PANTAW A MAREG: This pandemic has brought back the old Meranaws in us

MARAWI CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) – I am not a plantita.

Being a “plantita” or the more “sosyal” name “plaunty” is a new concept. It’s a trend brought about by the pandemic. This trend is aptly known as plantdemic as well.

The love for plants and planting had been nurtured in me since I was a young and small girl back in Ramain, Lanao del Sur, the hometown of my parents. I shuffled between my paternal and maternal grandmothers and our big houses are literally inside a mini-forest with all the fruit-bearing trees  and vegetable crops surrounding them.

It was never a thing to go to the market to buy vegetables. I remember my grandfather who would often go “Dansalan” to buy essentials like Milo, coffee, sugar, salt, canned sardines, and some snacks for me and drop them off to me and my tiny grandmother while en route home to his last wife. Buying vegetables and fruits then wasn’t necessary at all. Yes, we used to refer to Marawi City then as Dansalan and use the word as a verb as well. “Mindansalan” means someone went to Dansalan.

This pandemic has, I would like to believe, brought back the old Meranaws in us. I now see a lot of Meranaws following the trend and buying plants, pots, and flowers regardless of prices like there’s no tomorrow. The amount of money that some of us are willing to shell out for aglaonema, philodendron, and caladium to name a few just blows my mind. I guess, I couldn’t be a plantita if that’s what it means to be one.

I had been planting since as far as I can remember. Whenever I am around, there are many plants at home. If I am out somewhere out there in other parts of the world, my garden misses me the most. I can tell because by the time I come home, most of my plants are already dead in their grief for me. My bonsais have become giants as well after being left outside for too long. They decided that their small containers are too restricting and they easily found their way out to the soil and become giant bonsais instead, if there’s such a thing.

I love and hate this plantdemic. I hate it because the plants I used to buy are now ridiculously expensive beyond my reach. People have become plant thieves as well. I call them Plantekhaw, the lower level, and Plantakhad, the higher level.

Plantekhaw are those plant thieves who will either uproot new sprouts or take some cuttings without permission. The higher level are those thieves who steal pots and plants altogether. Believe me, there are some. Some of my colleagues at the University Library have complained that after they brought out their potted plants to sunbathe, they just disappeared in thin air. It is our policy to make our libraries as green as possible and it saddens me that my colleagues’ effort to support our advocacy of greening the library is hampered by temporary plant addicts.

The thing I love in this plantdemic is the obvious — I love plants and I wish and dream of my city becoming a flower and vegetable garden city! We have more than enough idle lands to turn into beautiful gardens. We have more than enough rain for the plants to grow on their own. If only this plantdemic will not end and result into something concrete!

For now, I am just savoring the natural high that this bonsai, a gift to me by a beloved cousin, gives me. This plantdemic virus which I enjoy rather than suffer from has been with me for a long time and I hope and pray that all of those I get in contact with catch it as well and may we never recover from it until we make Dansalan a flower and vegetable garden city! (MindaNews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Elin Anisha Guro is the OIC Director of the University Library of the Mindanao State University’s main campus in Marawi City)