Thursday, August 16, 2007


Because of the three holes at its base that resemble a happy face, 15th-century Portuguese explorers named it coco, which means a grinning face. My brother Taba, on the other hand, thought of them as deadly projectiles; attributing the common cause of death amongst Filipinos to these falling giant nuts. It was a joke, of course, but he would deliver it with such a deadpan tone coupled with a serious look on his face.

He did it simply to tease a fellow Filipino co-worker and friend who would get mortified as he watched their American colleagues clinging to my brother's every word; horrified by the ghastly tale. To make matters worse, my brother would not recant. He would leave it to his friend to set the record straight if he so desired. But everyone would eventually realize that my brother was just being silly.

Like most people in the medical field, my brother espoused a peculiar sense of humor. But then again, while driving to Quezon Province once, I couldn't help but notice all those towering coconut trees that filled our southern landscape. All kidding aside, I did wonder how many people, in fact, met such violent and unexpected deaths from those falling coconuts.

My aunt's house in Subic (which is just as old as the one in the bottom photo), has a coconut tree right next to it. Certainly, every now and then, a coconut would suddenly land on the roof with such thunderous noise. Based on this startling sonic disturbance alone, I can only imagine the great damage that a falling coconut of such velocity can cause on someone's head.


posted by Señor Enrique at 6:49 AM


Anonymous kronos_gazer said...

what digicam do you usually bring with you? impressive pics!

August 16, 2007 8:14 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Your brother Taba's tales were with basis, Eric.

My father did not plant coconut trees in our yard simply because he did not want to jeopardize the safety of any of us nor that of passers by.

According to him, there were indeed cases of deaths caused by falling coconuts. He would also remind us all the time to be wary and stay away from coconut trees when walking on roads planted with these trees, especially on windy days.

By the way, Eric, your blog is working wonders. I just found a link through one of your visitors here, leading to a blog that mentioned some bits of information about my hubby's family roots.

As you can see, his family name is not as common as Cruz or Santos, and he has been aching to find out more about his roots.

So, thanks to your blog. Now he is thinking of putting up his own blog as well, to possibly link up with relatives out there. And I say to him... welcome to club! Now, with blogging, he will spend less time (and money) tinkering with his beetle bugs - to my delight, of course! hehehe.

August 16, 2007 8:32 AM  

Blogger carlotta said...

i like your brother's sense of humor. =)

we used to have a very tall coconut tree in the middle of our garden. it was already there before i was born but about four years ago my tita had it cut down in order to prevent accidents especially during the typhoon season. when the top part fell on one part of our driveway, i felt my heart being crushed just like it. i loved that tree so much and was very disappointed. but looking back at it now, maybe it was for the best, otherwise it might not have withstood milenyo and reming last year.


August 16, 2007 8:56 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I used a Nikon D80 and a Canon point & shoot, Kronos.

Please see my comment/response to the comment page of the previous entry :)

August 16, 2007 9:05 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I will have to consider your statement, Rhoda, as the first official report I've heard about deaths caused by falling coconuts. Seriously speaking, I really have not heard from any reliable source of such incident. Now, I have. Thanks!

And to think that my aunt never even once warned me while I played nonchalantly and unwittingly under and around her coconut tree ... hehehe.

Wow! Now your hubby is a blogger ... hehehe. Glad to know that my blog has been an auspicious conduit, Rhoda :)


August 16, 2007 9:15 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

I like people with sense of humor. It's good.


I've never had any coconut trees in my house compound and it's scarce (coconut trees) over here unless we're at one of the villages.

August 16, 2007 12:25 PM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Eric, just a point of clarification. The coconut tree which is featured in your photo is what we locally call the golden variety, essentially because of the color of the outer husk and the inside shell. It typically does not grow very tall and thus appropriate for planting close to houses. We had a couple planted close to our next-door neighbor's house in Cagayan de Oro.

The commercial "variety" is the one planted in coconut plantations and can grow very tall, thus the imminent danger of falling mature nuts to humans below. And no houseowner would plant that close to his abode.

Another variety is the one that yields the macapuno meat.

While assigned in Gingoog City, Mis. Or., we heard tales of mature durian fruits crushing to the ground in the dead of night from trees planted close to the houses. Imagine beng hit by those heavy spiked durian fruits on the head!

