Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ayyu-ayyu, Abannatan!

Thank Heavens it is still alive -- but what a pity! It is no longer that popular part of town where womenfolk went to hear the latest buzz in town while doing their laundry or bathing their kids... it is no longer that clear, cool and bubbling stream where boys and girls learned to swim... it is no longer that communal creek where one could freely get bamboo, coconut, santol, and mushroom
Those of you who are natives of or have lived in Dupax will definitely glow with recollection at the mention of the word Abannatan. Yes, Abannatan is that erstwhile bubbling wayil (creek) that ran through central Dupax and is probably made famous because of its Dampol bridge, said to be the oldest brick-bridge in Northern Luzon. 

Yes, Abannatan is that waterway that since time immemorial has served as natural boundary between Dupaj and Domang, the two oldest villages/settlements/barrios/barangays of  Dupax del Sur. It was what made Dupax residents clean as its clear (maliting in Isinay) water and easy accessibility to both the East and West parts of the town gave no reason for women and men, young and old, not to man-omos upung si ejao (take a bath every day).

Abannatan Creek is spanned by Dampol bridge (built 1818). This shot was taken from the southern or upstream part of the bridge. [2008 Photo by Joel Aldor]

I recently had a chance to take a look at Abannatan from four vantage points -- 1) the Dampol bridge, 2) the Bagumbayan/Dereya bridge, 3) the Uruddu bridge, and 4) the Gabaldon/Nursery bridge. 

I may be judgmental, but I both liked and disliked the things that I saw and the impressions that formed in my mind as a native who had enjoyed the riches of Abannatan for playground, bathing, swimming, drinking,  bird-hunting,  santol-climbing, fuelwood-gathering, bamboo-cutting, mushroom-gathering, and leaf-collecting.

First, the good news about Abannatan:
  • It still has some water. At least there's enough to go wash your hands and legs mu nilomlom at lusiyus boon ila ya nakagatin at attay (in case you get stuck in mud or happen to step on excreta).
  • It is still visually clean. At least the people living on its teyantaj (banks) do practice Good Manners & Right Conduct enough not to use the waterway as convenient dump for their solid waste.
  • It still does not stink. At least there are yet no navilao (mentally deranged) residents upstream who use their condition as excuse for turning the brook into a mini Pasig River.
Abannatan as it looked last May 27 at the bridge connecting the Dupax Central Elementary School area and Barangay Dupaj. (Photo by Charlz Castro) 

On the other hand, here's my not-so-good report on Abannatan:
  1. It now looks like a mere canal. Gone is the continuously flowing -- and at certain points "singing" -- water where occasionally one could see the temu^ (splash) of the dalaj (mudfish), and where one could go find ajasit (freshwater crab) or ajurung (lance-tip snail).
  2. It has lost its appeal to bathers. Gone is the carrying capacity of the creek for Irupaj who wish to go man-omos (take a bath) or mampe^pe (wash clothes) or just plain mambevoy (play) in its free water. When we were kids, the creek had certain deep parts in the vicinity of the Dupax Central Elementary School; today you would surely be called naberberio^ ("intellectually challenged") if you did attempt even a couple minutes of a dip in the water.
  3. It no longer appears accessible. Gone are the several pathways that used to give users free access to the water. Gone is the formerly brick-covered "river crossing" immediately below Dampol that connected the vacant lot beside the Quito Guzman house to the St. Mary's High School campus. I used to walk a narrow and sometimes mapeyut (muddy) road from the Bastero & Reyes area in Dupaj and on to the Magaway & Bombongan area in Domang. There was also one bujibuj (sloping) and marangilut (slippery) road that passed by the Albano & Evaristo area and went directly to the water. I guess such age-old access roads to Abannatan and connecting Dupaj with Domang are no longer where they used to be.
Abannatan as it looked last April 28 from the Dampol bridge. Note the banana plant and the two goats feeding on the lush grass that were able to grow as a consequence of the creek's inability to have its formerly voluminous water flow. (Photo by Charlz Castro)

No Longer the Same
Put another way, thank Heavens that Abannatan is still alive. It was high summer when I went there and I was glad that, even if it looks like a mere canal, at least it has water. Other water ways in the country are not that lucky -- they become bone-dry in the sweltering months of March, April and May when their soothing water is needed most.

But the other side of the coin is that it is no longer the popular spot in town where the womenfolk went to do their laundry and bathe their kids and in the process get to learn the latest news in town, such as who eloped with whom, what family lost their members to headhunting Ilongots in the soppeng (kaingin) areas of Daya, when the next Moro-moro or stage show will be, which part of the wangwang had the most sappilan, where to buy the best pranela blanket, the cheapest second-hand clothes (then called relief, now called ukay-ukay), etc.

It pained me to realize that the places that my school friends and I frequented especially during weekends or even during vacant periods in school are no longer there or rather no longer accessible. For instance, gone are the stepping stones that led from the top of the Dampol down to the water. In fact, there are now fences on all sides, whether upstream or downstream of the bridge, preventing "balikbayans" like me to have better points for taking photographs. I guess other parts may have NO TRESPASSING signs even.

In that forested lot that we used to call "solar Daniel Reyes" I could no longer get a glimpse of the santol trees and coconuts that we helped ourselves with. Instead, I saw a lot of melina (Gmelina arborea) trees growing. At the Gabaldon area, I thought I would still see the Bunyeng part of Abannatan where we boys went to teach one another how to manlotop (swim) and man-iyat (dive) and then have games of pinnaliwliwan (holding one's breath and staying underwater for a long time); instead, what I saw were ricefields that were not there before.

One reason why Abannatan now looks like a canal is the conversion of sizable portions of its teyantaj (streambanks) into ricefields. No less than my insan Kagawad Edgar Castro pointed this fact to me one time I asked him why there is now very little water flowing in Abannatan. This site is that formerly shrubbly carabao grazing land across the schoolyard of the Dupax Central Elementary School (near the LGU Nursery at the Gabaldon bridge). It was where I used to get amabuvun (mushroom) and dumoj (rhinoceros beetle).
Ayyu-ayyu, Abannatan! 
What happened to this once picturesque, child-friendly, women-helpful, and very useful stream is a cause for alarm as it may also happen to other waterways in Dupax and other nature-endowed towns of Nueva Vizcaya. While its deterioration may not yet be utterly hopeless, I pity people who are no longer able to avail themselves of the blessings it used to provide, particularly in terms of water.

I pity Dupax youths nowadays -- be they Domang kids going to grade school in Dupax Central, Dupaj kids enrolled at GACES, or teenagers studying at St. Mary's Dupax. I wonder if they ever get to experience the joys of collecting leaves of the katakataka cactus by the teyantaj (streambank) to use as bookmarks... of taking a dip in a bamboo-shaded and secluded part of the stream (using as both "soap" and "face towel" a pandesal-shaped stone Isinays call bubbur)... of looking (as we did in our high school Biology class under Mr. Castor Campo) for freshwater shells with their mouths turned the other way.

Perhaps the four points that I used for my rapid ocular inspection were not enough to give the whole picture. But at least what I saw were enough for me to conclude that gone was the meadow-like part of Abannatan across the Dupax Elementary School where I went to hunt for mushrooms during rainy days... Gone were the spots where I went to look for rhinoceros beetles under the tutu^paw (acapulco) shrubs or the appatut (achuete) trees in summer... Gone was the singing water that made do as alternate when I could not go to the wangwang (river) in I-iyo.

You know what I felt? It was like going home after a while -- only to find your house is no longer your house, your favorite dog no longer recognizes you, and you are now a total stranger! -- CHARLZ CASTRO

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