Sanggumay is a native orchid that has fragrant blooms. The most common are purple but there are also white and yellow ones. Known as Dendrobium anosmum, sanggumay usually blooms between December and February.
The sanggumay has been part of my life since childhood. My grandmother and aunts had them everywhere. There was a mabolo, kamagong or velvet apple tree near their window that had sanggumay plants. At first, I did not pay much attention to the scraggly branches hanging on the tree because I regarded it as a parasite. But when I caught a whiff of its scent and saw where it was coming from, I began to appreciate the plant.
My “relationship” with the sanggumay ranged from paranormal to the spiritual and even to the mundane. When my uncle died in an accident, the scent of sanggumay was always in the air, though there were none in bloom! I often saw the flowers at altars, especially during the times when novenas were said days before my grandfather’s death anniversary.
When we started spending summers in my husband’s hometown, I encountered sanggumay again. Not only did my father-in-law actually have one in his yard, the carossa of the family’s image of Jesus was decorated with sanggumay blooms during the annual Holy Week procession whenever possible. Sanggumay flowers are abundant whenever Holy Week is commemorated in March.
It took some time for me to gather enough courage to grow sanggumay. We attended a lecture during one of the orchid shows, so I gained some confidence. We were told that once the “ber” months began, the plants should be watered sparingly to induce them to bloom. There were instructions for having them bloom earlier than usual, too.
The first year I had them, my sanggumay may not have had many flowers, but bloom they did and one after the other, not at the same time. That suited me fine, but the following year, we experienced rain even during the “ber” months.
I watched helplessly as my sanggumay was drenched, knowing those blooms may never come. I did not expect the tiny ones to produce flowers, but they did. They may not have been as fragrant, but they were so beautiful and delicate!
These blooms taught me a few lessons. As a child, I learned that just because a plant looked like it was dependent on the tree it hung on did not necessarily mean it was a parasite. Later in life, I realized that we should not label people, and that whenever possible, recognize the good in them.
The scent of those flowers may have been cloying when one stands near them, but they smell very sweet when one encounters them in whiffs from afar. That taught me the importance of temperance and how subtlety can be more effective.
The one important lesson those lovely flowers taught me is that one cannot go against nature. I will never forget how I felt as I watched raindrops falling on my beloved plants. Rains may be destructive and prevent sanggumay from flowering, but without flowers, keikei appear— these are shoots, a new generation of plants. I have since transferred the shoots so they can grow better.
Sanggumay helps me learn patience, perseverance and most of all, acceptance of things or conditions I cannot change. The plant has taught me to appreciate plants even without flowers.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.