Monday, April 30, 2012

Ansisilud, Kiaw, Kebkeb, Tariktik and Other Now-Rare Fauna of Dupax

A COUPLE OF weeks ago, while waiting for a tricycle in the waiting shed at the welcome point of Palobotan, Dupax del Sur, I saw an insect that I have not seen for more than five decades now. Here's one of the photos I shot of that creature:
Hornet shot in Palobotan, Dupax del Sur, on April 22, 2012
I have to Google-check this or ask help from an entomologist, but I guess this insect is either a hornet or a wasp, if  those two insects are different. 

Its almost two-inch length and reddish brown color nevertheless remind me of the rather large wasps/hornets that used to be common in the sandy-loam grounds of I-iyo/Palobotan when I was still, oh well, an insect of a kid in that Ilocano village upstream of central Dupax.

Ilocano-speakers call this particular stinger ansisilud then. I have yet to ask its Isinay name.

The ansisilud is different from the akut-akut (mud-dauber) that is colored black and imprisoned butterfly larvae in mud catacombs on corners of walls. The ansisilud was reddish brown and made holes on the ground and we feared them so much that when we see a hole nearby with the insect going in and out, we moved to other areas in the neighborhood or played other games.

Anyway, thanks to this chance encounter with a long-unseen creature of my boyhood, a stream of other now rare -- if not extinct -- creatures in my part of Planet Earth, oozed in a bitter-sweet manner in my memory. In no particular order except for their being categorized into fish, mammal, bird, and reptile, let me string (ubunen in Ilocano, tutu-on in Isinay) them down like newly caught mudfish for this blogpost.


Ar-aro is a small carp that used to be common in the rivers and ricefields of Dupax. Now no more.

This refers to the native catfish called pattat in Isinay, paltat in Ilocano, hito in Tagalog.

Earlier, there was talk of burasi and ikan. This ikan I only saw as dried fish bartered along with pindang (dried meat of ugsa or alingo) by the Ilongots that used to come downhill. For payment, members of this IP (historically known for their head-hunting practice and we Isinays used to call Ivilao, meaning “crazy”, but now officially called Bugkalot) accept salt, rice, and iron bars we presume would later be blacksmithed into sharp spears or bolos the better to cut Christian heads off when the bagbag (Erythrina) trees bring forth their blood-red flowers.

Ayungin in Isinay, Ilocano and Tagalog. A white and silvery fish that swims and feeds along with tilapia.

Dalit in Isinay, igat in Ilocano, palos in Tagalog.


Eyaw in Isinay, kalaw in Ilocano and Tagalog. 
The mountain clockbird. A hunter from outside Dupax dropped by Apong’s house once with his bloody catch – huge red bill, wings somewhat bigger than a roosters.

Tariktik in  Isinay, Ilocano, and Tagalog. Very noisy bird but our slingshots could not reach their kallautit tree perches.

Philippine Ostrich
Kebkeb in Ilocano. This must be the Philippine ostrich, said to be extinct. A large grayish bird that always went in pairs, making “keb-keb” sounds with their necks above the ricefields when fishing. Uncle Carting Manmanaas caught a pair in Mammayang once, using a tabukol. He didn’t even bother to call me to have a taste of the birds.

Koyaw in Isinay, kiaw in Ilocano, kilyawan in Tagalog. Aside from their distinct yellow plumage which no other bird had, you won’t mistake these birds fro the sound they made in the mango trees.

Labban in Isinay, kali in Ilocano, lawin in Tagalog.

Uwop in Isinay, puek in Ilocano, kuwago in Tagalog.

Wild Pigeon
Manaleban in Isinay, alimuken in Ilocano.

Wild Chicken
Kalatan in Isinay, abuyo in Ilocano, labuyo in Tagalog. 

Plep-plew in Isinay, pirpiriw in Ilocano.This is a beautiful bird that came around where ever there are honeybees.


The mammals in the forests of Dupax were partly responsible for the town's name.

Laman in Isinay, ugsa in Ilocano, usa in Tagalog.

Civet Cat
Amunin in Isinay, motit in Ilocano, musang in Tagalog. Sometimes referred to as wild cat. 

Wild Boar
Bavuy si eyas in Isinay, alingo in Ilocano, baboy-damo in Tagalog. – Apong once talked of a variety with white-sided face. He called it bangor.

Araw in Isinay, sunggo in Ilocano, unggoy in Tagalog. Sometimes alternatively called buengon in Isinay, bakes in Ilocano, matsing in Tagalog. – I heard local tough guys use the word buengon to refer to a not-so-popular instructor at St. Mary's and almost immediately we could guess that his side profile indeed was somewhat resembled that of a Cromagnon photo. These were aplenty in the days when Apong and company were still active kaingineros. In Mammayang, I used to delight seeing them walk in line among the runo and karabasa patches. I wrote somewhere that one pet even shredded my straw-hat once.


