Monday, April 30, 2012

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.

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