Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Part 3: La Golondrina (Continued)

Abe V Rotor

Manong Bansiong rolled the remaining string back into its cage. “She didn’t get much string.” He muttered. My first impulse was to run to where she would most likely land. “No,” he said, catching me on the shoulder. I was left alone. All the kids had joined the chase.

I remained dumbfounded, agape at the wide, wide sky. Time stood still. There was a deafening silence. Nothing seemed to move. Not even the remaining kites.

La Golondrina was swallowed up by a dark cloud and the cloud was heading for the mountains, as it often does, momentarily becoming part of its top like a veil or a blanket. During Amihan the cloud is high and thin, the characteristic of stratus and cirrus clouds - thin and high because the wind is cool and dry. It is the wind on which ride migrating birds in the North go down South, and return only in the dry season, many months later. This is what my father told me whenever I pointed at migrating birds in the sky. But for birds of La Golondrina’s kind, he said, it is just time to nest in their home ground.

With that thought, I said, “She’s going home.” Manong Bansiong nodded in submission to the fate of his masterpiece craft. Eugene had just come back panting, brushing away weeds and dusts, nursing scratches and cuts. He had given up the chase together with our town mates, and those who knew something about kite flying. Everyone talked about how they crossed the fields, climbed over fences, forge streams and even climbed trees to get better view of the route of the lost kite.

But no one knew where La Golondrina landed.

We soon forgot all about the contest as we quietly prepared for home. The plaza was empty now. It was already dark.

That night I dreamed that I found La Golondrina in Caniao, hanging on a dry branch of a tree where I once saw her as a bird. It was the only tree left in the place. There she swayed, this time she wanted to escape; she was restless even if she was already exhausted. How different she was from the once beautiful and dainty kite La Golondrina. But at least she had reached home at last, so I thought. I remembered father, a balikbayan in the thirties say, “Homing instinct brings one back from across the shore to die in his place of birth.” I took a breath of relief.

But the spring where my companions and I had picnic before had dried up. The stream has shrunk into a rivulet, painfully skirting the rocks and levees. The stones are no longer living, because they were no longer green with algae and moss.

The mountain is no longer green and blue at the distance. The view below spread out clear and empty, they are no longer part of the forest. They are now farms, and huts are visibly dotting the landscape, smoke rising from new clearings. The horizon bears the color of sunset although it was still morning. I waited for the plaintive song of gitgitgit…I once heard. It did not come. In the stillness of the afternoon came the occasional the sweep of the wind rustling on the cogon grass making an eerie sound. The sound of death.

Manong Bansiong did not make kites anymore since then. But because of him I became a kite maker, too.

But time has changed. Kite flying has become an endangered art. Kids are more interested with other playthings. They have remote controlled toys and other electronic gadgets. They would rather stay indoors in front of the TV and the Computer. And they seem to be more serious in their studies than we were then. They seldom go out to the fields. Rivers and forests are full of danger. No, their parents won’t allow them to go to these places. Many of them have moved to the city, and flying kites in open spaces is very dangerous.

It consoles me to see a kite flying around, whether it is made of simple T-frame or plastic. Or one made in China, best known for kites. How different kites are today from the kites we had before.


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