Abe V Rotor
I thought of many designs of kites: the dragon just looks too fierce and slow; the eagle is too common to most of us kids. A castle kite is not supposed to move around. The more it is fixed in the sky, the better it is appreciated. But there are sudden gusts of wind and it could just fall down like a castle under siege. A lady kite finds it difficult to dance gracefully in strong wind, and she would tumble down when the wind momentarily stops. A clown kite looks dumb; it can’t make tricks, and can’t change expressions as a real clown does.
But my La Golondrina is versatile; she could soar up and down like a jet plane with the least effort, then turns sideward in any direction and returns, repeats the same as if she were on a stage. When one behaves this way you might think she is trying to escape from her bondage. To me it’s not. She is not struggling to free herself; rather she is courting the viewer to train his sight to a place only she could tell. Too far, too high, I supposed.
Actually La Golondrina is a difficult design of a kite to make. But Manang Basiong was a real expert. He won’t back out at any kind of kite especially if it is for a contest. He always wanted his kite to win.
“When will be the contest?” He asked in our dialect.
With that statement and a kindly smile I knew Manong Bansiong would make my La Golondrina. “Yehay!” I could not help keep it a secret and soon everyone knew it and anticipated the big event.
The day of the contest came. There were many kites from our town and nearby towns. Vigan, the capital of the province had the most entries and the biggest kites at that. There were designs of airplanes, eagles and dragons, huge and colorful; they dominated the sky. But my confidence did not sag.
Then our turn came. La Golondrina appeared unique. She was not really very big. All eyes were on her. I asked my brother Eugene to help me carry her across the field while Manong Bansiong held the string at the other end.
“Farther … some more,” he signaled. “Stop.” He paused and whistled a few notes. It is a technique in kite flying. Release the kite at the moment a strong breeze comes. We waited for the precious wind.
Then it came. It was a gust of wind that came all the way from the North. It is the wind of Amihan, the season we harvest our rice crop, when farmers build haystacks (mandala) that look like giant mushrooms dotting the landscape. Mandala and kite with golden fields at the background make a favorite subject in painting landscapes. Rural landscape is the favorite subject of our own national artist, Fernando Amorsolo. I had his Harvestime, framed as a school project. Many local stages have painted backdrops of such rustic scene where zarzuelas were presented during town fiestas. To us kids, kite flying is the happiest time of the year. It was also a season of catching dalag, hito, ar-aro trapped in receding ponds and basins of ricefields where we played kites.
“Steady now,” Manong Bansiong shouted, and Eugene and I raised La Golondrina and waited for the signal. “Now!”
She took off strong and soared above our heads, above the nearby trees, above the church steeple. Our town mates and my classmates rallied. They followed her ascent, and clapped, coaching to the top of their voices. “Up, up. Go up some more! More! More!” She mingled with the other kites, bowing here and there, sometimes flying close to the dragon or eagle, and to the airplane kites in some kind of greeting. How beautiful and courteous she was! So I thought.
Manong Bansiong let the string glide on his hand, making a crispy whistling sound as our kite continued to rise. Now it was higher than any other kite. It appeared as if it were the smallest of them all, and one won’t recognize her if he did not see her first on the ground. Beyond the blue Cordillera lay the home of this beautiful bird watched and waited. I could see Caniao in the distance; it was right straight to where the wind was blowing.
La Golondrina hovered steadily like a duchess in the blue sky. I wondered at how she looked at us down below. I just imagined we were also just specks on the ground, and if my T-shirt were not red, she would not be able to distinguish me from the many spectators.
Then the unexpected happened. The string broke! La Golondrina was adrift. She was flying free, and she was not coming down. Instead, she went farther up, riding on updraft that joins the wind blowing from the sea to the mountains. Everyone was silent. All eyes were focused on the ill-fated kite. Soon it was but a dot in the sky. No one could tell what was going to happen.