Banbanyahaw in Isinay, bambannagaw in Ilocano, hunyango in Tagalog.

Ine^eyaddang in Isinay, beklat in Ilocano, sawa in Tagalog.

"Iraw an dioy si siina" in Isinay, alibut in Ilocano, bangkalang in Tagalog.

No, we don't have crocodiles in Dupax. Even as Dupax had been unexplored jungle country for many decades before the inroads of commercial logging, and even as Nueva Vizcaya may not be very far from San Mariano, Isabela, where remnants of the native crocodile (Crocodillus mindorensis) have been found and are now being protected, there have been no mention at all of the dreaded species in the earlier accounts written by Isinays or about Isinay land.

There are certainly a lot of stories that other Irupajs can contribute as regards any or all these formerly common fauna in Dupax. I'll try to invite them in my Facebook account -- to fish out their individual memoirs, en route to a collection of sorts.

Meantime, the next time I'll go to Los Baños, I’m going to visit the UPLB Natural Museum again, this time to get the scientific names of these wild creatures and further sharpen my mental images of them.

Pramdaken, Len of da Morning, Aymsoyang, Sopas da Boys and Other Songs We Sang as Kids in Dupax

WHEN I WAS starting school “I’m So Young” and “From The Can” were the popular songs in Dupax. Or so I thought, based on how many kids preferred to sing them. 

Back then we used the first words of the song as title. Thus, you would not find the two songs above in any list -- instead, they are “Diana” (sang by Paul Anka) and “From the Candy Store in the Corner to the Chapel on the Hill.”

Way back then, too, we used our Isinay and Ilocano pronunciations of the titles and lyrics of the songs. Thus, nobody minded when on rare public singing occasions such as weddings and fiestas, particularly their before and after parts when the microphone was free for "mayktes... mayktes..." by whoever was near the sound-system operator, one would answer Pramdaken or Aymsoyang when asked "Ania ti kantaem?" (What will you sing).

The National Anthem of the Philippines then was sang in English and I distinctly recall that at the Dupax Elementary School during flag ceremonies when I was in Grade 1 (after I transferred from Bambang) up to Grade 3, I loved that song so much that I even as I could not understand then what some stanzas meant, I would lip-sing them the way I heard older graders sang:

Len op da morning seldi seldi serning
Len dir en holi didi ar sols ador...

How did we learn our songs? First credit goes to Robin Angat, the only electrician and sound-system owner/entrepreneur then. His sound system did not only monopolize town fiestas and weddings but at times gave the St. Vincent Orchestra and the Eagle Swing Orchestra a run for captive audiences. Whenever it was hired, Robin's sound also lorded it over the whole town’s air. In fact, apart from the church bell and the Reyes sound system in December, Angat's music was the only sound you could hear all over Dupax. 

I digress, but up to this day I'm still amazed at how our ears during those days were working very well so much so that kilometers away we heard the kengkeng of the bells of St. Vincent Ferrer church. This was when the bells rang to tell the news of someone who just died, when they sounded the "koling" to tell kids and teachers that it was time to go to school (I'll write a separate post on this later), or when they summoned the devout to go to Sunday mass in a series of triple tang-tang-tang that, we heard, were codes for "Juan Dinu... umali at tu" sounded by the cantores' son Parasyo^ who was then chief sacristan and church caretaker.

I was in Grade 2 when Papa and Uncle Ermin each bought their own radio phonographs (as inseparable brothers, their Eveready battery-operated sets both looked alike and were of the same Fujiya brand). For many years these radios were a household fixture and from them we learned new songs via the Tawag ng Tanghalan program and the children’s singing contest aired every Sunday.

I’m not sure now, but the Manila-based stations that reached Dupax radios then were DZRH and DZAQ. I guess, apart from Robin's and the Reyes sound systems, these air stations could be credited for the talents of many Dupax singers when I was young. I was not able to join the amateur singing contests during Dupax town fiestas myself, but from the radio I learned "Run Samson Run," "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Winny Yellow Polkadot Bikini" and "High Noon", among many other songs.

