Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My First Published Article Was On The Salinas Salt Spring

Funny how serendipity works. I've been trying to put some order these past few days to the mountains of books, magazines, newspaper clippings, xeroxed materials, photographs, notes, and other souvenirs of the past that I was able to keep since high school. And among the items I was able to salvage from further attack by dust, humidity, cockroaches, termites, and silverfish in the basement of our house was a folder of clippings and photo copies of some of my earliest published articles.

Among the standouts in the file was the very first article that I ever wrote and got published -- one on the Salinas Salt Spring that included the legend of how the grief of a mountain maiden named Yumina over the treacherous killing of her lover Gumined was rewarded by the gods with the creation of a pearly white hill that for ages and ages gushed forth with salty water believed to be Yumina's tears.

While re-living the wondrous emotions I felt the first time I saw my piece on page 101 of the January 1, 1968 issue of the Ilocano magazine Bannawag, I thought of finding the original copy that gave me my "beginner's luck" as a writer. Here, I took a photo of both the magazine's cover and the page where my piece was:

Cover of the January 1, 1968 issue of BANNAWAG on the left; my Salinas article on the right.

I wrote the piece on pad paper when I was in my senior year at St. Mary's High School in Dupax and mailed it through Uncle Kusep (Jose Castro) who was then working at the Municipal Hall in Malasin where the post office was (there was only one Dupax then).

You may say I probably made history not only at St. Mary's but also in Dupax when that piece came out. For as far as I know, I was the only one from Dupax at the time who ever broke print in a nationally circulated publication. And to think that I was only 16 at the time.

Okay, here's a close-up shot of the article:

This piece was my first writing to see print. Probably it was also the first from Dupax to ever get published in a magazine circulated not only in the Philippines but also among Ilocanos in California and Hawaii.

For those who need magnifying lens to read it, don't worry. Here's a faithful transcription of the text:

Tao, Lugar, Pasamak

St. Mary's High School
Dupax, Nueva Vizcaya

Salinas Salt Spring

MAKUNKUNA A TI ubbog ti asin idiay Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya ti maysa kadagiti sangagasut ket maysa a pagdidinnamagan a buya ditoy lubong. Kas makitayo iti ladawan, nakaaramiden daytoy nga ubbog iti dakkel a turod ti asin; agarup a sangagasut a kadapan ti kangatona. No kinapintas ti pagsasaritaan, kapintasan ngatan iti kunak.

Kadakami a taga-Nueva Vizcaya, ti Salinas Salt Spring ti kapintasanen a buya. Ta kas itay kunadan, "There's no place like home." Nupay pangadayuen (agarup sangapulo ket dua a kilometro manipud iti Central Bambang), pagaayatmi pay laeng a mapan pagpipiknikan aglalo no iti tiempo ti kalgaw.

Malaksid iti kasla perlas a kinapudaw ti galpang, adu pay dagiti napipintas a buya iti lawlaw ti Salinas Salt Spring. Masarakan ditoy dagiti nadumaduma a kita ti kayo a kas iti saleng. Nalamiis kem makapabang-ar ti puyupoy ti angin.

Ania ti pakasaritaan ti Salinas Salt Spring? Kasano ti ilulutuadna?

Idi kano un-unana a panawen, adda maysa a prinsesa a kasla birhen ti kinapusaksakna. Yumina ti nagan daytoy a prinsesa, anak ti maysa a datu.

Nagdidinnamagan ti kinapintas ni Prinsesa Yumina. Adu dagiti nagrayo kenkuana. Ngem dua laeng ti kapingetan, da Indawat ken Gumined.

Tapno marisut no siasino ti mangikut iti puso ni Prinsesa Yumina, nagsalip da Indawat ken Gumined iti panagpana. Nangabak ni Gumined ket isu ti nangasawa iti prinsesa.

Kalpasan ti sumagmamano nga aldaw manipud iti panagkasar da Gumined ken Prinsesa Yumina, inawis ni Indawat ni Gumined a mapan aganup iti kabambantayan. Ngem idi makadanonda iti kabambantayan, pinatay ni Indawat ni Gumined. Inyawidna ti bangkay ni Gumined sana imbaga iti prinsesa a natnag ni Gumined iti rangkis.

Napalalo ti paanagladingit ni Prinsesa Yumina. Impaipanna ti bangkay ti asawana iti lugar a nangabakan idi daytoy iti panagpana, sana pinatay ti bagina. Nem sakbay dayta indawatna kadagiti didiosen a magaburanda koma nga agassawa iti adu nga asin a kas tanda iti nakana a panagladingitna.

