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Honoring my Mother | Noumenon

If a tree falls in the forest, and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? A Philo question in college, from a time forgotten, and I still can’t remember the answer. Perhaps, a yes and a no.

I remember one time in my NGO days, during an indigenous ancestral land survey in Zamboanga del Sur, we had walked hours-deep into a lush secondary forest, only to discover a clearing of more than a hectare wide. It was filled with thousands of felled giant trees on top of each other, so dense that the ground had not been visible anymore, and we had to walk over those rotting lumber to get through to the other side. Our Subanen guide and companion told us that it had been part of a logging area that had closed down when the logging ban was put in effect. Did the trees make a sound?

Even in the present day, if one happened to travel near large rivers in the hinterlands, an occasional sight of freshly-cut timber, could be seen floating by, to be hauled inland later, sold illegally and then turned into furniture or whatever. Definitely sure that the sound of cutting must have made a lot of noise in the forest but, in truth, from us so far away, there is silence there, it just happens.

Ethnic trinkets, necklaces and costumes on display and sold at tourist shops merely show a “perceived existence” of indigenous tribes that live far up in the mountains. They are not physically present in the shops. Often, tourists even have a romanticized image of them, toiling into the night, with their colorful garbs glinting in the light of a tin can lamp. Truth is, the finished products displayed and seen in the shops downtown can be advertised by the shop owner as being made by the tribes, yet one can ask, how do we know, or are they really even up there?

The slight possibility exists, that their supposed handiwork might have actually come right out of little sweat rooms here in the city or wherever, filled with little children and high schoolers who work for their daily allowances. Who is to know, do they make a sound, much like them trees?

Back to the philo question then, does unperceived reality really even matter? Or is it in the same league with “ignorance is bliss”, or “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”?

So many things we do not know, or even care to know. Another thing others may not have known, if one drives inward to the new and paved roads in Mintal towards the direction of the state university, and just follows the road, you would suddenly discover that it leads straight to the new and modern sports complex, right in the middle of still-sparsely populated and still to be developed land. That is another surprise up there, much like the feeling of seeing dead trees in the midst of lush forest. Are both the same thing?

I sincerely hope not. While that complex may have purpose, such that the city needs it, Zamboanga’s dead portion of forest just sits there, idle in the middle of nowhere, hidden from view and silently decaying. Both are silent though, and not noticeable until you have stumbled into it.

As for the trinkets and indigenous bracelets, actively seek out and discover the real life of the people who create these works of art. They are our people and their rich culture is yours too. Dead spots and modern edifices may lie there in silence, but these makers live and breathe.


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