Question: Who were the perennial singers in Dupax then and what songs did they sing? The following list is certainly incomplete -- sorry, it's been half a century -- but for now I recall the following:
  • Samuel Bautista (current songs from Manila)
  • RosieValdez (Isinay and Ilocano love songs)
  • Abraham Reyes ("Gone for the Summer" and cowboy songs)
  • Damian Guzman (good guitarist and sang "Sad Movies")
  • Tony Felix (good at yodeling with "You Are My True Love")
  • Armando Dalay ("Devil Woman" and Beatles songs)
  • Romeo Solis ("Let Me Be With You" and other top hits)
  • Ariston Laccay ("Wishing It Was You" and Beatles songs)
  • Arlyne Castro ("Delilah" and Vilma Santos songs)

Aside from constant listening to the radio, we got the wordings/lyrics of the songs from the Bannawag (it had a section called “Agkanta Tayo Man”) and years before Jingle became a bestseller, we made do with Song Hits, Song Cavalcade, and Top Melodies. I do remember having received a Cortal song hits booklet from an audiovisual van that came to advertise and sell medicine. It carried the lyrics of “Jambalaya” and it was part of our home library for many years before its pages became ripped with use or were eaten by a baby sister and later used as kindling material by the house help.

IF THOSE OF you who know our family are wondering why all of my sisters (especially Arlyne and Abeth) sing well, it was because our parents were lovers of songs. Yes, both Mama and Papa were a big influence on our part of the Castro and Pudiquet clan.

Back then, Mama used to sing “Changing Partners” and “Tennessee Waltz” as lullaby for Merlie or Tessie or Judith. For his part, Papa sang “Come Where the Lilies Bloom” and “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” aside, of course, from his favorite Isinay song "Dattut Ittuwam" and his favorite Ilocano song "Bannatiran." 

It may have helped that Mama was always giving birth – she had to sing songs to put my baby sisters to sleep. Papa’s being a teacher, too, was a big factor because I guess all teachers worth their salt then had to teach music and thus are duty bound to have good vocals.

I cannot recall what songs Uncle Ermin taught at the Dupax Elementary School because when he was my teacher in Grade 5 our music class was handled by Auntie Tating (Tesalonica?) Guiab-Fernandez. When he did his daily routine of sweeping starapple leaves all around his one-block lot, however, I would hear him sing “Uwak says the crow nagdakkel ti ubetmo!”

How about my grandparents? I don’t remember hearing Apong Pedro hum a tune, honest. Nor have I heard him even whistle while we were astride his carabao or when it was sweltering hot in the ricefield and other farm folks would whistle for the wind to blow.

Inang, of course, was a singer  in her own right. She was good at singing the Pasion during Cuaresma. She also bought these booklets from Malasin that had stories in verse form about kings and princesses and, using the same Pasyon tune, sang the words as sort of bedtime stories not only for me and my cousins but also for my Apong Lakay. I also remember that when Merlie was still under her care, I heard Inang sing “Tralalala ha ha” with her in addition to the Ilocano lullaby “Lal-lal-lay tukak, ipusna dalag, limmagto pilat!

The other adults then sang “Remember When” (along with its local churiwariwariwap of “tuduktuduken”) and the sad “A Tear Fell” that had an Ilocano version reminding of President Magsaysay’s death: 

“Ammoyo ni Magsaysay… napan idiay Cebu… 
naglugan ti eroplano… naibangbangga iti kaykayo.
Kaasi pay ni Magsaysay idi natay!”

ON WEEKENDS our part of Dupax became musical as Papa and Uncle Ermin competed with their full-volume playing of whatever 78 RPM and 45 RPM records that we called “plaka.” Uncle Ermin’s favorites then were “Fraulein” and “More” while Papa’s were “Mary Mary Lou” and “Susie Darling.” (I wonder where these collection items are now or what happened to them when the Fukiya phonographs were already not functional.)

Our love for songs deepened when Papa and Uncle Ermin again each bought ukuleles. One of Uncle Ermin’s katulong, Manang Virginia Madriaga, was a good strummer and it was she who taught me to sing and strum “I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door.” Uwa Andres Castro would often come to the house and also play the uke, ot pamaringana mot an mangarug si mariitar (use the opportunity to make friends with the young lady).

In Grade 4, I had an Isinay classmate named Rogelio Guinir who played the uke well. He must have imbibed it from his older brothers who owned a “bajo” (one-stringed bass with a gasoline metal canister for base) and were part of what we called then combachero that played during weddings and also did house-to-house "caroling" during Panagkakararua (Halloween).

Papa’s ukulele was colored pale yellow, had a clear varnish, and carried Hawaiian flower designs that were the “uso” in the 1960s. The instrument must have cost a lot because each time its walls/parts peel off, instead of buying a new one, he would buy white glue and we both would clamp the glued parts to hold the gaping pieces together.

