Wednesday, May 15, 2013

What We Isinays Did With Election Flyers and Posters

We made kites, boats and airplanes out of candidates' flyers...
panties and carabao-saddles out of "vote for" banners

THE MID-TERM ELECTIONS we just had in the Philippines brought back memories of that time not so long ago when candidates did not yet rely too much on TV advertisements, the endorsement of celebrities, and, yes, vote-buying to win the posts they were aspiring for.

Back then, we the sovereign people of Dupax (and I guess even those in Aritao and Bambang and the rest of Nueva Vizcaya) welcomed election season (pambovotos in Isinay, panagbobotos in Ilocano) for reasons beyond their providing entertaining speeches and easy-to-sing campaign jingles, and a chance for eligible voters to vent their frustration and to get even with over-promising incumbent officials who failed to walk the talk they made in previous elections of giving additional school buildings and better roads and bridges.

I'm only realizing it now but, indeed, when I was young, one extra-curricular reason that made us kids of Aritao, Bambang, and Dupax happy each time elections come was the bonanza of paper and other such campaign materials that the candidates brought to our then somewhat paper-scarce localities.

To illustrate how we valued such items so much, I remember that a small eroplano hovered over our part of Dupax one afternoon and rained hundreds of leaflets that soon sent us mesmerized kids running after them and catching them even before they fell on the ground. I recall our neighbor Nana Ebeng stopped raking fallen starapple leaves and tried to collect the confetti with her rake. I think I also joined other kids to go as far as Pitang just to pick up those that dropped as far as where the Dupax National High School is now.

Yes, unlike today when many towns and cities consider as a big post-election problem the removal and disposal of the campaign karatulas (posters) and polyetos (leaflets) scattered any which way by the kandidatos, back then such campaign materials easily found multiple-uses even before the elections were over.

I'm not sure if Isinay kids today still know how to do them, but the following are just examples of  what we did with the flyers, leaflets, pamphlets, and sample ballots that we were able to grab each time a jeep with a blaring sound system goes around town and its occupants throw them pieces of paper the way we throw corn or rice to feed our chickens:

Apart from the easy-to-make paper cap that can be converted into cup, we rolled or folded some of our collections into cone-like containers that we call balisongsong in Isinay. Both these containers came in handy when we queued in school for our share of "Powdered Milk Donated by the People of the United States of America." They were useful, too, for peanut vendors during miting de avance in the plaza in Dupaj or in the public market in Domang.

The extra supply of paper allowed us to try our hands at doing origami, the Japanese art of folding paper into toys or decorative pieces. My personal favorites along this line were paper airplanes, paper boats, and the flapping bird (see photo below). My father was an expert in making the paper bird, but I recall it was from my mother where I learned to make one.

For the airplanes, we would experiment on making certain folds on their wings to stabilize their flight or to make them stay on the air longer. Additionally, we would tear tiny bits of paper, put them on the fold of the plane, then launch the loaded plane into the air to simulate the real airplane that dropped the flyers.

When the paper material is tough enough, some flyers would be made into stand-alone kites like the one below. We just attach a thread onto it, making sure that the Y-shaped format of the lead string is balanced or its forks are equidistant, and presto, we have a toy that would not hurt our feelings so much in case it gets tangled (misaot in Isinay, maisalat in  Ilocano) among the starapple and kapok trees that used to abound on our side of Dupax.
Since the flyers and pamphlets that used to be disseminated in Dupax were too small for the real kites, the ones that look like sting-ray (and using carefully polished -- inawwasan in Isinay, kinayasan in Ilocano -- bamboo sticks), the more kite-savvy among us kids would cut the flyers/pamphlets into appropriately narrow strips and paste them end-to-end to use as tail (iput in Isinay, ipus in Ilocano) of our kites. And, as in the stand-alone kite above, we would not get too angry in case such kite tails would be caught by smaller kids or chewed by excited dogs as it would be easy to make a replacement.

And what did we do with the extra materials, or when we got tired of playing with our planes, boats, birds, and kites?

We could always use them as kindling material (panungutung in Isinay, pagaron in Ilocano, pandingas in Tagalog) when it is time to light the earthen stove (dali-an in Isinay, dalikan in Ilocano), or when we need to burn the starapple leaves that our mother or sisters raked into a pile.

If not, they would come in handy as toilet paper (pan-ilu in Isinay, pagilo in Ilocano, pang-iwang in Tagalog) -- with the faces of the candidates still smiling on your behind!

OH YES, AS for the banners and posters, they were coveted campaign materials when I was little. In fact, regardless of the political party of the candidates they were calling attention to, we took pride having them nailed on the then still wooden front wall of our house in Domang.

