Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Betel Nut & Pepper Leaf as Medicine

I don’t know about you, but even as I had personally been a beneficiary of modern medicine a couple of quite serious times during the past decade of my adult life, up until now I cannot forget a kind of “folk medicine” (if we may call it that) that had saved me a lot of trouble a number of times several decades ago when I was a child.

The medicine consisted of betel nut (muma in Isinay; bua in Ilocano; nganga in Tagalog), a piece of pepper leaf (called duwew in Isinay; gawed in Ilocano; ikmo in Tagalog; samat in Kapampangan; buyo in Bicol; mamin in Bisaya; ching chu in Chinese), a pinch of powdered river-shell lime (epu in Isinay; apog in Ilocano and Tagalog), and someone to chew these into a sticky polstice.

It was that simple. Or so I thought, for several decades -- until very recently.

Muma, the betel nut (Areca catechu)
That “very recently” came when I paid a surprise visit to Mrs. Primitiva Benitez Castro (Auntie Tibang for short) in one of my increasingly frequent visits to my hometown Dupax.

A reed-thin but formerly sturdy Isinay woman now in her nineties, Auntie Tibang didn’t recognize me at first, as she has only one good eye left. And so, when I embraced her in her wheelchair, she half exclaimed to my “accomplice in crime” for the surprise visit, Merlie Rodriguez-Castro: "Siran tiye?" (Who’s this guy?)

But when she heard my voice as I asked (in Isinay) how she was doing, she was teary-eyed as she went into a litany of how her arthritic legs has kept her confined to a wheelchair, preventing her from visiting her granddaughter Jona by her late iyuvot (youngest child) Ambeth Fernandez in Dagupan City, and keeping her from visiting her eldest son Andres in Quirino Province.

When I asked her what’s her secret for having lived long, outlasting in fact my Uncle Ermin and my father (who died one year after the other when they were in their early eighties), Auntie Tibang mentioned something like she loved dining once in a while on the meat of fruit bat (pani-i in Isinay; paniki in Ilocano; kabog in Tagalog).

It was when Auntie Tibang was telling how mapput (Isinay for “good for nothing”) and maro^lot (heavy eater) one of her previous household helps was, that I caught a glimpse of a shiny-leafed vine profusely clinging on her pader (concrete fence).

The vine was the betel leaf or duwew – an indispensable ingredient in the indigenous “chewing gum” called muma.

Duwew, the pepper-leaf (Piper betel) vine
As if on cue, my seeing the plant immediately conjured images of those days when Auntie Tibang would use muma to cure my hives, welts, or other such skin allergies that I acquired often as a consequence of having accidentally touched hairy or spiny caterpillars (or what I love to call “baby butterflies”).

You see, when I was a boy, I was a little bit of what they call in Isinay tiyapong (bulakbul in modern Isinay and Tagalog). I’m not sure if it was a case of hyperactivity on my part then or just plain defense mechanism against being assigned as baby-sitter to my sisters. But I always wanted out of the house when I have read all the pages of the latest issue of the Bannawag Ilocano magazine or when Papa had not finished his turn yet in Uncle Ermin’s latest issue of the Philippines Free Press

The call of the free and sunny outdoors reached fever pitch in summer when you could hear the grass singing and the cicadas and the birds in the trees alternately taunting the slingshot-itchy boy in you. If not the wangwang (river), the pasto (pasture land) and the payaw (ricefields) of Daya/I-iyo, my stomping grounds were mostly in the vicinity of Pitang behind our house in Domang. 

I loved to spend hours in Pitang, particularly the gitaw (semi-forested meadow) there, as it had plenty of guavas, sapang, kamiring, sarisay, mangoes and sompalo free for the eating. Besides, the atittino^ (dragonflies), the durun (grasshoppers), and the mantetteyav (birds) in that part of Dupax seemed to be very tame. 

Naturally, in my gallivanting in that bit of paradise, whether alone or in the happy company of other boys in the neighborhood, I would often be so carefree I didn’t mind if the bushy nooks I crept into were “guarded”  by bangbangawan ("baby butterflies"), kamiring leaves, and other such organisms and plants that cause allergies. 