August 16, 2007 12:46 PM  

Anonymous Toe said...

Here in Cambodia, we went to a resort where the parking space was lined with coconut trees. There was a sign that says, "Warning, falling coconuts!"

I know our maid's tatay fell from a coconut tree which he was climbing and died. He was 70 years old.

August 16, 2007 6:42 PM  

Anonymous myepinoy said...

Going by the title of this post and Rhodora's comment, it is safe to say that if you are angry with your neighbor, plant coconut trees near your neighbor's house.

Aside from having a good line of defense, you also have a lethal weapon aimed at your neighbor 24/7. HA HA HA.

Considering its long and heavy trunk, even without the fruit, it will damage or kill people if it falls or uprooted by typhoon or whatever.

August 16, 2007 8:29 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

To be honest I try to avoid walking under coconut trees.

August 16, 2007 9:56 PM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

Coconut trees naturally grow on river banks because the fallen fruit would be transported by the river. So if we would just let the coconut be, there should be no danger of being hit by its fruit unless one would be swimming nearby.

Your blog never ceases to amaze me in its ability to provide connections between its readers :)

August 17, 2007 12:44 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Coconut trees are quite a common sight even in Metro Manila, Kyels. Older family compounds would usually have fruit bearing trees; coconuts among them.

August 17, 2007 7:17 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The gods are certainly merciful enough to let those durian fruits fall off from their trees only at night when most folks would be peacefully asleep, Amadeo.

Nonetheless, I'm sure local lovers have become savvy enough to scratch off durian trees from their list of ideal rendezvous for a moonlight tryst :)

Many thanks for differentiating some of the more popular coconut varieties.

Now, all these talk just reminded me of Imelda's Coconut Palace in the PICC complex -- created by using coconut shells in combination with several Philippine hardwoods, including a specially-engineered hybrid of coconut and hardwood aptly named Imelda Madera.

To read more on Coconut Palace:

August 17, 2007 7:40 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Toe!

Astonishing feat for septuagenarians, indeed. This is why we ought to start training monkeys to climb those coconut trees for us as they do in other Asian countries.

I'd be too paranoid to park my car in a lot where falling coconuts are a common phenomenon.

August 17, 2007 7:49 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I think coconut trees are quite yielding as bamboo trees, and may not get uprooted quite easily, Rolly. I say this on account of the pics of coconut trees in Aruba that are so bent close to the ground due to the constant harsh winds in that geographical area?

My neighbor has santol and mango trees right next to the fence that the kids and some guests (especially balikbayans) would excitedly pick their fruits.

I think the unwritten law is, if it reaches over your side of the property, then its fruits are yours for the taking.

August 17, 2007 7:59 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

A very smart idea, Sidney, lest you want to wear a genuine motorcycle helmet at all times ... hehehe.

August 17, 2007 8:01 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That would be such a bummer, Dave -- going for a leisurely swim in the river and then suddenly getting carpet bombed by falling coconuts. Jeeez!

Most New Yorkers believe that if you stood long enough in the corner of Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, you're most likely to see or meet someone you know. I think the same thing is beginning to happen with the readers/visitors of my blog ... hahaha!

August 17, 2007 8:09 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Carla!

I can understand how you felt when that tree in your garden was cut down, but I'm sure it was for the good of everyone.

Yes, my brother had a weird sense of humor ... hehehe.

August 17, 2007 8:13 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...


First, re durian fruits falling mostly at night, as I was made to understand the reason being that that's when fruit bats (we call them, kabog)scavenge for food.

And Dave brought out an interesting trivia I read sometime ago about how coconut trees were propagated. It appears that they were once upon a time indigenous to South America where like most places in the PI, most of them grow close to the seashores.

Fallen fruits got carried by ocean currents across the globe. And once beached in distant shores those hardy fruits which can withstand harsh conditions and long voyages, then begin to propagate in their new homes.

It is also claimed that these new generations appear to be more hardy than the ancestors, the reason being that only the hardy ones survive the long voyages to propagate. Perfect example of survival of the fittest!

Remember we consider the coconut tree as the tree of life due to its myriad of uses. Growing up in Misamis Oriental, once a upon a time, this was the main agricultural industry for most folks.

August 17, 2007 10:44 AM  

Blogger Virgil said...