They use nonbiodegradable tarpaulin nowadays for political posters; time was when the material was cotton cloth which could be recycled into a lot of uses, including carabao-saddle, dog/cat bedding, and kiddie panties.

They use tarpaulin nowadays for banners and posters. But back then it was white cotton cloth that after the election fever has died down became handy as doormats, cat or dog blankets, carabao saddles, and (you can ask my sisters about this) underwear for kids with, for instance, their "Vote Marcos / Lopez" red and blue markings still on them!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Beating the Heat in an Isinay River

THE SUMMER season this year would probably go on record as one of the hottest (if not the hottest) that the Philippines has ever experienced.

In Dupax alone, the atung (heat) was such that immes-es podda danumar wangwang (the water in the river greatly receded), exposing the algae-covered stones and the pink golden-snail eggs clinging to them to the searing sun. Yes, it was like low tide. In this hundreds-of-kilometers-away-from-the-sea river, however, you get the feeling that a sigante (giant) who lived upstream drank all the water for himself.

While the temperature might have paled in comparison with the 37 degrees Celsius reported in Tuguegarao and Subic yesterday, it was nevertheless suicidal for people like me who have alta presyon (high blood pressure) to go outdoors during the hours between namalintur (high noon) and late mauhav (afternoon).

But, ah, there was one day last April when I was in Dupax that I dared to invite heat stroke.

Yes, I went outdoors. Yes, it was when the sun was directly overhead. And yes, I didn't even have a balanggut (wide-brimmed hat) to protect me.

Not only that. My exposure to solar radiation, as it were, took not merely minutes but a full hour or so.

Of course, of course, that's only a small part of the story.

What really happened -- and which would have probably earned me a grade of 99% were I still in Grade 3 and the maestra asked us pupils to write a composition on the theme "What I Did During Vacation" -- was this:

The outdoors I went to was a river and what I did was to soak myself in its clear, cool, and so refreshing water -- such that, you got it, even if the sun shot its rays full force and caused the temperature to rise up to near boiling point, I had no need for sombrero at all and was thousand kilometers away from heat stroke.

I would have put a final period on that kilometric-sentence paragraph.

However, I have many more things to tell.

For instance, the river that helped me beat the summer heat was one that, curiously, might be called many names -- all of them Isinay -- depending on which of the places it is associated to you would prefer. These are Carolotan, Meyumnin, and Sinagat.

Worth telling, too, for the sake of my grandchild Amihan and, I hope, for the many more that would come now that she has opened heaven's gate for us her long-expecting-for-grandchildren grandparents, are the things that I did while in the river.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Isinay Folk Beliefs Related to Babies

WHILE LETTING the baby in the house have her early morning sunshine at our veranda the other day, dozens of images, sounds, and scents of long ago -- mostly folk beliefs in Isinay country related to newly born members of the human race -- danced in my mind.

Foremost of those beliefs (which in fact made me inspect the head of the infant in my arms) was this matter of the cowlick (e^eyang in Isinay, alipuspos in Ilocano, puyo in Tagalog).

Babies with two or double e^eyang are believed to become either or both of the following characters when they mature: first, masulit iyunar (hardheaded) or timbo^ (don't listen to advice of elders), and second, duwa asawanar (have two husbands/wives).
Babies with an extra cowlick on the forehead are believed to become good in school as they are brainy or intelligent persons.

Babies whose single cowlicks are right at the tu^tu^ (center of the top of their heads) are said to become well-behaved people when they grow up. If a boy, the infant may someday mampari (become a priest).

And babies whose cowlick is positioned towards the side of the head are said to become either good or bad persons. If on the right, he will be man-angem podda (very good-mannered); if on the left, he will give his parents headache as he will be torpe (ill-mannered).

The presence of birthmark, particularly mole (unaw in Isinay, siding in Ilocano, nunal in Tagalog), on a baby's face is believed to be either positive or negative depending on the location of such marks.

If located on the lips, the baby with such mole would become matalavet (articulate, good talker, talkative, tsismosa) when he/she grows up.

If on the forehead, the baby will become an intellectual and will get high grades in school.

If found on that depression beside the nose and below the eye where it would be touched by tears, the baby will be prone to becoming mabeyu (widowed) when he/she gets married.

If on the earlobes, the baby will become a good listener.

If the mole is on the eye (eyelids, eyelash, etc.), the baby will be able to see banih (ghost) or other supernatural beings that other people normally don't see.

Cleft Lip
If a baby is born with cleft lip (cheiloschisis) or cleft palate (palatoschisis), it is believed that the mother met an accident or did something wrong when she was conceiving (mansisipe in Isinay, agnginaw in Ilocano, naglilihi in Tagalog).