We used the uke one time our Grade 4 class (1961-62), under Papa, had its turn to present a Monday flag ceremony program. I recall the piece we sand and played was Elvis Presley’s “Can’t You See” (“Wooden Heart”). Bruno Doctor played the ukulele, Roger Guinir brought his brother Etto’s bajo, and I played the selendro (harmonica).

When our ukelele was still new, Papa would use it on moonlit nights. He would sit by the window and sing all the songs he knew – including the Isinay songs “Osan Lavi,” “Dattut Ituam O Bilay U,”  “Kukkuyappon Maserot Podda,” and some improvised lines of the "Anino^" parts of which I remember up to this day thus:

Amunglan savung si lavay... anay
Susun bi-alar an navayvay
Mabves lan bebbevoy si lajay
Kada lavi an (na-olay).

The na-olay (I guess it means "limp" or "weak") is my addition -- I use it because, sorry, I could not now recall what was the exact word Papa used to make it rhyme with the other stanzas.

Incidentally, many Isinay kids then had their own made-up versions of the Anino. Yes, that's how creative many Dupax kids were then. After hearing actual poetic versions repeatedly sang in Isinay weddings, they would use their improvised anino^ to tease other kids. One version stuck to my memory, often addressed to a kid wearing fiery red shirt:

Abalayan si Kuwan Ito^
Nan-eeng si mandirito^
Toy immoy an nitaro^
Siri abalan da Uwa Nano^.

By the way, the same ukulele that my father used was also my cousin Peter Pudiquet’s favorite toy when he was a small boy. He would come from their house in Dupaj to stay overnight in our house in Domang and for hours he would strum the uke any which way while belting out “Panga… panga… inay!”

Arlyne borrowed a ukulele from her classmate Carmen Gonzales once. It was much sturdier than our first ukulele and played better music. It stayed with us for months, nay, a couple years, until it was recalled by Marsing, Carmen’s manong.

But while that stringed instrument was with our care, Papa and I varnished it. And I used it when I went "carolling" for tupig and other native delicacies during Kararua (All Saints/All Souls Day) in Iiyo. The same uke came in handy it when I was in third year at St. Mary's High School and I joined a group that sang the song “My Hometown” and "True, True Happiness" with the prop-wearing Arsenio Bautista of Bambang as lead singer and ukelele strummer.

When Baybee was fielded as candidate for Dupax Town Fiesta Queen, I sang “500 Miles” with the ukulele and fans threw coins for Baybee’s fund-raising. Mama and Papa had a duet with the song “I Don’t See Me In Your Eyes Anymore.”

Yes, children of Dupax today, half a century ago and long, long before the videoke started to rule the night sounds in Isinay country, we were already singers. 

And to my own children and would-be grandkids, long, long before the Sound of Music’s Von Trapp family sang their “Edelweiss,” we were already a family of singers!

The Road to I-iyo

(NOTE: This piece is a lost and found memoir that had a footnote of sort that says "Drafted 5:10-5:57 PM, New Year’s Day 2008." I thought of including it here in Isinay Bird, this time with photos, simply because if I were to write it again I would not be able to capture the thoughts and recollections that it recorded when I first sat down to write it.)

UNTIL NOW I don’t exactly know how many kilometers separates our house in Domang, Dupax del Sur, to I-iyo (also known as Palabutan to some Ilocanos and Panlobotan to Isinays), particularly the spot where my grandparents’ house used to stand. My best guess is 4 kilometers.

In my boyhood years, the distance varied depending on the route you took. One route passed through the Ibilao road, while the other passed either through Inociaan or Bagumbayan. The two routes converged near the bridge. The distance also depended on the season of the year: it was either shorter or longer during the rainy season when detours had to be made to avoid deep mud, no matter if you negotiated the road on foot or aboard a carabao-drawn kariton.

During palay-threshing season, the newly harvested ricefields would be “trespassed” to make way for temporary foot-trails or road for the tilyar/tiliadora (rice-thresher) to reach its target mandala (palay piles/mounds). We followed the tiyar trail and enjoyed the aroma of newly mowed (gapas) rice plants or the scent of garami (rice hay). Also heavenly was the soothing feel of mud clay on your bare feet compared to the rocuh pricks of gravel or pebbles when you took the main road.

It would be great drawing a map of the road one of these days. The map would indicate points of interest – or rather spots along the road that had a particular significance in my life history as a boy. For instance, the map would show the spot when I used to find lots of rhinoceros beetles… the point where Mama saw a mudfish once and asked me to dip into the water and catch it…. The bridge where other boys used to swim and I envied them but up to now, after a thousand times of passing through it, I only got to try its pool once…

There was also that corner where I almost got run over by a speeding logging truck while I was on my bulldog bike… near it was the spot where years earlier we found puppies (all female) said to have been abandoned or left to die by the Galutera family…. There was also the spot where one Maundy Thursday (1956?) the kariton driven by Papa fell on its side carrying both Mama (pregnant with Tessie) and Auntie Api (heavy with Larry of Fatima) because the mud was deep and its passengers all went to one side to avoid the bamboo spines….

