[Photos] – The Tambis Solution & Kids in the Philippines

kids in the philippinesKids in the Philippines.  Well, when you get right down to it kids are pretty much the same everywhere.  Playing all day and getting into some sort of mischief.  I remember when I myself was a (younger) kid.. jumping the neighbor’s fence at my cousin’s house to get peaches.  Ironic thing is.. we had peaches in my cousin’s yard.  But to get the peaches from the neighbor’s yard, we had to get past both the dog..

 and the crabby neighbor who’d chase us down with a broom if she caught us.  Skip forward a few decades and now I’m the one with the fruit tree out here in the jungle.  The locals call it a Tambis fruit tree and there are only about four in the whole village.  One is near the sari-sari store and they wrap the fruit in bags until they ripen to keep the kids from taking them.  The other two trees are on a private yard, like mine.

Now as fate would have it, my tambis tree is right on the path the kids take to school.  Plus my tambis tree has branches that hang over the fence.  When I first moved in the tree was packed with fruit, about six or seven dozen of these pink/red ‘Rose Apples’ dangled from just about everywhere on the tree.  I tried a few to see what the big deal was.  People were always commenting on how lucky I am to have this tree.  I bit into one and it’s.. okay.  Kinda tastes like a pear without much sugar in it.  It’s got a clean taste to it, kinda cleans the palate, sorta refreshing.  But I’m not crazy about them.  I eat maybe one or two a month out of either repeated curiosity or boredom.

But these neighbor kids are just nuts for this fruit.  And therein begins this tale.   At night I normally put a lock and chain on the gate.  It’s a fairly safe community here, but you never know who might pass by and think, “Oh.. some firewood, he’s not using it.  I think I’ll borrow it.”  So, to keep out any borrowers while I’m in town I usually have the gate locked, even when I’m home unless someone happens to stop by.  Which is maybe once a week and that’s on a busy week when the lady comes to check the electric meter.  Usually my only visitors are the chickens from next door and a turkey who is absolutelyturkey-lurkey in my yard the dumbest of all turkeys on this planet.  He gets into the yard and then can’t figure out how to get out.  I gave him three days once, thinking he’d figure it out.. but nope.  I had to chase him out of the open gate with a broom.  Forget Zumba.. repeatedly chasing this dumb as a red brick turkey out of the yard as he constantly runs right past the open gate in the high humidity is enough workout for me.

My first interaction with the local kids began before things went kinda haywire.  I had noticed quite a bit of discarded plastic bags, clothes, CDs and paper that people had strewn all along the outside of my fence along the path.  I could have taken about 20 or 30 minutes to clean it all up.  But in this heat, even at the end of the day when it cools off a bit.. I simply was not motivated to deal with it.  So I went up the path to where a few of the neighbor kids were hanging out playing some games.  Two of the girls had made a make-shift ‘kitchen’ outdoors out of some bricks and paper plates while the other kids were playing with some new puppies that had arrived a while ago.

So I approached them and announced;  “Who’s interested in earning some money right now?”   All I got was some blank stares.  So I re-phrased; “Who wants to earn some money so they can buy candy at the sari-sari store?”  Okay.. NOW I had their attention.  I told them to follow me and there I had a tall box outside my gate.  As I walked the entirekids in the neighborhood (7) distance of the bamboo gate outside my place I explained to them the campaign we were about to undertake.  And by ‘we’.. I mean, I was going to point  and they were going to clean.  

I told them all the trash within view needed to go into the box from one corner of the property to the other.  Once, upon inspection, the job was declared completed.. we would all go to the sari-sari store down the street for candy.  Wow.. these kids understood that and started running back and forth grabbing paper and plastic like it was an easter-egg hunt.  “Do we have to throw away all the bushes, too?“, one of the little ones asked.  I thought about it for a second and said, “Ehh.. no.  No plants.  Just stuff that’s not plants.”

I snapped off a few photos as they worked and within ten minutes the place was ready for  inspection.  Aside from raising my own four kids, I worked a summer as a kid’s counselor at a camp in the mountains of Idyllwild one summer, so wrangling kids was not new to me.  I did my inspection, put away the collected trash and off we went to the sari-sari store down the path.  We got there and Nin, the older lady who runs the place, was pretty happy to have such an eager group of customers.  After seeing her selection of goods, the kids all decided on five bags of peanuts and some hard candy for their labors.  I got afinally found a cobra Cobra energy drink for myself because.. after all, supervising is taxing work.

