedring! Really really sorry and I am just amazed how you kept cool all those times.
    Anyway, last Monday, hubby already decided to return our domestic and international PAL tickets–never mind the penalties that will be imposed. Should have gone yesterday to the ticketing office but there was the typhoon… and strike so leaving early today to return tickets. Yeah, a relief from worries and stress in doing this but it also means will not be tasting Zubuchon soon! :( Hu!Hu!Hu! :(

    Sep 28, 2011 | 6:53 am

  11. melanie says:

    Add this ‘benefit’ by the fallen kapok…you ‘ll be checking on possible termite infestation of the other trees!

    Sep 28, 2011 | 7:17 am

  12. millet says:

    still, blessings…

    Sep 28, 2011 | 7:56 am

  13. Ley says:

    That kapok tree will surely be missed:(

    Sep 28, 2011 | 9:37 am

  14. Faith says:

    I read or heard someplace that planting yellow ginger around the property will help deter termites. Hopefully that option will work for you. :) Cheers!

    Sep 28, 2011 | 12:35 pm

  15. Edik says:

    I will miss that tree. Termites are also attacking my books- twice! That canful of Baygon spray didn’t help.

    Sep 28, 2011 | 8:08 pm

  16. RobKSA says:

    I sent my valuables to the Philippines to escape the desert storm war. paintings, photographs from exhibits, what not. all eaten by termites without us knowing, until the kasambahay noted that the boxes where they were stored are sort of getting lighter. our house in mandaluyong has seen several termite treatments but until now we are not sure if they are still there or not. also the narra tree in front of us might be their house but not sure. can’t even trim the tree without going to who knows what. we are told we need the Environmental department’s approval and others as well just to trim it. *&$$66&#@

    Sep 28, 2011 | 8:59 pm

  17. Topster says:

    Hi MM, glad you’re back home. Sayang, too bad for the old kapok tree. It has been a prominent fixture and we’ve seen it as background in the various activities shared in this blog. Anyway, as you said one has to look at the bright side of things. :)

    Sep 28, 2011 | 9:25 pm

  18. Betchay says:

    Where ever there’s wood— termites are not far behind! They are the silent destroyer of our homes. One part of a friend’s home wall was totally eaten by termites with them clueless until one of them accidentally pressed on the wall and it totally gave way! A long time ago,in the old house we grew in, the big mango tree beside our house just suddenly fell down hitting our roof—-culprit: termites!
    Presently we’re living in an area infested by termites too. On our 2nd year, we were horrified to discover termites eating their way in at the kitchen pantry and helper’s quarters.We had it treated with the usual anti termite chemicals but I was told for it to be effective there should be at least a schedule of 6months apart treatment. Fearful of the bad effects of chemicals to our health, I frantically searched online for a safer method and that’s where I discovered Sentricon. Yeah it is a bit expensive but it does the job. We’re at peace knowing that our house and the precious books my hubby collects are safe. I am in no way connected with the company but I just wanted to share what works for us.
    On a side note, did you know that garden termites(bigger ones) most often just stays in the garden while the house termites( small white ones) are the ones that eat their way into our homes? Gladly welcome ants in your homes as apparently they deter termites—-they are enemies! :)

    Sep 29, 2011 | 8:57 am

  19. Joel says:

    This is the second sad story I read today. First one involved the farmers in Pampanga whose lives were made miserable by Pedring. Some of them were weeping while trying to harvest what’s left of their palay flattened by the strong winds. They wept not just because they won’t be earning anything for this period but also because the loans they used to plant came from pawning their land.

    Sep 29, 2011 | 10:40 am

  20. Gej says:

    Joel, that’s really the sad plight of most of our farmers. Those who extend credit in the form of funds or seeds to these farmers are able to get produce from them at ridiculously low prices – in effect they extend their credit at usurious rates. Yet if the crops are destroyed by storms,the debt of the farmer remains, creating a downward credit spiral. Small Filipino farmers practically take on all risk in agriculture – weather, gluts, credit, increasing costs of inputs even as they get a continually decreasing share of the final price of farm goods, etc.

    In the Philippines you have the farmer at the center of agriculture, taking on a small share of agriculture revenues, but the bulk of the sweat. Then you have all these other entities around him – traders, chemical companies, retailers, processors, consolidators, supermarkets etc who are the ones who earn. And yet without the initial back-breaking work of the farmer, nothing happens.

    That is why it is possible to see a situation here where, for example, the coconut industry is said to be one of the most promising areas in Philippine agriculture, but where coconut farmers are the poorest in the country.

    Sep 29, 2011 | 1:23 pm

  21. Mart says:

    So sad to hear about the kapok. Good to hear it’ll be helping as kindling for the lechons and chicharons. Kinda reminds me of the giving tree. Or the Lion King’s circle of life. But with delicious lechon!

    Sep 29, 2011 | 2:04 pm

  22. quiapo says:

    Termites are a big problem in Australia, particularly as the most effective chemical treatments are now banned. You need to find the main source and destroy it as your whole premises are in danger. In a previous residence I found the top 2 shelves of one of the book cases had been completely hollowed out, leaving the spines intact, as well as one leg of a camphor chest. We could not find the main nest, it was probably on another property. I moved house.

    Sep 29, 2011 | 3:45 pm

  23. susie b says:

    It was nice to run into you yesterday….it took me 10 hours from the moment I got to the airport in Manila to the time I got home to Bauhinia Drive. I had to feel for the PAL volunteers manning the check-in counters…incredibly thankless job to have to face a totally p.o.’ed public! Thank goodness for the stash of books sister dear insisted I bring home with me!

    Sep 29, 2011 | 9:02 pm

  24. weng says:

    Marketman, I know this is off-topic but I just saw this article and thought it might cheer you up a bit. Your website got a mention on Saveur.com as one of the must-read sites in the international food blogging community. Here’s the link:


    Sep 30, 2011 | 7:37 am

  25. Connie C says:

    Greetings from Maputo, Mozambique on a two day rest after a 3 day safari at the Kruger National Park, ZA before we fly back to Jo burg and Capetown.

    Sorry about the falling of your kapok tree. We have had two occasions in our property in Maryland where several old growth trees , trunks as large or larger than the embrace of two long armed men were felled by storms. It really makes me sad as these trees can no longer be replaced in my lifetime.

    At the Kruger National Park, countless trees are constantly being felled, twisted and broken, stripped of their barks by the 17,000 elephants who roam in this 2 million hectare reserve that is their home. It is a big conservation management problem as one just can t kill elephants. Good thing an elephant only produces 4 in its lifetime. I also wondered about their termite problem as there are termite mounds everywhere, but then they have lots of broken and felled trees to feed on, one of nature s wonderful ways of managing its waste.

    Oct 1, 2011 | 4:02 am

  26. cebuana101 says:

    :( one tree down…well, time to grow another one market man!!! btw, me and a couple of friends had a wonderful time at Zubuchon Mango, we all pledged to bring our other friends their. as expected, the lechon is excellent, we all loved the dinuguan and the kamias shake.:)

    Oct 1, 2011 | 9:52 am


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