The map would also indicate where lupao trees used to grow, across the road which stood a giant alukon (himbabao) tree always noisy with quarreling culeto and martin birds… Years earlier, near the place was a bamboo thicket where one day we saw a dead giant beklat (python) coiled several times and swarming with flies.

The road map would show other more memorable spots. One such point was the part of the river where one day, just for fun, my gang of sitio kids and I played sarep and got our hands full of bunog that we could not all catch, and so Apong Berto came and took the jackpot of the bigger and more fish catch using his sagap (triangular fishnet) in the river rendered shallow by our river-damming play. On the banks beside the spot stood samak trees the fruits of which the basi makers in the barrio gathered during panagdadapil (sugarcane milling) time to add flavor to their sugarcane juice fermentation.

The map would show points where I had my rites of passage as a slingshot-wielding boy, a river-loving kid, and a child in the barrio. It would show such part that branched out towards the place we called Daki (bamboo raft) that was witness to our leech-playing, swimming, diving, and underwater swimming lessons. There was also the lot of the Magaway family, part of which was a citrus orchard guarded by an old Ilongot woman named Kalnga who we paid a mere dies (10 centavos) or binting (25 centavos) for the privilege of gathering and eating all the kahel (orange) fruits we could for as long as we could.

Also to be indicated was the spot that had plenty of kitkitiwit… and the farm where I had my first delightful encounter with abal-abal (May beetles) that literally swarmed over my hair and my feet… the spot where once stood the first and only “asar” I remember having been put up by the barrio folk … the spot where we used to swim but which was later bulldozed  and covered by a logging-road making team, and it was my first time to feel very sad and sorry for the fish that I used to see abound… the spot further upstream where I used to do pole fishing but where one day my playmates Arthur and Duardo and I found hundreds of floating tilapia, dalag, ar-aro, gurami, and paltat fish – dead! – and I felt very bad at whoever heartless fool poured poison (Endine and Folidol, then later Sodium, were the more common ones used then) on the pond.

There was the spot where a kallautit (kalumpit) tree once stood and whose fallen fruits served as our snacks when we tired of swimming by the pual (fallen bamboo clump). The tree also witnessed my circumcision (performed for a mere bottle of gin by then I-iyo's mangngugit Apong Berto Lacandazo, younger brother of Inang Feliza) one early Thursday morning before I entered high school. Then there was the point where I got into a fistfight with Silin Molina (who later died of electrocution in Sulu when as a soldier he used live electric wire to hang his laundry, or so the story went).

I will include in the map where a tibbeg tree once stood, the fruits of which we used as daldalig, sardine-can cart wheels, and other such toys. Beside it was the site of the bamboo and cogon camp built by the xth Infantry Division one time the uniformed guys were sent on a mission to go after the Ilongots who beheaded some families up in the kaingin hills. Also near the place was the wooden bridge that served as gateway to I-iyo proper, which we used as diving board when we bathed there and under which Uncle Carting “Pagalmiduran” Legazpi, the local drunkard bully, swam naked and would show women passersby his dangling "dalag".

Also near the bridge was a shorter bridge (a culvert) said to be where Papa fell one night while on a bike, causing him to go sick for many months of unknown ailments and in the process become irritable and on many cases bent his irritation on me (more on this later). A giant pakak (antipolo) tree stood near it underneath which we would try our best slingshot shots in vain as the tree was so high and the tariktik (hornbill) and garakgak  birds even chose the topmost part of the tree for their perches.

Then the map would show the lumboy (duhat) tree used as tying point for calves or young carabaos waiting to be branded. Inang Feliza stripped off parts of the bark of the same tree and boiled them to cure my recurring stomach ache when I was a boy.

The Dupax That I Knew

(NOTE: I just found this essay in the deep corners of my Dell laptop. Written on two dates, first on 24 July 2001 then on 27 September 2007, it carried this title: A TOWN WAY UP THERE AMONG THE HILLS (Or a timber-rich town and the making of a forester) and a footnote of sort that said "written at CBRMP, 7th floor, EDPC Bldg., Department of Finance, BSP Complex, Manila." Rather than delete it, I thought it would make more sense to post it here -- warps and blemishes -- to record a sample of my memoir-writing skill or lack of it on those dates when, oh well, your Isinay Bird blog and even blogging as an activity were not yet within my reach.)