When I first moved in there was all this fruit waiting to be eaten.  So I invited the neighbor kids over along with their Mom to pick all the fruit they could take in a plastic bag.  And there was still fruit.  A few days later some kids were passing by and I noticed they were grabbing the fruit hanging over the fence, so I let them in to get some of the tambis.  They were pretty thrilled with that since usually the old guy at the sari-sari store just chases them away.  Then, with still more fruit budding every week came the day I noticed about eleven kids with a long stick whacking the tree from over the fence.  One of them climbed the fence to get some fruit so I grabbed my camera and snapped off the image you see above.

Now, these kids were not quite as.. uhm, behaved and seemed to be just roaming around constantly without supervision.  Basically, a gang of kids in ages from 7 to 9.  I unlocked the gate and asked them to not smack the tree because it was breaking the branches and they didn’t seem to know a word of English.  But when I gestured for them to come in and get some fruit with my permission.. they ran like ants up into the tree and started harvesting it like locusts.  I’m not kidding.  This dozen or so kids were all in the tree at the same time and they picked the entire tree clean of 90% of the fruit.  Only the fruit out of reach was left and finally they filed out the gate with tambis loaded up in their shirts, hands and pockets.  One of them, the oldest, stopped to say, ‘Salamat’ (thank you) on behalf of the the gang and off they went like mini-pirates with their load of treasure down the road.

So after that the tree was empty for about two weeks and things calmed down.  But with the steady rain we get here every few days it wasn’t long before new buds of fruit began appearing all over the tree again.  Pretty soon the tree was dotted with pink and red fruit again.  And that’s when things started getting out of control.

I came home one day from the mall and found not only a few sticks of bamboo lying next to the fence.. but the branches were all banged up and the fruit gone.  No kids were around now so I tossed the bamboo into the tall grass and went about my business.   A few days later I’m typing away at the laptop which has a window view to the yard in front of me.  I had the gate locked, as usual, and the next thing I know a bunch of kids are out there whacking at the tree again.  By now I figured, well.. if they kill off the overhanging branches there will be no more fruit and that will solve the problem.  But.. no.

The next thing I see is one kid climbing over the fence and jumping into my yard.  He goes into the tree and starts pulling up more kids over the fence into the tree.  Again with the harvesting.  Only now it’s without my permission.  So I went out and explained to them, firmly but calmly, that jumping the fence was not allowed.  If they wanted fruit they needed to knock on the gate.  Well, that was a waste of time since they either didn’t understand English or they had the same desire for forbidden fruit I had over at my kids in the philippinescousin’s house for their neighbor’s peaches.  Again I opened the gate and allowed them in, trying to teach them a proper mode of protocol.  But it was all in vain.  They got their fruit and off they went.

The next incident came later and now things were escalating.  No longer content with climbing over the fence while I was away in town, now they had pulled off two of the bamboo slats off of my gate to use for whacking the tree once again.  Now I had a gate missing two slats.  At this rate I won’t have a gate left much longer.  I’m planning to overlay it with heavy wire mesh soon.  But now I’m getting just a bit discontented about the digression this scenario is taking.  

Sure, I could just open the gate every morning and let them take fruit whenever they feel like it.  But that presents two new problems.  For one, back to the ‘borrowers’ who will just wander into the yard if they see something of perceived value.  And for another, the liability the day one of these kids falls out of the tree and breaks his arm.  I can see it now.. it’s all MY fault.  Some kid falls out of the tree, gets injured and now.. these parents who never seem to be anywhere for miles to supervise these kids are suddenly outraged that I let this happen on my property.  I’ve dealt with this sort of weirdness in the village of Bogo back when our caretaker passed away from a heart condition on the piggy farm.  Immediately the widow figured she was going to inherit the farm because her husband died on the farm property.  And the entire barangay agreed with her that somehow that was a valid claim.  That’s how weird things get out here in the jungle.  Add to it that I’m “the rich Kano/foreigner” and next thing you know I’ve got a lynch mob outside my partly dismantled gate.

And all this because of a fruit tree.