At first, I would make do with Johnson's Baby Powder and/or Vicks Vaporub as medicine. But later, when the welts and itchy protrusions wouldn’t go away, I discovered that a very effective doctor for naburuwan cases was my Auntie Tibang.

Of course, the sight of the slimy saliva along with pulp bits of the betel nut and pepper leaf poultice would certainly stir to life the squemish person in you as you see them spread like paint on your infected skin. It is what they used to call in Manila Tagalog: “Kadiri to death.”

But just try getting stung by hairy and spiny caterpillars one of these days. Try getting to suffer for several hours the super itchiness of it all. And when all modern ointments and expensive creams fail, this time try the bloody-red juice of the muma direct from Auntie Tibang’s magical mouth... Lo and behold, the itching on your body parts would soon vanish after a couple or so minutes!

When I last saw her, Auntie Tibang revealed for the first time one more secret ingredient to her medicine: the prayer “I Believe” (or the Apostle’s Creed). “Mu manuttuwa a,” she said, “da^dan daat Apuwar an Dios si lom-an.”

Roughly translated, what she meant was this: Have faith and the Lord God of all will do the rest.

Merlie Rodriguez-Castro with Primitiva Benitez-Castro
Reunited -- the patient (Isinay Bird) and the healer (Auntie Tibang).

Monday, June 13, 2011

From Firewood Gatherer to Forester

hen I went to Dupax last May, I brought my daughter Leia and my sister Arlyne’s grandkids to get a feel of the school and the hills that used to be part of my stomping grounds as a boy. From their looks and shrieks, and notwithstanding the mud on their sandals and the tingle of cogon blades on their juvenile skins, the kids did have fun and agreed we'd go further uphill next time I’d be home.

Little did my little hiking companions know, however, that I was also having the time of my life reminiscing those days when, to borrow a line from the Brothers Four’s song: “It was so good to be young then… to be close to the earth.”

One particular thing that made my heart jump a little was when we chanced at a father and two sons coming down the grassy slope of the mountain carrying on their shoulders what to me were very familiar things -- poles to be cut and split into firewood!

Firewood gatherers of Mt. Abuwew. [May 27, 2011 photo by charlzcastro]
Using almost the same trail that I trod perhaps more than a hundred times before, the trio jolted to life an almost forgotten chapter of my life’s story: When I was growing up in the Isinay territory of Dupax in the 1960s, one of my favorite chores was gathering dried poles and branches in the remnant forests of Mount Abuwew which I would later disijon or basijon (split with axe) into firewood.

The activity was a joyful thing to do on weekends and certainly during the school break in summer. It enriched my off-school days to such an extent that when vacation was coming to an end, I was looking forward to either compare notes with my classmates or do my English theme writing on the topic "What I Did Last Vacation." In fact, if there was an assignment that I loved doing when I could not run to my grandparents’ house in I-iyo and be with my Ilocano friends and fellow river lovers and carabao riders, it was gathering firewood.

Called mangayu in both Isinay and Ilocano, firewood-gathering  was to me a "turtle’s punishment" (as in Rizal’s story of The Monkey and the Turtle) for at least three reasons:

First, being the eldest and the only boy in the family, I was expected to do more household chores than my sisters after me when my mother was busy either sewing or washing clothes. This therefore meant that gathering firewood made me sort of exempted from such responsibilities as cooking the rice, bathing the pigs, washing the dishes, and baby-sitting kid sisters. And so I was free to eat whatever wild or communal fruits were in season – bayawas, sompalo, anunas, mangga, sarisay, sapang, arusip, bujnay, kamiring, lumbuy, kitkitiwit, majanilan si araw without feeling guilty that I didn't share them with my sisters.

