SCENTS FROM HOME
My love affair with scents began as early as 5 years old back in my hometown in Davao City. My parents used to own an orchid and cut flower farm which surrounded our house with flowers of various shapes, sizes and color.
As a boy, I remember smelling the dendrobiums when they bloom. Their delicate white flowers gave a sweet herbaceous scent which I found very comforting. In my amateur attempt to “bottle” the scent, I would pick a few flowers and boil them to make my own perfume to give my mom on special occasions.
I also remember a mysterious cactus by our window we fondly call “Cinderella” because it only blooms for a single night. As the sun sets, the flower begins to bloom until it reaches its full glory at around 12 midnight, boasting its white silky flowers as big as an open palm and perfuming the entire house with its distinct floral musky scent.
We would stay up to witness this rare spectacle which happens two or three nights in a year. And while we gaze at its beauty, we say our wishes quietly and go to bed lulled by its delicate perfume as the Cinderella flower begins to close and wilt completely before the dawn breaks. Interestingly, our Cinderella, formally known as Tanhua or “Queen of the Night”, enjoyed the same reverence in the book turned movie Crazy Rich Asians where a party is hosted every time it blooms so guests can wonder at its beauty and enchanting scent.
In this time of quarantine in Manila, I can’t help but miss home and wish that I can bring back those moments of innocence and child-like wonder. In one of my weekly creative exercises, I tried recreating the scent of home and instantly found comfort and warmth in the familiar scents of the dendrobiums and the Cinderella.
Scent indeed has a unique power that transcends both space and time. And at these intimate moments of inhalation, I once again find myself as a young boy back at home.