There’s a town way up there among the hills
Everybody there’s happy and gay
All the people there are busy all the day
Yet sweet smiles you see everywhere.
Oh town of Dupax… I’ll never forget
My humble home where I freely love to roam
Town of Dupax… keep me closer unto thee
Ever and forever we will sing thee mabuhay!

ONCE IN A WHILE while a time comes when, walking down a garbage-littered city street the likes of those we now see common in Metro Manila, suddenly a flash of half-forgotten images appears in your mind’s eye and then, although you have set yourself for a busy work day in the office, you fall prey to the itch to write.

And so you write, or rather pound furiously at the computer, unmindful of the day’s deadlines and do so by consoling yourself that, oh well, deadlines can wait but not inspired moments which, when left unattended, will surely no longer come back as vivid and as sweet as they first came knocking on your consciousness.

A thing like that just occurred to me today (24 July 2001), with the song about my town above sending off myriad images that while parading in my memory surely kept me oblivious of the filth and the garbage and the noise and the concrete and steel jungle that is Metro Manila.

The images were of course more than the fleeting and intangible shadows of a bygone era. For one thing, they came in full color, along with the scents and the sounds even, that were part of the now fast vaporizing mementos of a half-century-old city rat compelled to be like that by circumstances all pointing towards the need to earn a decent living and keep family and soul intact.

THE DUPAX THAT I write about was, of course, the quiet, pastoral, and clean town of my birth that I used to know. It was not yet partitioned into the Sur and the Norte that it is now, even as the municipal hall was located in Malasin, a barrio whose only advantage over the old town was that it was more centrally located, was nearer more progressive Bambang, and had a market that sold many things including vegetables, fish, meat, bolos, kingki (gas lamps), plowshares, harmonicas, rubber for slingshots, raincoats, canned goods, clothing, Ilongot blankets, and many more during Sundays.

When I was in the elementary grades, my teachers (including Papa and Uncle Ermin) used to mention with pride in our Social Studies classes that Dupax was the biggest town in the whole of Nueva Vizcaya. That was many years before Quirino Province came and there used to be a map of Nueva Vizcaya in every classroom at the Gabaldon and Pre-fab buildings showing Dupax was a giant compared to Bambang and Bayombong and the second widest was Maddela.

I remember somebody told us the total population of Dupax then, including its barrios Malasin, Ineangan, Lamo, Inaban, Mabasa, Mangayang, Sta. Maria, Belance, Bitnong, and Palobotan, was around 20,000 and we took pride in that too, thinking that at least we were more in number than Aritao and Santa Fe (towns that I heard used to be barrios of Dupax before the Japanese period or so).

It was also during my grade school years that Dupax was timber-rich, judging by the number of sawmills that it had. There was one sawmill in Belance, another in Banila, another in Carolotan, and one near our part the town – a stone’s throw from the cemetery.

Almost without fail, rain or shine, fiesta or not, I think even on Sundays, truckloads after truckloads of logs passed by the road connecting my boyhood barrio, Iiyo (aka Surong and Palobotan), to the ili (town proper).

The logs came from the forests forming the headwaters of Carolotan and Navetangan rivers on the East or the forests upstream of Banila in the South. They were carried by muddy and rusty trucks they call “logging” the fronts of which, to my best recollection, were equipped with winch and steel cable sets.

On lazy afternoons, the sound of the logging trucks approaching our side of town gave us chance to play a how-many-logs-in-the-truck guessing game. The choices were isahan (meaning the truck carried only one huge log), dalawahan (two logs), and tatluhan (three logs).

Note that decades later, when I was already a forester, I remembered those isahan logs of my youth when I saw a cross-section of a dipterocarp log mounted in front of the Bureau of Forest Development office in Davao City; I swore to myself that my town’s logs were definitely more humongous than those in Davao.

Replicas of those logging trucks, complete with green paint, tansan headlights, tin-covered “engine” and swinging four wheels, were made by the Mamaoag brothers. My friend and neighbor Oret (Aurelio Calacala) had one built for him then – for only 50 centavos, he said. I envied how he and his older brother Base (aka Junior), who also had one of those mini logging trucks, were able to haul home a small mountain of fuelwood from the sawmill by just using those “trucks.”

I could also only watch with envious glee each time I would be in the company of the two brothers on weekends or during vacation from school and they rode their wheeled toys downslope on the hill across the road from the sawmill while waiting for the sawmill engines to stop, signaling that outsiders like us could now go rummage, dig, and pull from the huge piles of sawdust, slabs, barks, trimmings and edgings whatever sawmill wastes we could haul.