Second, firewood-gathering meant going out there in the wilderness of Mount Abuwew west of the Dupax Central Elementary School (or occasionally in the woods near the Dupax Subsidiary Nursery upstream of Abannatan) and use the activity as pretext so I could spend many hours running after the birds with my baris (slingshot; palsi-it in Ilocano), finding tulin (rice sparrow; billit-tuleng in Ilocano) nests in the cogonal areas, waiting for ripe and at times naam-amon (maggoty) mangoes to fall down from their twigs up in the big tree, and testing how my ota^ (bolo; buneng in Ilocano) would go against the giyun (cogon; pan-aw in Ilocano) and wawini (sabawil in Ilocano) that obstructed the trail. And when the soy-ang (sun) was too hot, I would lay down under the lirum (shade) of an arusip tree, listen to the duluriyaw (cicada), the titit (sunbird) and the pinuu^ (bulbul) sing in the forest glades, then probably doze off for a few minutes.When it rained, it was fun running to the  tangngej (tanglag in Ilocano) to make a cave-like structure as shelter, then later watch the tabungeyon (rainbow) on the other side of the valley.

And third, engaging in this exclusive-for-boys activity made me somewhat a bigger boy. For it required one to bravely hack a way into the eyas (forest) to get at a dead tree, climb and haul down a dried-up panga (branch), use skills at tying the poles and branches thus gathered with wa-aj (vine), and then sa^bat (carry on the shoulder) the heavy bundle of wood a couple of kilometers pabujibuj (downslope) and over maro-ot (grassy/bushy) trails. I would only stop to catch my breath while feasting my eyes on the panoramic scene of Dupax downhill.

here was no discounting the risks involved. Out there you were on your own. Out there you had to be wary of the alaksiyot (wasps/hornets; alumpipinig in Ilocano) and the abubbulij (a large stinging ant called ampipit in Ilocano). Out there you had to always be on the lookout for the venomous immanuy (spitting cobra), the ayatungan (green pit viper; dahong-palay in Tagalog), or the ine^eyaddang (python; beklat in Ilocano). In case you accidentally cut your limbs while bucking or trimming timber, the most that your couple or so of equally young companions could do was to go run and shout for help kilometers away.

Getting arms and legs bruised by suwit (thorns) and sharp-edged blades of grass were normal.  Getting paltus (callus; kapuyo in Ilocano) on your palms as a result of constant cutting of wood was also par for the course, in much the same manner that cases of naburuwan (acquiring skin allergy; nabuduan in Ilocano) as a result of getting in contact with the atattaru (itchy larva), plus getting matoler (stung; masilud in Ilocano) by the alaksiyot (wasp; alumpipinig in Ilocano), nipped by the e-ja (tailor ant; abuos in Ilocano), or malurun (mapurisan in Ilocano) were also part and parcel of the territory.

Not only that. Occasionally you got to encounter a mavungot (prone to anger) homestead or kaingin owner. And no matter how you swore innocence, no matter if you showed incontrovertible evidence that you went near his area only to find the tiktikrubung (sparrow) you shot down, you get shouted at with something like: “Gaddemet… da^yut manger-eraw si abukado on mangga!” (Goddammit… you avocado and mango thieves!)

ast forward a little to when I was a student in the UPLB College of Forestry. I realize now that my firewood-gathering days (not to mention my bird-sniping, tree-climbing, kaingin-farming and river-fishing experiences) were a fitting prelude to my pursuing the B.S. in Forestry (major in Forest Resources Management).

I really didn’t dream to become a forester. In fact, when I was in my senior year at St. Mary's High School, I wanted instead to be a journalist, inspired by a note along that line on my souvenir book by my English Literature and Grammar teacher, Madam Ermelinda Castañeda-Magalad. Our parish priest at the time, Father Theo Bonarius, also thought I would be a good candidate for the priesthood.

But it turned out that an increasing number of Isinays were then going into the profession called Forestry. I didn't know them very well then, but I heard such names as Vicente Magno, Omer Laccay, Sixto Badua, Segundino Laccay, and Rogelio Felix as having gone to take up Forestry in the University of the Philippines at Los Baños.

