Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Part 1: La Golondrina - The Grandest of All Kites
Dr Abe V Rotor
“Steady,” Manong Bansiong held the string and whistled for the wind. Eugene and I raised La Golondrina at the other end and waited for his signal. “Now!”
She took off strong and soared above our heads, above the nearby trees, above the church steeple. It was the most beautiful kite in the sky.
Kites always fascinate me, thanks to Manong Bansiong, nephew of Basang my auntie-yaya. He made the most beautiful and the biggest kite in town. Remote and small a town San Vicente is, we had then the reputation among the neighboring towns for our kites.
Manong Bansiong made different kites: sinang gola, agila, kayyang, – in the likes of bull, bird with outstretched wings, maiden in colorful, flowing dress, and many other designs. His kites were known for their strength, stability, beauty, and agility. In competitions he always brought home the bacon, so to speak. And we kids regarded him our hero. That’s why he was the most popular person in town come kite flying season when the grains in the field turned golden in the sun and the cold wind from the north started blowing. It’s now “burr…,” we would jokingly refer to the “ber” months, starting in September.
“Can you make me a La Golondrina?” I found myself asking Manong Bansiong one afternoon.
La Golondrina or the swallow has a slender streamlined body, and long pointed wings, which allow great maneuverability and endurance, as well as easy gliding. Her body shape allows efficient flight. Her wings have nine primary feathers each, while the tail has twelve feathers and may be deeply forked, somewhat indented. A long tail increases maneuverability, and serves as adornment.
As a child, I loved to watch swallows in flight. And there was something special about them because I discovered their nesting ground in Caniao, a vast watershed on the Western Cordillera range that feeds the wells and springs, ponds and streams, and makes waterfalls tumble into the Banaoang River. I saw the birds comb for food the waters of this meandering river that flows like a huge serpent into the vast South China Sea.
But Caniao had a more practical meaning to us residents; it was the source of free flowing water from the faucet, even with the distance of some thirty kilometers away from the reservoir. So abundant was water that our gardens and backyards were always green. Our wells never dried up. Even in summer it was not hard to draw water by hand or by a lever made of bamboo, we called babatwagan. In the rainy season our wells practically reached the ground, and if you are living near a stream, some fish are lured and get trapped in the well. Where did the bulan-bulan come from? It is a fish that grew to a meter long, how it reflected in the depth of the well when there is moonlight. That’s how got its name. And old folks said the water is kept clean and sweet by the bulan-bulan. I learned later in college that this is true because the fish feeds on morsels and insects falling in the well. It also checks the growth of algae and plankton.
The swallows roost on big trees and one particular bird came close and posed to us picnickers. She seemed unafraid and even sang a beautiful melody. I was reminded on my first attempt to play the violin with a simplified version of La Golondrina arranged by my tutor, Maestro Sta. Maria. It’s a plaintive musical piece which if you close your eyes while playing it, the birds come in a flock, each one presenting itself in a unique way, circling, swaying, rising and falling as if defying gravity, creating prisms against the sun. I like to hear their calls in the language of their own - “git…git…git…” from which they got their name from the local folks.
I stalked to have a good look at the singer as one would like to get close to the stage, but on sensing my closeness, she took off into the sky and soared like a kite in the wind. How swift, how graceful and agile she flew as if she commanded the wind!