My Banana Republic Memoirs Part X
Still reminiscing Botolan....
One just needs to look at the stains on the kids t-shirts, arms or face
to find out which fruits were currently in season. The kasoys, lomboys,
caimitos, and nangkas have their tell- tale dagtas (saps)
or juices, which stain the clothes and exposed skins. Especially the kasoys or
bell-shaped fresh cashew meat (not the seed inside the shell), which are so
plumb and juicy that the liquid flows down the hands unto the side of the arms. The dusts that
were kicked up while walking the dirt roads or paths gathering them fruits
sticks to the skins which looked like a ba-lat or birthmarks.
If I have to pick which season
was dirtiest or mayangat for us kids... I would say it is during the kasoy season. We did things
that were very natural and unhygienic back then. I
remember playing the game bogah with the kasoy nuts where each
player would place equal number of nuts (ta-yâ) in a circle drawn with a
twig or bamboo stick in the somewhat wet flat dirt. The object of the game is
to dislodge as many nuts out of the circle by blowing a nut out of the mouth we
called ba-tô. The players take turns until all the nuts were pushed out
of the circle by the ba-tôs, which sometimes takes a few go around. So
that when we finished our turn we would get ready for the next by wiping the ba-tô
off of our pants legs to get rid of the dirt which got stuck on our wet ba-tô
(from the saliva) and then putting it back in our mouth without washing. Yuck!!!!
In our neck of the woods or almost anywhere in Asia for that matter, when it rains it pours.
I remember at one time it rained
everyday for the whole month. Us kids still managed to have even when the sun didn’t
shine. At least we didn’t need to prime the pitcher pump (which was a chore itself) to pitch some bath water to the bangâ in the batalan.
I remember taking my share of showers under the alulod or
downspout and run around the yard, slipping and sliding in the rain. The
rainwater was oftentimes lukewarm not cold, except when a storm was brewing
west from China Sea. Of course I did not know
about how rainwaters were formed then or the hydrologic cycle. That water
evaporates from the ocean by the energy or solar radiation of the sun. This
water vapor rises and is carried along by winds which eventually condenses into
clouds. When these clouds become chilled, the small particles of water collect
into larger droplets, which may precipitates over land or water. As the water
falls in the form of rain, snow or sleet and hail it clings to and carries in
it all the dust and dirt in the air. Needless to say, the first water that
falls picks up the greatest concentration of contamination. Wow, and our folks
kept telling us to “eloren muy leey mo nen hati ya batu ta emen malinisan
mahampat” or “Make sure you use this pumice stones to rub behind your ears and
neck to get the caked-in dirt off”. Now I would have asked, “What for? The
rainwater was dirty anyways”!
Simbang-gabi or midnight mass in the barrio of Mambog was my first ever
potluck experience. Of course back then potluck was never heard of. I
believe the term they use was ambágan. The close- knit barrio residents
organize a dessert potluck for 13 nights preceding Christmas Eve. Families
teamed up into 13 separate groups. Big families took their own nights and
smaller ones banded together to form a team and picked a night. On Christmas
Eve all the families brought in something to the kapilya or small
church. Only the Aglipayans do this and
not the Catholics. On Christmas seasons I’m just glad my Papôs (all
their kids too) belong to the Aglipayan church, which is a Philippine
Independent Church, founded by a former Roman Catholic Priest Gregorio Aglipay
in 1902. Their mass is recited in Angelical vernacular form or Tagalog .
Three percent of Filipinos are said to belong to this church.
There were always human (pronounced as hooman) latik, bibingka, tinopak, and salabat
or ginger tea for the congregation. Sleepy eyed kids like me had a blast and a
full stomach to boot. I don’t remember what was said in any of the masses
though. This was the highlight of Christmas season for me then, not gifts, for
we seldom get those. I always looked forward to this annual event.
Going back to my Papo Ake’s house…at the front of the house at
the eave of the ridgeline of corrugated metal roof , a family of fruit bats (paniki)
nested between the walls above the top plate. I used to climb up the rafters
and stick a metal rib I took out of a broken umbrella. I could not see them but
I can hear those critters when they’re mating and smell their durays or
urine and droppings too. My grandpa would always warn me to be careful and not
to fall. It became like an obsession for me to chase them away. I thought they
were bad critters like the vampires or mananangals. It was very mean of
me to think of it now. Of course back then I did not know that they help in
pollination of fruit trees and flowers.
Talking about being mean, I had a chance to experience a very mean
(corporal) punishment with a somewhat religious undertone, which I don’t
remember being done by folks in Botolan. It happened in Mandaluyong before I
left to stay with my real Papôs to start the elementary grades. This was
at the house of my Lolo Ente D. (my mother side). He was married to Lola
Marcy from Visaya. Lola Marcy I thought was the meanest person in the
whole canopy of heaven when I was little. She punished us kids by making us
kneel on our naked knees in front of the altar on a layer of fresh mung beans
laid out in a bamboo bila-o while reciting the Lords Prayer and a few
Hail Mary’s in Tagalog at exactly 6:00 P.M. or orasyon. My mom
would always threaten me by saying, “I’ll tell your Lola Marcy that
you’re …” Of course I had phobia whenever I hear her name so I would do
anything to escape her wrath.
Another mean act
that I was privy to as far as I can remember was when we were in Consuelo. Kâ
Eno’s real grandma Papo Ibay who I believe was in her 80’s or 90’s who because of
senility became maliliwawen or forgetfull. I don’t think she
recognized the people around her anymore although she seemed to have good
eyesight, hearing and mobility. She talked to herself constantly so kids
especially her real grandkids like my cousin Eno made fun of her. She
picked fruits and cashew nuts in the surrounding yards everyday (when it was not
raining). She could not climb the trees but would pick up the fallen fruits and
their nuts. Kâ Eno would take her turban full of cashews and would
choose the good ones and take them. Sometimes he would throw sticks near her to
startle her (when she was relieving herself)and
so we can hear her mutter, “ Maw matay makasalanan di ha babo nin lotá
mangakati kawo dayi” which meant “ I wish you all sinners of this world all
die” or “Tabi po apo. Ayen mangilawilaw ayen nin mangangat-wa,
No ayri kawo inggawa nin katawan bayro kawo tana”.
I do not know when Papo Ibay finally passed or at what age but I regret being an
associate to the despicable acts to an elder. Please forgive all of us for we did not know what we were doing then Papo
Ibay. And may you and Kakâ Eno rest in peace”.
Tampo, Botolan, Zambales
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Doon po sa Amin