At the time, the logging industry was the top dollar-earner for the Philippines, rivaled only now and then by the sugar industry. At the time, there was a noisy sawmill across the sementeryo in Santa Maria, north of Domang, where every hour or so logging trucks would go to unload gigantic dipterocarp logs hauled downhill from the Ilongot territory in the blue hills upstream of Banila and Carolotan.

And so it came to pass that superior orders mandated that I go to forestry school. And because it was never my sweet dream to be a logger or to have anything to do with strangers who cut giant narra, apitong, lauan and bagtikan trees into isahan, dalawahan, and tatluhan logs (and whose bulldozers and logging trucks came to destroy and muddy the river in I-iyo where I loved to go spearfishing), I merely tried to keep my nose above the academic cesspool. I merely contented floating thru college life like in a dream, tried to make sense of my UP life by joining the student movement to awaken the Filipino people to the -isms that make life difficult for the country. And the rest I left to my lucky stars.

Ayyu-ayyu ra Ente^ on Dalen Castro! (What a pity for Vic and Maggie Castro!) No matter if they felt my inner rebellion against having been forced to take a course I didn’t have a heart for, they still went on scraping the little they could so I would become a UP-produced forester.

Looking back now, it could have been worse.

Had I not used as "wind beneath my wings" those wondrous days of my youth as a firewood-gatherer in the hills of Dupax, I could have called it quits to what I considered then as an uninteresting yet difficult course. I would not have loved volunteering to climb trees in my Forest Dendrology classes and chop the bark of some for easier species identification (using the same bolo I used to cut firewood back home). I would not have enjoyed, too, my Silviculture and Forest Nursery laboratory sessions, as well as my Summer classes where we cooked out, measured hundreds of trees, visited kaingin farms, and hiked a lot to and from the Mudspring area and up to the leech-rich peaks of Mount Makiling.

Put another way, had my firewood-gathering days not made me immune to the stings and scratches of student life, had my carrying heavy loads not made me spiritually and physically strong inside, and had not my discovery that freedom had a twin called responsibility, I would have stopped struggling to pass my courses.

Instead, I would have gone full-time in the activist movement or probably ran away to a place far from Los Baños and Dupax, found a wage-earning job as an upland farmer or fisher or whatever on a coastal village somewhere in Mindoro or Quezon or Bicol, and got a barriotic maiden for a wife with whom I could watch the tallivung (full moon) by the sea and share my rainbow-colored fantasies as a country boy.

In other words: Neyyi otyan charlz castro an mansulsulat si attun sutsur! (There would have been no charlz castro writing this kind of story now!)

Look Again At This Tree City, Now

NOTE: Probably due to the proximity of Nueva Vizcaya to Baguio City, and most likely owing to the fact that the pine trees growing in Bambang and Dupax must have come from Baguio, many Isinays find the Summer Capital very close to their hearts. This essay (written when your Isinay Bird just decided Baguio would be his second home after Dupax) is a "situationer" of sorts to Isinay readers who have not been to Baguio for quite some time now, especially those now living abroad and may never get to see this tree city again. As the tree-planting season is already here, this piece is also a bird call, as it were, for this blog's readers to be a bit more tree-conscious or Nature-loving where they are now or whichever corner on Planet Earth they go.

"I  think that I shall never see, a billboard lovely as a tree.... Indeed, unless the billboards fall, I'll never see a tree at all!" [A tree-conservation billboard and Haina Fiadchongan at Camp John Hay]

"How many more mornings, how many more evenings, will have to go... before the fogs kiss Baguio's pine trees adieu?" [Left-Right: Isinay Bird, Mrs. Delia Castro, Mrs. Leony Rillera (formerly of Aritao), Mr. Charlie Rillera]

ONE DOESN'T have to be an ecologist to note that something bad is happening to Baguio’s natural environment these days.

A tour around the city’s immediate confines is enough to give you the feeling that it won’t be long, it won’t take too long now, before the glory and the grandeur that Baguio has been basking in for many years now will all come to end.

Doomsday? No, sir! But the way things are going with the city’s general landscape, we may yet wake up one smoggy day to see something close to tragedy, something that may mean goodbye to all the things we love, all the things we cherish, all the things we uphold, all the things we dream in this highland paradise
beauty, peace, happiness, love, life.

