The other day I was cutting sayote fruits into chunks preparatory to cooking as sort of viand (in-asuh in Isinay, dinengdeng or inabraw in Iloko) for my three dogs when my bolo (ota^ in Isinay, buneng in Iloko) slid off the tough skin of the veggie fruit and went straight to carve a C-shaped incision on my left index finger (tannuru in Isinay, tammudo in Iloko).
As I was pressing my thumb (am-ama in Isinay, tangan in Iloko) to the wound which I read somewhere a long time ago is a first-aid technique to stop the bleeding and to make the wound close quickly, three sets of memories came racing (nanlolomba in Isinay, nagiinnuna in Iloko) in my mind.
For the sake of brevity, I shall focus first on one of the recollections dusted, if we may use the term, by the finger wound and follow this up later with separate posts on the two.
Indeed, as the title of this piece suggests, guava leaves (dawun si bayyawas in Isinay, bulong ti bayyabas in Iloko) are not only possible but powerful medicines for wounds among Isinays as well as, I guess, among Ilocanos and other "races" that have access to guava trees.
|That's my wounded tannuru pointing at the guava medicine.|
I digress, but in case you would ask why I was often barefoot, let me just say that it was not yet in fashion then, especially in the barrio, to wear sandals. You see, we barrio (sitio) folks in I-iyo back then -- and even in the central part of Dupax -- were really simple and frugal barefooted people. If ever we had sandals, shoes, slippers, or any semblance of footwear then, they were only meant for school or for church or when one was a wedding sponsor.
The wooden clog they call bakya in Tagalog (kuekos in Isinay, suikos in Iloko) were the "in" thing then and I remember Inang Feliza, my maternal grandmother, buy me a pair once -- the transparent plastic part of which were painted with flowers and the wooden sole carved with whatever. But I could not run around with such cumbersome clogs, nor could I go after the birds without making a noise with them wooden things.
Besides, as no day passed by without me playing in the river (wangwang in Isinay, karayan in Iloko) or in the banawang (body of water created as diversion path for irrigation water from the river to the ricefields), there was always the risk of losing either of the pair of bakya to the water. I could not wear the bakya either when I went to fetch the carabao (nuwwang in Isinay, nuang in Iloko) from its tether in the hills or in the newly harvested ricefield and ride it down to soak in the banawang or the river.
Naturally the wounds I would get were caused by stepping on a protruding bamboo peg or a sharp stone. But occasionally I would scrape my knees when I would stumble (mirumo^ in Isinay, maipakleb in Iloko) when running from an unfriendly bull in my grandfather's pasto (pasture land for cattle) or when shooing away chickens that are getting more than their share of the biit (upland rice) being sun-dried preparatory to storage in the rice granary (eyang in Isinay, sarusar or kamalig in Iloko).
Lucky for me and my similarly hyperkinetic playmates, there were always guava trees or saplings nearby where we could freely go and pluck young leaves for our injuries. We would chew a leaf or two to form a poultice and later apply the guava-cum-saliva mixture to our wound. Sometimes we were careless or didn't mind if the leaves had black ants on them.
The wound or wounds would almost always stop oozing blood. But when they didn't heal during the first treatment, we would get as many leaves as the pockets of our khaki short-pants could accommodate and bring them home to pound in the small mortar (pamo^bo-an in Isinay, almiris in Iloko) meant for crushing such cooking ingredients as ginger and black pepper, then apply the powdered leaves. Alternatively, we would boil the leaves till the water gains a tea-like color, and use the solution to wash the wound.
I wonder if today the kids in Dupax and elsewhere still resort to this guava cure. I wonder, too, if there are still guavas in their neighborhood and, if there are any that have escaped conversion into charcoal, if the kids or even their parents are still able to identify which one is a guava from other trees in their now congested and nature-starved world!