We have harvested the first few fruits of our atis tree (custard apples). I had to wait for a few days for them to ripen before I could finally sink my teeth in the sweet, white fleshy meat.
I have always liked eating this specie of fruit, though when I was a child, I prefered the other variety which is anonas (Tagalog term for this variety of custard apple). They were bigger, with pinkish skin, cream-colored flesh and less reticulated. Anonas’ (anonang in Ilocano) and atis’ scientific name is annona reticulata.
(Anonas. Photo source)
Thoughts on the pinkish anonang bring me back to first grade. I had a seatmate named Veronica. She was petite, dark-skinned (kayumanggi actually), and with a long, straight, black-as-midnight hair. In other words, she was exotically pretty. She lived high up in the mountains and everyday she would trek that winding rugged trail on foot to go to school (but I can’t remember she was ever late).
During the months that wild anonang trees were laden with their succulent fruits, she would bring one or two pieces to school as her baon (recess food). And because I liked anonang, I would offer to buy them and she would be selling them to me for a few centavos. She would then use the money to buy sweets that she liked from the sari-sari store (Tagalog term for variety store; these little stores are found every few square meters/kilometers throughout the Philippines) in front of the school. As for me, I would bring the fruit/s home where I could savor them more.
Years ago, I learned from my sister that Veronica died of pneumonia in Hong Kong. Her body was later brought home to our little hometown in the province. My sister told me that Veronica worked in Hong Kong as a domestic helper and that was where she got sick and never recovered.
The thought of her and her fate brings me to James 4: 14:
For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.
Life is fragile. It is short. So it’s best to pray the prayer of Moses the man of God:
So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)
I myself have experienced how fragile life is – how easy it is that our strength can be taken away in moments when we least expect it. One moment, I was living and working with good health and complete strength, then finding myself deep in illness with almost no strength left the next.
But in this I find strength: our lives must be so hidden in Christ for us to be out of harm’s way. That is, to be out of the enemy’s way. For the Lord Jesus Himself has promised:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. (John 10:28)
And when it is time to leave and to be with the Lord, the Spirit speaks even of the BLESSEDNESS of this moment:
…Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them. (Rev. 14:13)
The rest of the trees that we planted in 2007 are suha (pomelo), mango, guava. All these trees weren’t planted as seeds but as small trees, for they were grafted from matured trees. The seller assured us that we won’t wait for many years before we can eat of their fruits, but these have remained barren these past four years.
To remain barren after the Master has waited for a fruit for a very long time is a scary thing. We remember the fig tree which the Lord had cursed because He found no fruit in it (Mat. 21:19). And the Lord cuts off every branch in Him that bears no fruit – it withers, and men gather it and cast it into the fire, and it is burned (John 15: 2, 6).
Only when we remain in the Vine do we continue to have life and thus, bear fruit.