- Published: Thursday, 15 June 2017 14:30
Victor Peñaranda – The Philippines
Act of Naming
The melodious singing of a bird woke me up one morning. I quickly got up to survey the garden hoping to spot the singer. It was a Pied Fantail (Maria Kapra) perched on top of the tall trunk of a dying Ilang-ilang tree that was hit by lightning several months ago.
I proceeded to take a morning walk around the neighborhood and noticed that the Bee-eaters have returned. A small flock of Chestnut Munia (Mayang Pula) was feeding on grass seeds. Egrets and Terns were probing the freshly-plowed fields. Two farmers were reinforcing with mud the elevated pathways in between paddies. With rain showers pouring almost regularly in the afternoon, the farmers might start planting the rice seedlings in a week or so.
I grew up in places where I learned to name birds, trees, rivers and streams. It was an unspoken tradition among the farming and fishing families to name the life forms in their natural environment. I lived near the neighborhood of these families in my childhood. During one dry season, my childhood friends and I strolled along the banks of a stream near our home. We went exploring and, like most children, searching for the unexpected. Someone in the group said that the stream had no name. Another companion remarked, “It’s but right that we give it a name.” We finally agreed to call it “Sapang Bayawak” since it was here we once saw a large monitor lizard sunning on a boulder near the waters.
Naming is an act of recognition. I consider it important and respectful to know the names of particular trees, flowers, birds, mountains or streams, especially when you live among them. Knowing their names establishes their identity. It means taking time to learn more about the surrounding natural environment. I would search from google or pore over reference books. In the process, a closer relationship emerges between me and the source of interest. When I address a Champaca flower, fragrance accompanies its name. A sense of familiarity is kindled as I quietly approach Mount Malindang. It looms like legend to my eyes while crossing Panguil Bay in a ferry.
Once the relationship is established -- my attention awakens. I become aware of it. And with frequent encounters with the subject of attention, awareness grows. You don’t only see white Jasmine blooming, you can easily tell its distinct scent. You know the presence of the bright-yellow Oriole simply by hearing its distinctive call at particular times of the day; the Banaba tree with its bright, purple flowers in the heat of dry season. With each living encounter with nature, my affinity with it is like friendship made memorable.