It might have been that the mother stumbled (nirumo^ in Isinay, naitublak in Ilocano, nadapa in Tagalog), or she might have urinated in the dark outdoors without giving a warning (such as tabi-tabi in Isinay, bari-bari in Ilocano, tabi-tabi in Tagalog) or asking permission from the unseen spirits.

It is also believed that the mother might have taken pleasure at despising or mocking others (maal-ali in Isinay, nauyaw in Ilocano, mapanghamak in Tagalog) when she was conceiving. Which means that such cleft lip/palate (navungis in Isinay, bungis in Ilocano) or other physical deformities of the baby are indications of karma.

Line on the Forearms
Particularly in the case of baby girls, one who has a line on the inner forearm should be careful or her parents or guardians should watch out.

It is believed that when the baby girl grows, she would be prone to becoming an unwed mother (namesang in Isinay, naganak a balasang in Ilocano, nabuntis na di kasal in Tagalog).

Dirty Scalp
A few babies, particularly those delivered by normal birth, sometimes have these brown particles (kulapot in Ilocano) clinging to their hair or scalp. It's nothing serious as the flaky material will soon vanish once the baby is repeatedly bathed.

However, the parents of an infant who has this ugly looking dirt in his scalp should prepare themselves for some teasing by friends who are in the know. The belief is that the baby's scalp dirt is a tell-tale sign of what we call in Isinay in-eya tay de^dee nar (in Ilocano inyala pay dagiti nagannak na).

Which means the parents made love a day or even a few hours immediately before their baby came out! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Dupax Customs of Delivering Babies

THANK AMIHAN, my first grandchild, for this piece. Long before she came -- oh well, like much-needed and long-awaited rain on a very hot summer day -- to reset, recharge, rearrange, rejuvenate, and revitalize our home, tribe and life I was already getting corny with this joke "Si Amihan nagdadala ng ulan."

Last night, when I heard the baby cry in the other room, many thoughts (other than what things to teach her when she could already talk, sing and walk) raced in my mind. One image stood out: Baby Amihan's great grandmother (my mother) and how it was when she gave birth to me.

Mrs. Magdalena Pudiquet Castro and Baby Amihan 
(April 27, 2013 photo by Charlz Castro)
I think I already wrote that I was born about a hundred meters behind the Municipal Hall of Dupax del Sur.

Yes, that's near the heart of Dupax Isinay land. That is, if we believe the sutsur about the town hall being the same site where the Spanish missionaries found Isinay hunters lying flat (due to feasting too much on deer meat), asked what the name of the place was, and the deer hunters (thinking the visitors wanted to know what they were doing) answered mandopdopah

I have not yet written, however, who helped my mother give birth that fateful night of August 9, 1951 (when she was still 18), and what the circumstances were then.

According to my mother (see photo of her craddling her apun si puwoh or great grandchild Amihan), the lady who delivered me was Dora^ Salgado, an Isinay married to a colored American surnamed Scott.

Apu Dora^ is long gone now but Mama says she is the daughter of another famous Isinay midwife -- Apu Carmen Salgado. She used to live behind the Iglesia ni Cristo church one block away from our house in Domang and I remember she was always the manguy-uy (local midwife) in our part of town, the way my own grandmother Feliza Lacandazo Pudiquet was the always-on-call partera or mangngilot in the Ilocano barrio of Palobotan upstream of town.

Inang (that was how I called my maternal grandmother) used to have a sepia photo of senior women, with gray-haired Apu Carmen Salgado in the middle and Inang and Apu Dora^ in the front row, along with aluminum boxes containing kidney-shaped pans and other paraphernalia for delivering babies. I guess it was taken when they had a government-sponsored training as para-midwives.

I asked Mama once how come it was Apu Dora^ and not Inang who delivered me. She said Inang was not yet well versed in delivering babies that time. In fact, she said, it was only when she was pregnant with Merlie (my third sister who passed away when she was in First Year at St. Mary's High School) that she started delivering babies.

There were no doctors in Dupax yet when I was born and even if there was already a hospital near St. Catherine's School in Bambang, it was not yet fashionable at the time -- plus there were no easily available jeepneys then -- to bring expectant mothers to the hospital. That was why I was born in my grandparents' former house in Dupaj (where there were Apu Carmen and Apu Dora^ nearby), not in my parents' house in Domang (where my mother was often home alone as my father was teaching then at St. Catherine's).