The fact is, Baguio’s ecosystem is going to rot. It is deteriorating at a clip obviously faster than we make effort to re-evaluate and redirect our material values, attitudes, and beliefs.

Witness the rapid multiplication of buildings in the city proper. Viewed from a point like Dominican Hill, the steel-and-concrete jungle the edifices form conjures images of jam-packed rats and screaming baboons. All you get to see are rooftops elbowing one another for dear space. 

The constructions have crept in on every conceivable topography of the city, from dead creeks and gaping gullies to steep hills. Hardly can one find a virgin land form in Baguio today indeed. Even the literally dangerous, rocky, and precipitous cliffs have not been spared by the burgeoning human zoo.

One day, you would catch a glimpse of a wooded nook on one side of a valley. It is so tempting you decide to take another lingering look some other sunny day
and what do you find next but the whole thing scraped off in exchange for a tumble-down shack! 

Multiply that drama by as many babies there are born in the city every year. What you get is a somewhat resigned if not desperate "bahala na!" or the like stuff that fill the coconut of Juan dela Cruz today.

There should be no question about people putting up houses in impossible ground or in erstwhile scenic places, for such malady is a symptom of a deeper disorder, they say. But somehow, in everybody’s frantic desire to build a home, the bigger and more important home that is Baguio becomes less and less of a home.

Morning walkers in tree-rich roads of Baguio marvel at newly constructed houses for sale near the Baguio Country Club
Big are the chances that in a decade or so the people of Baguio will contend with graver problems of residential space, garbage disposal, juvenile delinquency, food production, pollution, and some such other problems afflicting poorly managed settlements.

nd the pines, the trees that have made Baguio so different from all the cities in the country, and which many seem to take for granted… they too are going, going, and will soon be gone. 

Several programs and policies have been formulated, aimed towards pine conservation, it is said. We have yet to see a foolproof one though, one that will really assure us the pine trees are here to stay till kingdom come, one really meant for their preservation.

Except for the stands along the road to Loakan Airport, we know of no other place within Baguio that sports pines in the pink of health. Not even in the Pacdal area, where government forest stewards are, and where most of the pine seedlings used in Benguet are raised. All the other trees found elsewhere are likely the last that we will be able to see. 

Our bone is, the majority of the standing pine trees in Baguio have no hope of seeing their seeds grow into big trees like them, to take their place in beautifying the city and ridding it of poisonous fumes from roaring engines -- and all because the earth under them have become too harsh, too bad a soil to grow on, if they have not been turned into concrete pavements or highly polished lawns.

At Wright Park, where the soil is considerably in better shape than that of malnourished Burnham, we tried once to look for pine wildlings. We wanted to at least disprove our notion that park managers in the city don’t care to even think of the word regeneration, tree-wise, that is. 

Our effort was in vain. Or was it because the trees are sterile? Some are sickly, yes, but I think we saw them once heavy with cones. Then maybe the horses for rent in the area mistook the seedlings for grasses.

We see a glint of hope, nevertheless, in the tree-planting. Knowing that people prefer to do other things though, we are tempted for now to make the proposition that it is all right not to plant trees (in Baguio, that is) so long as we let the standing ones multiply freely, and so long as we don’t destroy the few leftovers we see waging a desperate bid for survival in our over-materialist society.

The pine trees are just a part of a bigger whole, of course. Though very vital, the trees (and the grasses and the flowers) are just one component of Baguio’s ecosystem. One other component perhaps the most important (from the viewpoint of man) but not necessarily indispensable (from the viewpoint of nature), is the social component. 

We deem it proper then that attention be given first to people before turning to the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. That is to say, Baguio should remain a home – home sweet home for human beings. And this would be a more endearing proposition, we think.

* * *

First published in the Baguio Midland Courier issue of February 19, 1978 when the author was still a new migrant in Baguio, this essay (minus the pictures above) was included in the 100th Baguio Charter Day Anniversary (September 2009) issue of the same weekly newspaper.

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