When I was practicing law in Hawaii, I was involved in the defense of a lawsuit involving the death of an individual from a massive head injury caused by a falling coconut. The owner of the tree would have been found liable for negligence had it gone to trial. My client settled, naturally. So, coconuts can be dangerous and a potential source of liability!

August 17, 2007 11:05 AM  

Blogger ScroochChronicles said...

When I was a kid we also had a huge coconut tree in front of our house. My dad decided to have it cut for the reasons you stated in your post.

Funny thing is, it was a papaya tree that got me. I had a huge papaya fall on my head when I was trying to shake it from the tree. Yep, I was knocked out by a papaya!

August 17, 2007 12:00 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Aha! So it is the "kabogs'" nocturnal activity that's responsible for those durians falling off from their trees.

Fascinating lesson on the migration of fruits across great seas. Thank you, Amadeo!

I am a firm believer of the healing properties of coconuts. Actually, I always keep a bottle handy of its virgin oil, which is great for the hair.

August 17, 2007 12:23 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I've got to apologize for laughing at your misfortune, Scrooch! But getting knocked out by a papaya, now that's hysterical :)

I hope you suffered no lasting adverse effect from it.

August 17, 2007 12:34 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks for the legal info, Virgil.

This reminds me of an elderly woman who sued a property owner when she slipped on the ice in front of the defendant's house. Although she passed away before the end of the trial, judgment proceeded as usual and her estate was awarded $100,000 by the court.

August 17, 2007 1:06 PM  

Blogger Virgil said...

You're welcome. As a sidenote and as an interesting observation on the state of personal relations in the US, the plaintiff-decedent in that case was a guest visiting the house of the defendant. In the end, it was the insurance company that paid for the settlement. I don't think we're as litigious here in the Philippines. At least not yet!

August 17, 2007 2:05 PM  

Blogger christine said...

Haha, I can imagine the horror he inflicted on those poor foreigners. But yes, they can kill. My cousin was miraculously spared, as he was about to get into his car which was parked under a coconut tree, his pitbull ran out and grabbed his pantleg, trying to drag him back into the house. Just as he was tryin to get him back into the house,a huge coconut fell right on the spot he was standing in a couple of seconds ago. Yikes! :) Thank god for that dog!

August 17, 2007 2:44 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! The uncanny sixth sense of animals, Christine. Amazing, indeed! Your cousin would have been seriously injured had it not been for his dog.

August 17, 2007 4:16 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

There's a downside for the local's supposed non-litigious culture -- it breeds further despicable acts by unscrupulous characters.

As for the case we were discussing, Virgil, I had no idea that the plaintiff was a guest at the house of the defendant's.

This reminds me Calvin Klein's friend who sued him. He was a guest at his summer house in Fire Island, NY, who was injured by a nail that was sticking out or something.

August 17, 2007 4:21 PM  

Blogger BW said...

I remember a couple of dwarf macapuno coconut trees at my grandfather's house. There was no danger of getting injured with falling coconut and boy were they delicious :)

Dunno but I thought coconuts only fall when they dry up and when it happens, they're pretty much half the normal weight, perhaps even less. I also know that in some parts of Asia, trained monkeys do the climbing and harvesting of coconuts :)

August 18, 2007 10:34 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I am yet to relish macapuno right off the shell, BW, but have heard they are really delicious.

I think even a dried one dropping from a towering tree like those in the provinces can inflict serious injuries.

Yes, they train those monkeys to climb and twist off those coconuts right off their trees. I wonder why they don't do the same here in the Philippines. Inside Subic's SBMA (the old naval base) alone, you'll find plenty of monkeys gallivanting around. Why not start training some of them?

August 18, 2007 2:03 PM  

Blogger U.T.O.Y said...

Did you know that there are more deaths from fallen coconut trees than shark attacks? It is one of the trivia that was provided by trivial pursuit games....

seems that the comments are all DEATH-from-coconut-tree related hehehe when in fact the tree is called in the philippines as the TREE of LIFE since the tree's parts are all practically usable.

August 21, 2007 5:08 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

It's actually my fault, UTOY. I started this whole talk about death by coconuts ... hehehe.

But yes, I do agree that coconuts do contain incredible healing properties.

More from fallen coconut trees? I didn't know that.

August 21, 2007 6:08 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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