Nagkubuar ti baybay, nagdalluyon iti kakasla bantay, ket nalayus ti yanda. Idi agkalman ti dilubio, makita ti kasla perlas ti kapudawna a turod ti asin iti disso a nakatayan da Prinsesa Yumina ken Gumined.

Manipud idin agingga ita, kas tuloy ti sarsarita, madlaw pay laeng ti nakana a panagladingit ni Prinsesa Yumina no agpusuak ti naapgad a danum iti rabaw ti galpang.

No kayatyo a paneknekan ti kinapintas ti Salinas Salt Spring buya a pagtangsit ti Nueva Vizcaya umayyo kitaen. Ngem tapno ad-adda a maragsakankayo, iti tiempo ti kalgaw ti yuumayyo. Narigat ngamin ti bumallasiw iti karayan Bambang no kasta nga agdinakkel ti danum. Mangitugotkayo metten iti kamera a pagalayo kadagiti nadumaduma a buya. #

Enero 1, 1968 o BANNAWAG o 101

  1. I don't remember how Mama reacted to my achievement but I recall Papa was obviously happy when he saw my bylined article. When he asked where I got the accompanying photo of Salinas Spring, I was about to lie to him (knowing his thunderous voice when he is angry). But then my better self mustered courage and I told him I cut out the picture of Salinas from the page of his NLAA souvenir program that he kept in the lakasa where Mama also kept her valuable clothes and jewelry. When he kept silent, I knew my lucky star held.
  2. I got paid five pesos (P5.00) by Bannawag for that piece. I don't recall if it was Uncle Kusep who delivered the registered envelop that contained the Money Order from Manila, but I did recall that I felt I was already a millionaire when I had the check-like item encashed, again thru Papa's oldest brother Uncle Kusep.
  3. You may laugh at P5.00 nowadays, but in 1968 that amount was already money then as you could buy at the time an atado of galunggong for 50 centavos, a huge piece of squash for 10 centavos, a small can of Ligo sardines for 25 centavos, a can of Target corned beef for 80 centavos, a ganta of rice for 50 centavos, a bottle of Coca-Cola or Royal Tru-Orange for 10 centavos, an chicken egg for 10 centavos, a Mongol pencil for 10 centavos, a double-cone sorbetes for 10 centavos, and San Miguel beer for 50 centavos.
  4. Aside from the popularity I got from relatives in Bagumbayan and in I-iyo who read my Bannawag article, among the "fringe benefits" I got was a fan mail from a certain Mildred Malabed of Batac, Ilocos Norte, also a 4th year high school student at the time. We kept writing each other even when I was already in Los Baños but we got to meet only when she was already in her internship as a nurse at the De Ocampo Hospital and came to visit UPLB with her boyfriend.
  5. I wrote an English version of the article in 1974 and, again, I was lucky to get it published in Kerima Polotan's weekly Focus Philippines magazine. It was titled "Witchery at Salinas Salt Spring" and earned for me sixty pesos (P60.00). Unfortunately, I could no longer find a copy of the magazine nor a xerox of the article. I guess this should be reason for me to visit the National Library soon, in addition to doing more research on what that repository and the National Museum have on Isinay and Dupax.
  6. Again, the amount that that Salinas article gave me may not mean anything now, but when I was a student it was already manna from Heaven to me. At the time I could already subsist on an allowance of P40.00 per month. You could buy a pair of Levi's jeans near Quiapo Church then for P40; the BLTB fare between Manila and College, Laguna then was P1.10 (or a little more); for faster and cheaper travel from Mayondon to any point before Tutuban, the Metro train then charged a mere 25 centavos; a bowl of mami plus a piece of siopao in any Ma Mon Luk restaurant then was only P1.50; and jeepney fare then was only 15 centavos.

Why Salinas Salt Spring Means A Lot

I have yet to write a more meaty account of why the town of Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya, is dear to me. But for this blogpost allow me to focus on its Salinas salt spring if only to substantiate that, apart from barangays Buag, Barat, Almaguer, and Indiana, plus the Bambang public market and the Bambang Central Elementary School, there are other places in that town that I could consider part of me.

For newcomers, Salinas is that oddity in the province of Nueva Vizcaya that used to attract local as well as foreign visitors when the word tourism was not yet a household word. It is one of the places that Nueva Vizcaya, particularly the municipality of Bambang, used to be very proud of when the salt mound (that we Ilocanos called "galpang') and the spring that made it grow were both still alive. 

The salty geological structure was in fact enshrined in the Vizcaya Hymn that we used to sing with fervor in the elementary grades in this stanza: "...Winding Magat and Salinas spring, this is our Vizcaya home!"