Last week, when Mama journeyed to Baguio (along with my sisters Arlyne and Abeth, and my nurse nephew Harold) to see and welcome Amihan to the family, we reviewed again how I was born. She said both Arlyne and I were delivered by Apu Dora^ while Merlie, Tessie, Judith, Baybee, Abeth, and Nenet were by or with the assistance of Inang.

Mama also mentioned something I heard when I was small but have already forgotten: As a newly born baby I was placed on top of a winnowing basket (called lihawu in Isinay, bigao in Ilocano, bilao in Tagalog, nigo in Bisaya) with Apong Pedro's shirt.

I don't know if it was Apu Dora^ or Inang  who initiated the event. I have yet to check out also if such practice is purely Isinay or purely Ilocano. But Mama says the placing of new-born infants on top of a lihawu was meant to make the child immune to shaking, jolts, and sudden surprises as a grown up.

How about Apong's sweat-flavored shirt? Mama said that it was the reason why I was always attached to my grandfather.

I forgot to check with my mother again who disposed off my placenta (kadkadua In Ilocano, bahay-bata in Tagalog) and where. I faintly recall though that she once said it was Apong Pedro who brought the bloody matter to the river. Which river, which part of the river, and what method of disposal were, however, facts  known only to my now long-gone grandfather.

Hindsight tells me now that my apong must have chosen the river for my kadkadua because he wanted me to share his love for the river.

I did not ask anymore what boiled water was used for my first bath. Was it danum an sinahov (water fetched) from Abannatan which, from my estimate now, was about two-hundred meters away from where I was born? Or was it water pumped out of the gripo (also called bomba, water pump) of the pump-equipped Salgado, Sagario, Guzman, Boada, or other Isinay houses nearby?

Since my mother was silent about my first bath, I presume it was not like the nagangeran iti saka ti ugsa (water used to boil deer legs) said to have been used on Simo Guillermo, whose polio-crippled uncle, Ama Ubing, was said to have also been one of my baby sitters when I was a toddler in Dupaj.

The parents of Simo were Ilocanos but I guess the use of deer-flavored water to bathe new-born babies might as well be an Isinay custom. The belief attendant to this was that the baby would become a good runner, just like flight-footed deer are often able to outrun hunting dogs pursuing them in the wilderness.

And how about the mothers who just gave birth (beyun nan-ana^ in Isinay)? How did they induce and/or increades the flow of milk from their breasts?

I recalled to Mama how she always had dinner of roasted chicken breast mixed with plenty of marunggay leaves after giving birth to my seven sisters. I also remembered how each time I had a new baby sister I would hike to Iiyo so I could join my grandmother in gathering lots of river clams (asisip in Isinay, tukmem or bennek in Ilocano, tulya in Tagalog) from the banawang (irrigation ditch) using karadikad (a loosely-woven winnow) especially used to filter out the finger-nail-sized clams from the river sand.

In Dupax, certain food were also off limits then to newly delivered mothers, be they Ilocano or Isinay. Gabi is one (particularly the quite itchy wild variety); another is inasin (bagoong alamang in Tagalog). Abstaining from such local delicacies was believed to prevent allergies on both the mother and her baby.

As for medication, I remember each time Inang has delivered a baby in I-iyo, among her services was to prepare a panig-an (concoction for recuperating mothers). It was said to speed up the recovery of the mother, so that she can help in her husband's farm work again. The medication is simply a bottle of Siok Tong (a Chinese brew that used to be a favorite among Ilocano as well as Isinay drunkards when I was little) mixed with chopped roots of a certain woody shrub that Inang and I went to dig out from the carabao-grazing hills above what is now Barangay Palobotan.

On top of all this, there was always the bottle of multi-purpose coconut oil (laro in Isinay, lana in Ilocano, langis-niyog in Tagalog) which I observed Inang to massage the tummy of an expectant mother as well as during her delivery and also during her days of recuperation.

THOSE WERE the days indeed when only the likes of unsung heroes Apu Dora^ and my Inang Feliza were there to run to when a woman gives birth.

Now, don't ask me how my granddaughter Amihan would have seen the light of day had she been conceived during my time and when such things as Caesarian operation were still unheard of in Dupax.

By the way, that line "si Amihan nagdadala ng ulan" came from the weather forecasts on TV. It somehow stuck on my coconut, beginning when my daughter Leia and my son-in-law Karl went to have a ultra-sound and were told that their first baby would be a girl.

I hasten to add that, earlier, when by curious coincidence it would rain each time Karl would come to Baguio, I would whisper to the lola-to-be the original joke: "Ang daddy ni Amihan nagdadala ng ulan." 

Now, I can't wait to see what other good things -- and sweet reminiscenses -- would Amihan bring.