There’s a new word that gets more accent these days in the Philippines while we are all in the midst of the pandemic: plantito and plantita. The term is a portmanteau of the words, plant + tito/tita, literally: Filipino endearment for uncle or godfather for males and aunt or godmother for the females. Overall, it refers to someone who tends to plants, regardless if it’s for food or ornament. Others, like my sister, call themselves plant mama which is also quite charming.
I officially became a plantito in the urban jungle only since February this year. Just like a lot of people, the reason why I finally decided to have indoor plants is because I wanted to add life and vibrancy to my place.
Living alone in the city could get lonely sometimes so I got the feeling that putting some living elements could lessen that vibe. And I was not disenchanted. In fact, I have a few realizations because of my plants:
- My plants remind me to take care of them as they take care me. Every time I take them under the sun, I remember that the reason I got them was to have fresher air in my space. The more I think about getting it, the more motivated I am to take care of them. By watering them, I am also reminded to drink lots of water especially in this time of pandemic.
- Believed to have emotions, plants need to be talked to and conversing with them teaches me to say only the nice words helps them grow well, something which I hope to nurture when it comes to my relationship with other people.
- Plants doesn’t show it much but they work wonders. I am confident that while I’m asleep, my plants are giving off fresh oxygen in my room for me to breathe. They also purify the air around me.
- Patience is a virtue and plants just teach me to wait for days, weeks or even months before I get to see their stalks sprout and leaves grow to kiss the sunlight. I almost threw one plant away after all its leaves started to wither and fall off. My impression was it will eventually die off so what’s the point of keeping it? In the end, I decided to keep it. After three months of waiting, tiny leaves started to sprout.
- You may get frustrated sometimes but that’s how life works. What’s important is that you don’t dwell in them. After waiting for three months to see a miracle with the plant I just mentioned above, it crashed from the window down to the ground. I got sad and annoyed when I saw the tiny leaves got torn and fragile stalks broken. To compensate my loss, I bought succulents and cactus so I can focus on something else while waiting for another miracle to happen with that plant.
- Plants outgrow their pots just like how we outgrow ourselves. That’s why it is important to repot them into bigger containers and of course, fill it with healthier soil. I’m grateful for the people who give me opportunities every time I feel that I already outgrow myself from the usual things that I do and care about.
- Growing plants is one of the best forms of therapy. There is the joy and sense of fulfillment that transforms into purpose when you see your plants grow healthily. Or when you are able to save it from dying off.
- Nature doesn’t disappoint. We abuse them but they still keep on giving. May we learn from this as we are also designed to care about things that matter like what’s happening in our country and the state of our environment.
My love for plants dates back when I was still a teen in my beloved hometown of Dumaguete City. My oldest sister and I used to share our love for plants. I can still recall some of our weekends years ago when we would head to the neighboring town of Valencia by foot as a way of morning exercise to buy plants for the house.
I’m amazed with people who grow their own food out of the leftovers of vegetables that they bought from the supermarkets. The cleverness to create an environment that’s perfectly fit for growing plants out of recycled materials and with just the basic elements like water and in the city astounds me as it borders between pragmatism and friendliness to nature.
Since I'm not allowed to cook in my place, I chose to take care of ornamental plants. And I couldn’t be happier with their presence. With all these, I believe that if all of us who are able would own plants especially here in the city where pollution and stress is not uncommon, life would be a little lighter.
© 2020 Arni Abueva