Salinas is important to me because, aside from having been mesmerized by it since I first stepped on it as a pre-school kid (carried on the shoulders of my Uncle Anton Pudiquet), it was also the subject of the very first article I ever got published.

I will post in a separate blog that Salinas article once I find it in my "junk files". But for now, allow me to revisit the Salinas salt springs with you.

Salinas on the Web

I googled “Salinas salt spring in Nueva Vizcaya” and my search led me to http://www.wondermondo.com/Countries/As/Philippines/NuevaVizcaya/SalinasSprings.htm where there is a photo of Salinas that carried this caption: Salinas Salt Spring before the earthquake. Scanned postcard from the page of Jack Kintanar Cariño, public domain due to the expired copyright length.

The earthquake the caption referred to most probably was the July 16, 1990 temblor that devastated large parts of Luzon, including the Cordillera (Baguio, Benguet), Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, La Union, and Pangasinan. 

When I googled Jack Cariño, I found out – sadly but still thankfully – that the great photo was not of recent vintage but an archive picture taken or painted (as indeed it looked like a painting) during the American colonial era in the Philippine Islands. 

You may ask how come. 

Well, first, the photo showed US soldiers with their characteristic boots and coverall outfit. And second, the caption on the photo itself said “A 229 – A Mountain of Salt, Mountain Province, Philippines” which means that the Americans who first saw it may not have been so literate on Philippine geography that time for Nueva Vizcaya as a province already existed long before the American colonialists came.

Be that as it may, I'm still thankful for the photo as it portrayed how the Salinas salt spring looked in the olden days. There are bonsai-like trees with their roots clinging on the pearly rock. The mountains in the background show the characteristic brown grasslands that may have been burned to renew the cogon or tanglag grass for the cows, or to attract deer with the resulting ashes.

Here's the photo:

The same wondermondo.com site fortunately had this generous writeup titled “Salinas Salt Spring”:

Once upon a time there was unique monument of nature near Bambang town - a snow-white mountain of travertine formed by a powerful spring.
The glistening white hill with rimstone pools (just similar to the fantastic rice terraces in Ifugao) attracted attention of people since ancient times. Nearby village -- Salinas -- got its name from it. This beautiful spring turned into major tourist attraction.
Unfortunately since the earthquake from 16th July 1990 this spring has changed its course and the white mountain has turned into a dirty grey hill covered with inscriptions and graffiti. Most likely the tectonic forces tightened some fissures and water found other ways.
Happily there have been found two more springs with active travertine formation processes in the nearby Macalong barangay, Bambang.
In 2004 local people found out that water is flowing again from the base of former springs. By this time the rural people in this part of Luzon were overwhelmed with the cultivation of tilapias -- small, tasty fish diversifying the daily meals of Filipinos.
In spite of the popular belief that water is too salty for freshwater fish, local enthusiasts tried their luck in artificial fishponds with springwater. This was complete success -- fish grew well and were a lot more tasty than elsewhere. In other pools the meat of fish has got soily taste but here the salts are cementing the ground and the water is cleaner.
Currently more than 30 fishponds have been arranged and in this way the people of Salinas got compensation for disruption of the former tourist landmark. Salinas Salt Spring is a protected monument of nature since 2000.

Popular myths. 

Often there are met two faulty myths regarding Salinas Salt Spring:

  • Many believe that Salinas Salt Spring is formed by the salty water of Pacific Ocean which miraculously travels 75 km inland and is rised 400-500 m above the sea level. This is wrong. Deep artesian water in most areas of the world is salty, often a lot more salty than the ocean. And it happens that this salty water comes up through fissures, and, as it reaches the surface, it precipitates the salt.
  • Cupola and terraces are formed by clean table salt (sodium chloride). Wrong -- if this would be pure table salt, it would dissolve in the wet climate of Luzon very quickly. Salinas cupola and terraces are formed by travertine which for most part consists of limestone. Water in the springs though is slightly salty -- thus there might be some rock salt involved as well.
The author and owner of the www.wondermondo.com website is Gatis Pavils, holder of BSc. Geology and MSc. Environment degrees.

