by Oliver Carlos

One day, my Mom posted on FB a photo of a weird plant growing in their front yard. She explained in her post that it’s called a Pitogo plant (Cycas riuminiana). The plant has 2 sets of leaves. On its upper part or canopy, the leaves look like palm leaves, while the leaves at the bottom part near the ground look like fern leaves. It has a large orange flower or a fruit that looks like a giant pinecone. But the Pitogo is neither a palm, nor a fern, nor conifer, although it seems like a composite of those 3 plant families. The Pitogo is actually a Jurassic plant. According to scientists, this type of plant is said to be existing on earth since the time of the dinosaurs.

The Pitogo is like a 3-in-1 plant. It has features of a palm, a fern, and a conifer, but it’s neither of the three. (photo by Dr. Evangeline Castillo)

What’s most intriguing in my Moms’ post, is this plant in the Tamolang compound has been there for more than 40 years! I grew up in that compound and it’s the first time I noticed the Pitogo out there. My family lived there since I was in grade school and I just moved out when I got married in my mid-20s. That plant never caught my attention even though it’s just beside the main gate.

My Mom said that it was her father, Francisco “Papang” N. Tamolang, who planted the Pitogo. He bought that piece of land in the 1960s or 70s, and planted the Pitogo to serve as the marker of his property. During that time, Umali Subdivision was uninhabited. It was formerly a sugar cane plantation with some coconut trees. Papang selected a unique plant that would live for several decades as a landmark. I could just imagine that Pitogo plant standing by itself in the midst of sugarcanes and coconuts when there was no house nor fence yet. The large Tamolang house was constructed in 1981. The following year, the Castillo bungalow at the back of the Tamolang house was built. That completed the structures in our compound.

The practice of using trees and large stones as markers for one’s land goes back in the ancient Biblical times. And just like today, people in the old days also experienced boundary disputes. If they used a tree, that’s immovable. But for those who used stones, they ran into trouble. Some people were really greedy that they took advantage of their neighbors. Because the GPS and modern surveying tools were not yet invented then, defining and maintaining one’s property’s borders was a big problem. This must be a rampant headache then as the Old Testament mentioned it quite a number of times. Here’s one instance:

“You must not move the stones that mark your neighbor’s property. People put them there in the past to mark each person’s property. These stones mark the land that the Lord your God gave you.” (Deuteronomy 19:14, ERV)

This principle is applicable to matters pertaining to all of our neighbor’s properties, not only to his land. Sadly, many people today get somebody else’s money or material wealth in subtle ways. Some cheat in their business, others start a scam. Some make use of fraudulent documents, or trick others in signing contracts with strings attached. It’s an ugly world if Jesus is not at the center of things, when he’s not reigning in the hearts of people.

That’s why we have this verse in Deuteronomy to guide us in our ways, on how we deal with our fellow human beings. The last part of the verse emphasizes that the earthly properties we have, big and small, are all from God. The same goes with our neighbor’s possessions. Therefore, out of respect and reverence to God, let us treat our fellow people with love, benevolence, and honesty.