Trees showering 'holy water'
ANN - Sunday, March 6
Kepala Batas - Thousands of people from as far as Johor and Malacca have been flocking to see two trees in Pinang Tunggal in the Malaysian state of Penang, said to be spraying �holy water" over the past week.
Witnesses said they had felt showers and occasional droplets from the trees � a 12m petai tree in Kampung Lembah Raja in Pinang Tunggal and an 18m wild tree in Taman Ria Jaya in Sungai Petani.
Even researchers have different opinions about the reasons for the showers.
Former Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia lecturer Prof Dr Zaidi Mat Isa said the showers from the trees could be water discharge or urine from cicadas during mating season.
�But it is difficult to imagine how these little insects can retain so much water," said Dr Zaidi, who has been conducting research on cicadas for over 10 years.
Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Vector Control Research Unit coordinator Assoc Prof Dr Zairi Jaal said insects generally did not discharge waste material in fluid form.
�The water could have come from the trees. Nevertheless, there are cicadas that can hibernate and suddenly emerge in large numbers, mate and die," he said.
Odd-job worker Abdul Ghani Md Hussin, 41, who owns the 35-year-old petai tree, said he first felt the showers last Saturday when he was walking past the tree next to his poultry shed at 4pm.
�My wife Norhayati Abdul Karim also felt the showers but there was no rain at that time. The clear water sprinkles are heavier at night and we collected about a pail of water over the past week," he said.
Norhayati, 38, a housewife, said she did not stop anyone from collecting the water, adding that some believed it was a blessing to wipe their bodies and face with the �holy water" while others sold it for RM5 per cup.
�But if it is cicada's urine, how come only this particular tree is spraying water when cicadas are also found on other trees?" asked a neighbour Saad Saaban.
In Sungai Petani, some individuals had even built an altar under the wild tree and lit joss sticks besides placing offerings such as coffee, milk and thosai with dhall curry.
The 25-year-old tree, located in an open field behind the Pasar Singgah Selalu SP market, had pieces of �holy" cloth tied to its branches and bore some dried red marks.
Muhamad Sharul Rizan Halmi, 29, from the nearby Paya Nahu flats, said there were no cicadas in the area.
Onlooker Saw Kok Lye, 58, said some people thought the phenomenon would usher in good fortune.
�Some punters believe it is a sign that 'Datuk Kong' will bless visitors with winning numbers," he said.
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