There is also this photo black and white that shows Salinas still white even as it already had the handiwork of vandals:
Photo from http://manilajc.tripod.com/valerio.htm
At first I thought the photo above was of recent take, possibly in the 1990s. But I'm having second thoughts because the blogsite that carries it is a memoir of a former World War 2 guerilla named Escolastico "Restie" M. Valerio presumably from Bulacan but now based in New Jersey. Anyway Guerilla Resty had this account (reprinted here as is, unexpurgated) on Salinas that went with the photo in his blog:

"...at pagkatapos nito ay inatasan kaming tunguhin iyong malapit sa Salinas Salt Spring o bundok na mina ng asin, wlang labanan at ankita namin ang malipetan itong minanganng ito, may 20 metro ang lapad nito sa nilalabasan ng asin mula sa ituktok na undok, putting-puti ang asin sa itaas buablit sa ibaba ay kulay dilaw naman hangang sa kapatagan." (Source: http://manilajc.tripod.com/valerio.htm)

How Salinas Looks Today

It has been decades, nay, half a century, since I last set foot on Salinas. From hearsay, I learned it had been "killed" by the July 1990 earthquakes and since then the spring stopped flowing, and soon the salt mound lost its pearly white color. No wonder when you are near the bridge in Lamo, Dupax del Norte, you could no longer see the formerly visible white mound in the direction of Salinas.

This 2010 photo I found in the internet should say a lot:

Photo from http://s613.photobucket.com/albums/tt220/mscheca/?action=view&current=6.jpg&newest=1

Yes sir, yes ma'am, plus or minus the graffiti you see on its gray sides, Salinas salt spring that used to be a pride of Nueva Vizcaya is no longer something to be proud of.

Each time I travel between Baguio and Dupax via the Salinas-Pingkian road, however, I never fail to look in the direction of where the pearly white salt hill used to be nestled among the grassy mountains of the former Forestry Nursery area. 

I also entertain the thought that one of these days the "galpang" will come back, as indeed the salty spring has oozed in other parts downhill -- and benefiting salt-water-loving tilapia plus their fishpond owners (including my second cousin Steve Pudiquet of Barat).

Perish the thought of another killer temblor, but since an earthquake has plugged the hole that allowed the mineral water to come out from the bosom of the earth to form the salt dome, I also have this feeling that most probably another earthquake will unplug the same hole or open a new one that would spawn a new pearly mound that will make Bambang and, for that matter, all of us Nueva Vizcaya natives sing once again.

(NOTE: Please see also my blog "My Very First Published Article Was About Salinas")

Friday, November 4, 2011

The NPA Paranoia

While having coffee to ward off the seeping cold this rainy November 5 morning (Philippine time), I got this text message from my daughter Leia who as of this writing is in Luna, Apayao, serving as writing coach and campus journalism judge for selected elementary and high school youths of that town:

hahaha napagkamalan pala kaming recruiter ng npa. pumunta yung chief of police d2 kanina, sakto pagdating ni harley at nung organizer na naginvite samin. sabi daw ksi ng nagtip sa pulis nagtatagalog daw kami. hahaha ang hirap naman magturo in ilocano or straight english!

Leia is of course the one of my three children who, aside from having been born in August and an adventurous person like your Isinay Bird, probably inherited most of my writing genes too and, as a cum laude graduate of BS in Development Communication at UP Los Banos, is the one who has held fort, as it were, in my aborted high school dream to be a journalist. (But that's another story for another post in this blogsite.)

Sensing her uneasy excitement, I put down my coffee mug and fired back this text message right away:

Wow, gandang experiens yan! Sulatin mo as field diary of a journalism coach. Ganyan din kmi nong fact finding mission sa casecnan 1991, kala ng mga cafgu na bugkalot ay NPA kami kc tagalog salita nmin. Buti may ksama kmi na ifugao at ilongot, at may sulat ako nkuha from forester mayor blando ng quirino.

Not contented, I followed my text with another: Mabuti cguro samahan kayo ng organizer para magcourtesy call sa mayor. Ganyan kc kaparanoid ang ibang tao.

Leia's reply: kinausap na nga ng organizer e. hatid sundo pa nya kami.

Normally, when my coffee turned cold, I would add hot water to it and a half-teaspoon of Nescafe. But this time I just finished what was left in my UNICEF mug, opened my laptop, and began writing this piece.

But while adjusting my seat and selecting what phrases to use, I heard my wife (who I told earlier about Leia's news) reading aloud the text she received herself from our daughter. I told her (my wife) to forward me the text exchanges, so here's their back and forth, as dictated for my typing by Haina Fiadchongan:

Mommy: Scoop na headlyn sa midland! Mga nmundok na media ginawang front ng pulis para kunyari may npasurender na NPA. WAHAHAHA
Leia: hahaha tagatagalog kaya tong pulis sa next rum. wag nga sila. minmuli.
Mommy: Hinde border ang pulis nayan, SPY. INGAT KAU.
Leia: hahaha engot nga spy. eto open ko door para makita nila na nagjujudge aq ng papers hindi aq npa.

Indeed, what happened to my daughter brought a flashflood of memories not only of the term NPA but also of those unforgettable adventures I had some years ago in the countryside.

(to be continued)