My Banana Republic Memoirs Part VIII
Still reminiscing Botolan...
In the town proper I remember a parapet or garden wall about 3- 4
feet high at the Northwestern perimeter of the plaza. The 10 to 12 foot long
block wall panels were donated by prominent citizens like former Mayors, Vice
–Mayors and active or retired sailors etc. I used to read and vocalize the names
that were carved in walls whenever I go by it to and from the palengke or
market. I would say, “Donated by … Dominado, USN Retired “, “… Dumaplin, USN
Retired”, etc. I thought man I wish I’d see my name in one of those panels
someday. Now, I wonder if the project is still ongoing and if I can donate in
the name of my Papô A-ke?
If I needed to look for some people who like to gamble like my big
brother and his friends, I would go to the Spanish ruins North of the plaza. A
6- foot high masonry walls covered with green moss enclosed the property of
around two acres. There was a section of an old concrete slab where it looked
like a house used to stand. This was the sort of a table for the players. The
gamblers would play bitol-bitol or cara y cruz while squatting in
circle. The banker, the one holding two coins would flip the coins at the same
time, about an arm's length in front and above his head. The banker holds the
coins with the two heads or tails on top of each other between his thumb and
index and middle fingers. The object of the game is to make the coins land both
heads up in order for the banker to win. If the coins land heads and tails, it
is a push. When they land “tails” he losses and had to pay all the monies (tayâ)
laid in front of him. They call it ratsah if the banker gets hot and
throws the pair of coins for a long time. It is considered an illegal throw if the coins
do not separate in the air and thrown short of the head level.
I remember going with my Papo A-ke, Aunties and Uncles to the Bucao
River at least twice a year to do the heavy laundry like the blankets, mosketiros,
pillow cases etc. My uncle would hitch up the carabao drawn cart and take the
national highway going south past Batonlapoc, Carael and Pacsâ about
a thirty to forty-five minute carabao walk. We leave before
sunrise so we get the choice spot under the 200-foot long span (a wild guess).
Sometimes I would help my Aunties hit the wet and soapy blankets with
the palu-palu sort of a flat short wooden bat with wide surface. I am
not sure how it helps in washing though. I remember the batyas, which
were large round metal pans with corrugated folded edges for strength. One was
used for soaking and soaping and the other for rinsing. Sometimes rinsing was
done directly on the river so it was my job to watch the stuffs making sure
none set off downstream. Of course all the while I was enjoying the warm and
refreshing dip with the two carabaos and the dog.
While in Consuelo, I forgot to mention that I had this red
cockerel (less than a year-old rooster) that I raised from a baby chick. Its
natural spur was barely showing when I began grooming it. My cousin Eno
(Filomeno M.)taught me how to himas
and kahig (groom and exercise) the tandang whenever we get
the chance. I guess he learned it from watching his Uncle Tatay Ano. We
cut- off the palong (comb and wattle) so it would not be a disadvantage
during a match. Kâ Eno and I used to go around looking for
another fighting cock in the neighborhood that we think my pet can beat. One
time we ran into a feral (brilliant red jungle fowl) that is only half the size
and weight of my cock. The wild adult rooster was tied up in the yard next to a
pen. Eno grabbed and threw my pet next to the wild cock. The gamecocks started
facing off. That’s when I noticed the 2” long and curvy natural spurs in the
feral’s legs; it was too late then. My rooster gave him a good fight and we
stopped it when the wild rooster was lying on the ground looking hurt. We were
so jubilant and whistling the Bridge of the River Kwai theme song going home.
When I placed my cock inside his pen I noticed that he was favoring
his right side and limped slightly. We took a quick look and
inspected his extremities by flipping the feathers but did not find any
telltale bruise. When we raised his right wing we found a quarter of an inch
wide puncture under the wing, which looked dark with dried up blood. I told my
mom what happened and she said we might have to do something about that.
Needless to say, they (cuz I did not partake) had chicken with upo or white squash for dinner that night.
I remember spending a couple of month summer vacation in Kwagaw,
a small sector past the town cemetery at the Westerly terminus of Pacô,
and Southwest of San Miguel in Papô Maeng and Papô Esyang
D.’s sular or property. The couple were a close relative of my mom. She used to live with them when she was
a teenager. Papô Maeng was more known in Botolan as Baliharah.
His daughter, Ate Leoning lived next door to us in Mandaluyong and who
worked at the Malacanang Palace (she has now since retired and had gone
to visit her son teaching math in Fontana, California this January) paid for my
bus fares. It was supposed to be a leisure vacation but I felt a sense of
obligation to help out in the farm when I saw how hard the couple worked. It turned out to be a
working- vacation. I never get to visit my other Papôs or relatives nor
attend the fiestas in the other side of town.
I always woke up early with Papô Maeng. I believe we were already up and
about by the time the rooster crows its third. He had me water the tomatoes,
eggplant, and rows of onions, garlic and water melons everyday in the morning.
Watering the plants meant pulling the baldeh (bucket) full of water up
the bottom of the líbon (artesian well). The 2-gallon bucket was tied to
a piece of rope and hung on a long bamboo pole with counter weights. The
water level was about 8 -10 feet below the top ring of the 3- feet diameter
concrete cylinders. The water was then poured into two pails hanging from the
ends of a piece of bow-shaped shiny side of the flat bamboo about 5 to 6 feet
long. I would carefully squat and place the flat (midpoint) of the bamboo pole
on my right shoulder to balance the weight of the load. The distance was about
100 yards walk to the crops. I would water each plant with a sprinkling can I
made from a round pusit or squid can.
I punched holes on its bottom with a hammer and an 8- penny nail.
I was also in-charge of taking a couple of carabaos out of their pen
first thing in the morning and tie them in a long manila rope leashes (lawig)
to graze and so they don’t reach and feed on the row crops. At night before
sundown or orasyon I would put them back in their pen making all the
while making sure there were plenty of water in their trough.
Papô Maeng’s place was like a cornucopia of produce and
exotic fruits like caimito, katòh, dalandan, guyabano and balimbingand
menagerie of animals like hogs, chickens, turkeys and ducks. It was a gentleman’s farm at its best. There
were always things to do but the place was so clean, peaceful, and relaxing
especially with the sea breeze blowing in. There was a papag (lounger/bed)
made of bamboo slats about a couple of feet above ground under the caimito tree
where I took my daily nap after doing my chores and having lunch.
We always had fresh fish, vegetables, fruits and homemade desserts.
People would come by and bring stuffs like fresh fish, baliharah (clams)
and desserts and leave with bakol-ful or basketful of veggies and fruits. The couple were very generous and
popular people. I saw people coming and going all the time.
I wish I had the chance to spend more time with them after I joined the
navy. However on account that I was stationed overseas a good part of my navy
career and the fact that my parents lived in Mandaluyong, whenever I had a
chance to visit it was only for a brief period. Although now I always make it a
commitment that whenever I visit my dad’s grave (magtulos with candles)
I would go to Kwagaw and say hello to their daughter and grandkid and hand them
a little something.
Tampo, Botolan, Zambales
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Doon po sa Amin