The Enchanted Camel Tree of Jimenez
The people of Jimenez in Misamis Occidental, holds with both fear and reverence, an enchanted tree called ‘Camel.’ It was named as such because it looked like the animal when viewed at a certain vantage point. Its actual species is disputed, although most would say that it looks like a balete. It is located at a river bank in Barangay Taraka and across it is Barangay Sinara. The clear and cool Jimenez river flows in between these two barangays. In comparison to the other baletes and enchanted trees that are usually found in public cemeteries or by a roadside in the Philippines, the Jimenez’ Camel tree stands out by being in a beautiful, picturesque countryside.
It is not difficult to spot the Camel tree since this is the tallest that you would notice in the vicinity. But if you have not heard any of the chilling stories from the locals, you would not even be aware of its existence. I remember that I have already been to this place when I accompanied my father many years ago when he was inspecting a construction project somewhere upstream. I did not care too much about this tree back then, probably because I have not heard about its accounts or because I was busy practicing my photography skills that time.
It was only early this year that I was able to visit this location again along with two of my cousins. When we were near the tree, I asked Jacob, who was driving the motorbike, if the tree that I could make out from afar was already the Camel tree. He politely asked me not to point my finger at it and then added in a manner that is slightly louder than a whisper, that it was in fact Jimenez’ famous tree.
Many deliveries were said to be addressed to this very location. The delivery men were then surprised to find out that instead of a residence or a business establishment, it was just a tall tree in between a rice field and gushing river. The goods are not just ordinary parcels mind you. Furniture, pigs and even cars were delivered and sometimes in the dead of the night.
This tree has also been blamed for various accidents. The people who go to the river to wash clothes or take a refreshing dip are very careful not to wade near it, since many have either drowned or were washed away by a strong, unseen force. That’s why when we went there, my companions uttered ‘tabi apo‘ to ask for permission lest we encounter an accident on our return. I requested to have a photograph with the tree as a background with the hopes of capturing something extraordinary like orbs, elementals and mythical figures. This I gather, was something that the locals would dare not do. When we reviewed our takes, thankfully, no one else was standing beside me.
Through the years, the Jimenez residents have already embraced the idea that otherworldly beings lived there. But for the skeptical, this idea sounds absurd, unscientific and even disturbing. I do believe though that there are other principalities in this world that we cannot see but not to the extent of being afraid of their presence.
The Camel tree accounts reminded me too of the many similar stories in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. The town of Macondo, which is the setting of this classic novel, was no stranger to the magical, the paranormal and the bizarre. The Macondo folk did not fabricate each story out of boredom, as more often than not these reflect unsettling events at that time, but in a form that they could understand and relate to. Similarly, folk tales that tell of a town’s mythological creatures and its brave heroes, may sometimes teach the younger generation of the essence of wonder, the importance of heroism and the appreciation of culture, virtues which are sorely lacking in today’s soap operas, US TV sitcoms and teen-oriented literature.
I was actually more fascinated than scared with the Camel tree that morning. I could only ask myself as to what happened to deliveries afterwards and who bought the items in the first place. In the absence of an acceptable explanation or empirical proof to these and many other questions, the mysteries held by the Camel tree would remain unrefuted or unverified for a long, long time.