By Dong Delos Reyes

After Antheus

Demigod Hercules must have been so flabbergasted at how the fight to the death with Antheus (son of Mother Earth, Gaea) was turning out. Each time any part of Antheus' body touched the ground, his strength was renewed, fought with more reserves of vigor. Hercules' strength was on the wane.

In one desperate move, Hercules heaved then strangled his opponent in mid-air. And that was how the mythical Antheus came to an end. But the lesson in keeping in touch with the ground is not lost.
A superstition among combat soldiers echoes the powers wielded by a now dead highwayman of Malagasang, Imus in Cavite province, Leonardo "Nardong Putik" Manicio.

As long as his feet is grounded in muck, bullets cannot harm him. He was on board a vehicle when he was ambushed dead, peppered with lead.

This superstition further echoes the immortality of H. Rider Haggard's hero, Allan Quatermain. No patch of ground in the entire Africa would allow his body to be harmed. He was an immortal of sorts.

The superstition trenchant among soldiers? Eat a pinch of soil on any ground where one does a tour of duty. The soil ensures the soldier is fully protected even in a battleground.

The film depiction of Maximus Decimus Meridius, the commander of the Armies of the North and the Felix Legions under the Roman Empire, shows him taking a handful of soil before any mortal engagement, calmly caressing the grains in the palm of his hand. Ah, yes, he was a farmer wont to the ways of the soil.

The agronomist that I am always revered, not just respected, the soil. Every seed grown there becomes an expression of the soil's living biochemistry, including the magic wreathed there by him who tends to the crops. Include the magical forces infused by a plethora of the unseen -- gnomes, faeries, such marvelous creation -- including fungi, the global mycelial network, earthworms, and an array of life forms.

That ought to explain why I haven't taken even a liking to hydroponics or any of its variant modes for "cleaner, dirt-free" yields for food chains. That won't have a whit of magic. No chemical formulation of a plant's requirements for growth can approximate the life that living soil has.

Most of the greens sold in markets hardly pack the health-giving nutrients for the human body. Most are lacking the trace elements and motley minerals that provide profound impact on the body.

I have learned early on that agriculture is not about cultivation of crops, then, selling these to rake maximum profits. Agriculture is simply culture of the soil. And that makes all the difference in having foliage, flowers, and fruits fit for human consumption.

Every whit of green grown on healthy soil bears the hallmark of Gaea whose offspring Antheus drew reserves of strength and power from the ground.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Dong Delos Reyes

Dong A. de los Reyes began his writing journey in 1978 as a business reporter. He tacks over 20 writing awards- five from the Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature- for his forays into fiction, poetry, and dramaturgy.  He also describes himself more of a soil scientist than agronomist. He is a keen student of the combat arts, with a second degree black belt in gojukai, which was developed by a peasant from Okinawa named Chojun Miyagi. He is married to a campus beauty queen who bore him three sons and a daughter. They have six grandchildren, two of whom are taekwondo black belts.