14 August 2014

Live in Lipa? Here’s Something You Should Know but Probably Don’t



Before asking the audience for their comments about the performance of one contestant from Lipa City in an “It’s Showtime” segment, Kuya Kim Atienza gave a bit of trivia about why the city is named the way it is.

And he went on to say that Lipa is named after a tree which comes from a family of plants that can cause itchiness. He went on to cite two varieties of the tree, the lipang aso and lipang kabayo, and gave the family of plants’ scientific name.

Too geeky at the time to remember, but then there is always Wikipedia.

At any rate, what Kuya Kim did not say – because he was on national television and most probably also because he is not from Lipa and does not know – was the legend about how the city was supposed to have gotten the name.


Learned a thing or two, did you not? As I did. The wonder of it all is that I took more than half a century to bother to find out what in God’s blood the lipa tree is or how it looks like.
Since I was a boy, the popular legend about the city’s name was that two Spanish conquistadores went off to poo-poo behind some bushes, reached out for leaves to wipe themselves with when done and cried out like bitches after doing so.

The embellishment to the legend is purely mine. Smiley.

A native was supposed to have seen what had happened and started shouting, “Lipa! Lipa!” Remember what Kuya Kim said about the plant causing itchiness?

That was as far as the legend went; or, at least, how we little boys told the story to each other. We were as yet too young to wonder why a native was watching two strange white folks taking a crap.

Eeuuww…

Now to expound more on what Kuya Kim already said, the lipa comes from a family of plants called the nettle, scientific name Urticaceae. Nettles are plants with stinging hairs, through which the plants can release toxic substances that can cause severe itching and rashes.

Image credit:  Wikipedia.

The lipa is a tropical nettle that according to Wikipedia is endemic to Chinese-Taipei and the Philippines. The variety after which Lipa City is supposed to have been named after is the lipang kalabaw or the carabao lipa.

Still according to Wikipedia, locals supposedly recognise the tree from the hair on its twigs, which are irritants to the skin. And here we see how accurate Wikipedia is as a source of information.

I have lived in Lipa practically all my life and would not have recognised it if it came up to me and slapped me in the face. If you waved that picture of its leaf that I have included in this article in front of my face, I would have said guava.

But this is just me.

In contrast to the lipang kalabaw, the lipang aso or dog lipa is a shrub. Because it is lower and closer to the ground, that is supposedly why it is referred to as a dog.

Duh.

Note that Wikipedia makes no mention of Kuya Kim’s lipang kabayo. He was probably thinking of Vice Ganda.

Learned a thing or two, did you not? As I did. The wonder of it all is that I took more than half a century to bother to find out what in God’s blood the lipa tree is or how it looks like.

So now I know why my beloved home city is named the way it is. Silly little name.

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