Okay, Papa did manage to build me a “truck” once and I was thankful for such rare occasions of fatherly care. In fairness, Papa’s truck had four fat and perfectly circular wooden wheels (most likely crafted in the elementary school’s carpentry shop) and a “head” made out of solid wood (but no GI sheet cover). It also had a body strong enough to wheel around on the gravlelly road in front of our house any one of my smaller sisters then -- it was Tessie or Judith I think, but certainly not fat Arlyne nor sensitive Merlie.

But the truck was not as heavy-duty as those of the Calacala brothers and I think it was good for only a couple or so trips to the sawmill – plus a not so smooth downhill ride in the spot where other boys with logging trucks waited for the sawmill to open.

No sooner had I began to like my truck than its sapwood wheels split and I was scared (always scared) of Papa’s “gaddemet salamabet ubet!” scolding. So I just parked the thing on one corner behind the kitchen and went back to using sako (jute sack) for hauling slabs, edgings, trimmings and dipterocarp barks (this last one dried more quickly and were preferred for cooking because they ignited faster and produced charcoal). 

Oret is long gone now (his older brother Base/Junior said he has gone missing, probably salvaged by his Japanese-treasure-hunting activity companions). But up to now I don’t know how I never got to try buying myself one of those beautiful mini logging trucks. Maybe it was because Papa already made me one. Or perhaps the Mamaoag brothers only made trucks for relatives like the Calacalas. And then, too, it might have been that I was not yet making money then from selling scrap iron, vinegar and catsup bottles, and discarded aluminum caserolas to the presumably Chinese “bote-landok” (bottle and scrap iron) buyer that came to Dupax weekly.

But looking back now, I think I just was not destined to be a logger or even a logging truck driver. Rather, I was born to be an environmentalist forester.

Indeed, during those days when the grassy hill now occupied by the Bautista family was still open-access pasture and playground for the Isinay kids in my neighborhood, I would shun the other boys' rough play with their trucks and rather veer away to enjoy the song of the cicadas and the comfort given by the shade of the mango trees.

I would gather sapang, look for kitkitiwit fruits, or listen to the mountain breeze as it shook marasaba mangoes from their unreachable promontories -- rather than join the guys’ unending quarrels on whether airplanes were faster than jet planes, or whether mangoes were sweeter than apples, or whether Manila was farther than Bayombong.

Friday, April 27, 2012

In Search of the Beautiful but Forgotten Isinay Art of Kinuttiyan

JUST WHEN I thought there is not much left to know about the Isinay language and culture, a humbling but happy surprise came to me last April 16.

This was when my daughter Leia introduced me to her UP Baguio co-teacher Analyn Salvador-Amores, an  Oxford-educated anthropologist, and I learned of the existence (or rather former existence) of an Isinay art of weaving a cloth called "kinuttiyan."

Photo of an Isinay kinuttiyan or "uwes pinutuwan" from

Ikin (Dr. Amores' nickname) showed me several printouts of articles that had photos of the kinuttiyan fabric. She specifically pointed out to a page that carried the phrase "quwes pinuqtuwan."

Somewhat dismayed at the author's inaccuracy, the Isinay native in me -- and a self-avowed Isinay lexicographer at that -- could not help but react. There's no such word as "quwes," I said to myself.

It was also my first time to encounter the word "pinuqtuwan."

So I quickly said to the UP professor, "Wala dapat yung Q..." and insinuated that the foreigner who wrote quwes pinuqtuwan must have, as often is the case, imposed the orthography of his country's language.

The words should instead be written as "uwes pinutuwan."

FROM THE PHOTOS of the kinuttiyan that Ma'am Ikin downloaded from the websites of museums, I recognized the similarity between the kinuttiyan and the ikat of  the Cordillerans as well as the tinalak cloth of the Manobos.
Perhaps sensing my disbelief, Ikin, speaking partly in Ilocano, said the fabric appeared to be woven only for special occasions, particularly as a blanket to wrap the remains of a dead relative.

The professor went on to say she met a weaver in Benguet who said she learned her kinuttiyan design from an Isinay. She added that she also encountered a weaver in Ilocos who said she was from Dupax.

I told the UP anthropologist that as far as I know the weavers of Dupax were all Ilocanos, including my maternal grandmother who bought her materials from the Ilocos.

I added that even as I once heard Pastor Delbert Rice (of Kalahan, Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya) mention many years ago that the Isinays are good weavers, I insisted I have not seen one pagabelan (weaving loom) among the Isinays.

Anyway, I gave word to Ma'am Ikin that when I would go to Dupax for the fiesta, I would remember to ask more-senior-citizen Isinays about this intriguing Dupax del Sur weaving heritage.

