In the Philippines during the 40’s and 50’s almost every home has a yard with trees. The soil was fertile and it rained six months a year so if one spits a dalandan (Philippine orange) or tamarind seed on the ground a tree stood on that spot the next year. Fruits with bigger seeds like mango or avocado needed planting underground. The guava tree is actually wild and sprouts without human effort. The guava fruit was bird feed so the birds scattered the seeds. These trees nurtured nature’s gift of toys.
Salagubang or June beetle or June bug in English was commonly found in a mango tree mostly in June hence the name. It came in glossy green, brown or gray. When put on its back in the middle of the palm and the hands clapped the beetle gets knocked out, then the kid ties a thread on one of the legs and ties the other end to their finger. When the beetle wakes up it flies around its ‘owner’ without escaping. At night the beetle is tucked with leaves that it can feed on in a glass jar with holes on the tin cap, ready for the next day’s amusement.
There were harmless spiders that also lived off plants. They were housed in a match box, named as pets like the beetle. The difference was the spiders were made to compete with each other. A child would challenge another child’s ‘pet spider’ into a wrestling bout. The two spiders were put on two ends of a wooden stick. Each spider would run towards the other end of the stick to escape its abductor. The spiders run into each other, wrestle to pass and the one that falls off the stick loses.
The most fascinating toy of nature is the firefly. Unlike a light bulb, the firefly’s light does not heat up. They are perfectly safe for little kids’ hands. Children kept them in a jar and when they turn off the light at night the firefly glowed inside the glass jar.
Firefly in Jar
“All flying insects which have four feet shall be loathsome to you.” (Leviticus 11:23) All those insect toys have more than four legs.