Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Stay away!

The banyan tree, or trongkon nunu, is popularly believed to be inhabited by taotaomo'na, or ancestral spirits.  They do not like to be disturbed, so it goes.  I once saw a construction team bulldoze everything on a field to make way for new buildings - everything but one trongkon nunu.  Workers claimed the bulldozer's engine would simply die as soon as it neared the tree. 

The tree produces figs, but people don't eat them.  Birds and fanihi (fruit bat) do.  They must have special dispensation from the taotaomo'na.

Filipinos and Chamorros share a common fear of the trongkon nunu.  Many Filipinos avoid the tree and teach their children not to even point at a fully mature trongkon nunu, or balete in their language.

But Buddhists believe that the Buddha achieved enlightenment while sitting under a banyan tree.  It's also the national tree of India, and a banyan tree figures in the national coat-of-arms of Indonesia.  I am in Hawaii at the moment, and Hawaiians (they tell me) have no belief in spirits living in their banyan trees.  Different housing arrangements I guess.

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