My Initial Findings

I DID REMEMBER to ask around when I was in my hometown last week and was able to get good leads on the Isinay kinuttiyan from two persons, both true-blue Isinays.

The first lead came from Ms. Josefina Daggao, a retired teacher of Dupax del Sur who is currently the Head of the Office for Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) of Dupax del Sur.

Like me, Ma'am Pina apparently had not heard of the term "kinuttiyan" before. But when I mentioned that it was an inave (cloth) that is also called uwes pinutuwan, she did recall that many years ago an American came to Dupax and asked Ina Falipa Castillo to do some weaving for him, after which the foreigner did not only buy the resulting fabric but also the tools used to weave it.

Ina Falipa is no longer around, Uwa Pina said, but her eldest daughter Encia (now Mrs. Seupon) and youngest daughter Teresita (now Mrs. Castañeda) are still here.

Recalling that a similar indigenous fabric in Mindanao (called "tinalak") is made of abaca which is not grown in Dupax, I asked her what material did Ina Falipa possibly use for weaving.

If not abaca, Uwa Pina said in Isinay, it could have been the stems of the banana whose fruits are not eaten, the many-seeded one that Ilocanos call balayang and which Isinays call mahanilan si araw (monkey's banana). "Tojtojon da darare ot sare mot si aveyon da." (They will pound them and the result would be used for weaving.)

Again I asked: What dye could have been used to color the raw materials they used to weave the fabric?

"Appatut mu mandirito^... bu-en si abukado mu brown." (Achuete for red... avocado seed for brown.)

Other possible sources of information, she said, are Lolita and Milagring Sagario.

THE SECOND INFORMANT I was able to corner was Fr. Romulo Felix. I had a brief talk with this young priest while he was busy supervising cleaning work at the basement of the convent that he was intending to convert into the St. Vincent Ferrer church museum.

When I described to him how the kinuttiyan looked in the photos I saw in Dr. Amores' documents, Father Romrom's eyes gleamed and he exclaimed that, yes, he did have one such material.

"Dioy rat kudus na on dark blue color nar!" (It has crosses on it and is colored dark blue.) 

The item, he said in Isinay, is among those he would soon include for display in the museum.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Slingshots and Other Forbidden Things During Holy Week in the Dupax of My Youth

MY FAVORITE Collins English Dictionary (Discovery Edition 2006) defines Lent as "the period from Ash Wednesday to Easter Saturday, during which some Christians give up doing something they enjoy."

As always, I don't know what other guys in my predominantly Catholic town did during Lent when they were small. But when I was growing up I did have my fair share of enjoyable things to give up during such holiest part of the year which, by the way, I wrongly thought until recently only covered the week that had a Maundy Thursday and a Good Friday in it. 

All right, fasting or giving up on too much food was quite easy for me then. For one thing, unlike today, I was not much of an eater then. Besides there was not much to choose then from among the usual pinakbet veggies (i.e., eggplant, okra, bitter gourd, tomato) and string beans, gabi, saluyot, camote tops, edible fern, and occasional sabunganay (banana "heart").

The same ease was true with observing abstinence or giving up on meat. This was for the simple reason that even as we raised chickens, pigs, ducks, dogs, and goats, and often had carabaos and cows in the custody of uncles, we seldom had them killed unless there was a big occasion or reason. The closest to meat from mobile living things we had were river fish (e.g., dalaj, sappilan, tilapia), ricefield shells (e.g., asisip, basikul, ambeveyo^), shrimps, crabs, and frogs.

For penitence, we always had household chores to attend to. For instance, we always had small logs to split into firewood and let dry in the sun, newly harvested palay to dry and guard from marauding chickens and housebirds on mats or on cemented ground somewhere, drying vegetable garden and ornamental plants to water every day.

Thus, plus or minus doing a couple of Stations of the Cross in church and joining the Good Friday libut (procession) around town, we weren't wanting in things to do in preparation for Easter, particularly Easter Sunday when the church bells of Dupax would be rung again and in the Sabet (where the Risen Christ and Mother Mary would meet) where the word "Alleluia" would be said and sang again.

NOW, IF YOU ASK your not-so-religious Isinay Bird to be more specific on the acts he did heed elderly calls to consider as verboten (bawal in Isinay and Tagalog, maiparit in Ilocano, haram in Muslim) during Holy Week, easily the most challenging ones when I was growing up were the following:
  • Not using the slingshot. 
  •  Not climbing fruit trees.
  •  Not going too far from home.

(NOTE: This post is a stub; I'll flesh it out shortly.)