So now I’m working on a multi-fold plan to preempt any madness or need for torches and pitchforks.  First, gonna put the wire-mesh on the gate.  Second, trim back the branches so they aren’t hanging over the fence grabbing every passing kid’s attention.  I don’t want to put barb-wire on the fence (although many neighbors here do, I think it’s tacky looking).  It’s a bamboo fence, so I can’t put shards of glass like people do here also on the tops of brick fences.  Eventually, later down the road, I’d much prefer to put up some nice wrought-iron fencing.. decorative, yet protective.  But that’s a project for down the road.

The third avenue of my plan is to simply take down the fruit as it ripens and give it away to the neighbors.  With no fruit on the tree I’m hoping that will diminish the incentive to deconstruct my gate or go climbing into the tree until some accident occurs.  I wish life could be simple where you don’t need a gate, or a fence.  It would be nice if you could leave items like rakes and potted plants in your yard and still find them there in the morning.  But not even in this apparent Eden is that a possibility.

Hopefully, if all goes according to plan, the kids will give up on messing with the tree.. I’ll earn a little bit of goodwill with the neighbors providing them with fruit on a regular basis and I can focus on either my writing or napping in the hammock in peace.

Now.. if I can just get this stupid turkey to stop jumping into the yard and crying all day.

Henry “Reekay” V.
www.lifebeyondthesea.com

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Author: Reekay

After 49 years living in Southern California, USA, I decided to move to the Philippines despite never having been here before. In July, 2012, I took a leap of faith and transplanted myself to the amazing Philippines. I am a single man taking an honest look at all that the islands here have to offer, one day at a time. I hope you find my LBTSea site informative, entertaining and hopefully a bit of each. 🙂 Be sure to visit the Forum and other parts of what the site has to offer. Browse around and be sure to sign up for updates via email. Enjoy!
— Reekay

18 comments

  1. well those are some pretty cute kids but someone needs to teach them some matters. Ha!like that is going to happen. I hope you can come up with a good solution and some peace of mind. Now I know why they have security fencing there. Yikes

    1. Some of the homes, usually owned by Chinese is what I hear, have wall over 15 feet high around the house, with the glass shards on top of that. But then again, some of these people leave their home for 6 months at a time and don’t want to return to squatters. The kids in these photos are the neighbor’s kids.. I know them and they’re nice people. The real misfits are kinda like a band of gypsies, but I have no photos of them. They don’t seem to bathe or attend school is the impression I get. One time they were shooting with a slingshot, missing the tree and hitting the roof. Kids.. nope, I don’t need any more kids. ha!

  2. How about getting a guard dog to prevent unwanted intrusions into your property? Having a dog around is a good way to discourage those trespassers from getting inside your property and climbing up the tree.

    1. That’s true, and I have thought about it. But in the end I nixed the idea for following reasons. First, I take off for several days sometimes and having a dog while living alone presents the problem of feeding, water. I’ve used auto-feeders with my other dogs in the States, but usually they got bored and tore up something waiting for me to return. Then there’s the issue of ticks/fleas. Living in the province, that and mange (from other dogs) is something I don’t want to hassle with. And then there’s just the usual maintenance.. picking up dog crap, taking him for walks, catching him if he runs off into the jungle.. altogether too many cons and not enough pros for me.

  3. We had a star apple tree, a sour sop tree and three mango trees on our property. Everything you went through, we did also. One mango tree and one star apple tree near the fence was simply cut down. Which made me hated, but hey I’m not here to win popularity contests. That came about from one kid falling out of the tree and the parents wanting compensation. It cost me 30,000 pesos because the Barangay captain apparently believed we were irresponsible for not fortifying our fence to stop the kid from climbing it. So we built a 10 foot high block fence and cut down the trees. The other trees had barbed wire wrapped around them.

    1. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to prevent. It’s a shame here that something as simple having a fruit tree turns into a liability.. even though you (we) did nothing wrong. Where’s the accountability to the parents of these kids? What about blaming the kids for trespassing in the first place? So you build a 10 foot wall with barbed wire and the kids STILL try to climb it.. and get cut on the barbed wire. It’s the thinking that’s wrong, not the mere act of having a fruit tree. But.. “welcome to the Philippines”, eh?

  4. Strangely enough the garbage collection idea seemed like a good idea. We gave kids 10 pesos per 40kilo empty cement bag to fill up. It seemed to work really well for a few years, then we noticed there was far more garbage each month than usual. What was happening was, our garbage boys were inviting the locals to dump garbage and they came round each month to clean it up. Very clever. We stopped employing them but the garbage has now piled up like crazy.

    1. That’s what a Filipina friend of mine told me after I mentioned paying these kids. That before you know it.. more trash would suddenly appear. Fortunately for me these kids are fairly young and not so devious. Had it been the ‘rat-pack’ kids I mentioned, they’d have done exactly that. People here wonder why I keep to myself, often not even unlocking the gate for 2 or 3 days at a time, just enjoying life on the property.. staying out of mixing with the locals. To me, it’s at best going to result in gossip if I do interact and at worst, I end up blamed for something just because someone sees some money in it.

  5. Watching someone just throwing wrapper on the ground just drives me crazy I see it all the time here I try to tell them hey throw the garbage into a container but it seems to go on deaf ears or maybe they don’t understand my language even in my yard when we have family that stops by on of the kids will just walk right past a garbage container and drop the wrapper right on the ground and boy do I go off on them they are starting to learn not in my yard…..

    1. I know what you mean.. and the first few weeks here it got under my skin. But, it’s a losing battle. What really irks me is trash that gets dumped alongside the jungle forest. Everything else so beautiful, and then this trash. But the worst was when I went to Iloilo and they were using the local cemetary to dump their trash all over the grave sites. Lots of it, like the whole town was doing it. Kinda pitiful.

  6. Hi Henry,

    One comment I’ve heard from ex-pats that seems to be true for many tropical people is the “failure to follow-up” lecture that most of us from the First World get when we were kids that Filipinos don’t do for their kids: “If you say you’re going to do something, you have to do it or you’re in trouble!”

    I lived in a Dominican neighborhood in Manhattan. Many, if not all of the boys were spoiled rotten by their mothers. Personal responsibility was not emphasized. Too many of these kids grew up to be less-than-responsible. Not their sisters! They ended up working several jobs, living with unemployed boyfriends who spent their time playing dominoes and drinking Heineken. ¡Atrevido sinvergüenzas!

    I really like your stuff, man. I became aware of you when you replied to a post I replied to over at the Living in Cebu Forums: http://www.livingincebuforums.com/ipb/topic/52826-which-business-to-start-is-it-morally-ok-to-copy-a-business-from-another-expat/. I took a look at your gallery pics and thought, “Okay, this guy is a player!”

    Then I finally took a look at this blog. I devoured the posts and have viewed many of your YouTube videos. You have a solid character and a good outlook on life.

    I have a long-term plan to relocate to the Philippines. I’d like to contact you and exchange ideas. I’m a writer who does Web content for business owners around the world. I have personal clients and also do work via oDesk: https://www.odesk.com/find-work-home/.

    Feel free to send me your email addy and we can exchange Skype handles, Facebook profiles, etc. Feel free to Google me, too. I’m NOT the Vince Runza in Malta, although he’s a Facebook friend of mine.

    Regards,

    Vince Runza

    1. Hola Vince, thanks for the thoughtful commentary. Yah, I’d like to hear from you via email so we can discuss writing and anything else on your mind. I did oDesk for a brief period, had some bad experiences so I set it aside for now. Maybe you can steer me in the right direction on that. I’d put my email here but the spambots would pick it up. Use the ‘Ask Henry’ page and that will reach me via email, we can pick up from there.

      I agree on the other issue, I’ve noticed a few things here. For one, the majority of employees at the malls are young women and some young men. That makes sense since the mall managers know that pretty young Filipinas in short dresses bring in the foreigners. (gets me in the mall. hehe) And the young guys have more energy than the 30 and over men. But even in the public marketplaces.. mostly it’s the women behind the counter. I don’t see women taking siesta in the afternoon out on the porch midday or on a bench in town.. it’s the older men. And by older, over 30. It seems the only older men I’ve known who hold down a job are those who are either managers or with a professional skill of some kind. The non-skilled, non-educated men.. if they aren’t driving taxis/jeepneys/tricycles, they usually are relying on either the wife or the married daughter(s). Although I will give some credit to the 20-30 age bracket of young men who are often out there selling a few dvds, sunglasses, viagra or questionable cell-phones along the street-corner.

  7. atually they are called water apples… you are lucky you got that on your yard.. they just grow on backyards randomly.. and that tree can live for a long time and bear fruit non stop every summer..

  8. Nice job, Mr. Reekay u really know how to handle the kids in the neighborhood, however felt so sorry for those hard headed kids.

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