Friday, January 30, 2015

Sunrise on the Farm (10 Anecdotes)

Sunrise on the Farm (10 Anecdotes)
Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio

738 DZRB AM, 8 to 9 evening class Mon to Fri

Children fishing, painting by AVRotor

1.  Eugene and I nearly drowned in a river.

There was a friendly man who would come around and dad allowed him to play with us.  People were talking he was a strange fellow. We simply did not mind. He was a young man perhaps in his twenties when Eugene and I were kids in the early grades in San Vicente.  

One day this guy (I forgot his name) took us to Busiing river, a kilometer walk or so from the poblacion. The water was inviting, what would kids like best to do?  We swam and frolicked and fished, but then the water was steadily rising so we had to hold on the bamboo poles staked in the water to avoid being swept down by the current. I held on tightly, and I saw Eugene doing the same on a nearby bamboo pole.  

The guy just continued fishing with his bare hands, and apparently had forgotten us. Just then dad came running and saved us.  We heard him castigate the fellow who, we  found out that he mentally retarded that he didn’t even realized the extreme danger he put us in.
 happen - the pharaoh kissed Alexander’s feet.  The great warrior died before he was 33.
    
2. Manong Bansiong, the kite maker

Kites always fascinate me, thanks to Bansiong, nephew of Basang my auntie-yaya.  He made the most beautiful, often the biggest kite in town.  His name is an institution of sort to us kids.  But remote as San Vicente was, we had the best kites and the town was also famous for its furniture and wooden saints.

Manong Bansiong made different kites: sinang-gola, sinang-cayyang, sinang-golondrina (in the likes of a bull, a bird with outstretched wings and legs, and a maiden in colorful, flowing dress, respectively).  His kites were known for their strength, stability, beauty, and their height in the sky.  In competitions he would always bring home the trophy, so to speak.

Because of Manong Bansiong I became also a kite maker of less caliber, but being an endangered art there is not much variety of kites flying around. The kites I make are not common, and they probably exude the same feeling to kids today as during our time.

I made kites for my children when they were small.  Kites fascinated my late first-born son, Pao. It was therapy to his sickly condition. We would sit down together on the grass for hours holding on to the kite, the setting sun and breeze washing our faces. 

Kite Season Mural, by AVRotor

When my youngest, Leo Carlo, took part in a kite competition at UST, I helped him with the sinang-cayyang.  It did not win.  But in the following year and the year after Leo Carlo became the consistent kite champion of UST, and so he carries on the legend of Manong Bansiong. 

3. I shot an arrow into the air and it fell on a newspaper

I must have been 4 or 5 years old. Dad was reading Manila Bulletin on a rocking chair.  I was playing Robin Hood. Since our sala is very spacious (it has no divisions), anything on the ceiling and walls was a potential target. But something wrong happened. In physics a crooked arrow would not follow a straight line, so it found an unintended mark – the center of a widespread newspaper.  

The arrow pierced through it and landed on my dad’s forehead, almost between his eyes. He gave me a severe beating with my plaything as he wiped his forehead, blood dripping. I did not cry, I just took the punishment obligingly.  Dad must have seen innocence in my eyes.  He stopped and gave me a hug. 

4. I shot my finger with an airgun.

I bought an airgun from Ben Florentino, a classmate of mine in high school at the Colegio de la Immaculada Concepcion (CIC Vigan) for fifty pesos, a good amount then, circa  1955.  I was loading the pellet, when I dropped the rifle, and on hitting the ground, went off.  The bullet pierced through the fleshy tip of my left forefinger. I tried to remove it but to no avail, so I went to the municipal doctor, Dr. Catalino Lazo. There was no anesthesia available, and when I could no longer bear the pain, he simply dressed the wound and sent me home.  

My wound soon healed, and the lead pellet was to stay with me for the next five years or so, when I finally decided to go for an operation. Had it not been for my playing the violin, I would not have bothered to do so.  And it was providential. 

Dr. Vicente Versoza, our family doctor in Vigan, performed the operation.   A mass of tissues snugly wrapped around the pellet, isolating its poison. He told me I am lucky. There are cases of lead poisoning among war veterans who bore bullets in their bodies. I remember the late President Ferdinand Marcos.  Was his ailment precipitated by lead poisoning?   
  
5. The Case of the Empty Chicken Eggs


Soon as I was big enough to climb the baqui (brooding nest) hanging under the house and trees.  I found out that if I leave as decoy one or two eggs in the basket, the more eggs you gather in the afternoon. Then a new idea came. With a needle, I punctured the egg and sucked the content dry. It tasted good and I made some to substitute the natural eggs for decoy.

Dad, a balikbayan after finishing BS in Commercial Science at De Paul University in Chicago, called us on the table one evening. "First thing tomorrow morning we will find that hen that lays empty eggs.”

It was a family tradition that every Sunday we had tinola - chicken cooked with papaya and pepper (sili) leaves. Dad would point at a cull (the unproductive and least promising member of the flock) and I would set the trap, a baqui with a trap door and some corn for bait. My brother Eugene would slash the neck of the helpless fowl while my sister Veny and I would be holding it. The blood is mixed with glutinous rice (diket), which is cooked ahead of the vegetables.

That evening I could not sleep. What if dad’s choice is one of our pet chicken?  We even call our chickens by name. The empty eggs were the  cause of it all, so I thought.

In the morning after the mass I told dad my secret. He laughed and laughed. I didn't know why. I laughed, too. I was relieved with a tinge of victorious feeling. Thus the case of the empty eggs was laid to rest. It was my first “successful” experiment.

In the years to come I realized you just can’t fool anybody. And by the way, there are times we ask ourselves, “Who is fooling who?”

6.  I can “cure” a person who is naan-annungan.

An-annung is the Ilocano of nasapi-an. Spirits cast spell on a person, the old folks say. The victim may suffer of stomachache or headache  accompanied by cold sweat, body weakness or feeling of exhaustion.

Well, take this case.  It was dusk when a tenant of ours insisted of climbing a betel, Areca catechu to gather its nuts (nga-nga). My dad objected to it, but somehow the young man prevailed. 

The stubborn young man was profusely sweating and was obviously in pain, pressing his stomach against the tree trunk. Dad called for me. I examined my “patient” and assured him he will be all right. And like a passing ill wind, the spell was cast away. Dad and the people around believed I had supernatural power.

There had been a number of cases I “succeeded” in healing the naan-annungan But I could also induce – unknowingly - the same effect on some one else.  That too, my dad and old folks believed.  They would sought for my “power” to cast the spell away from - this time – no other than my “victim”.  What a paradox!  

When I grew older and finished by studies, I began to understand that having an out-of-this-world power is a myth. I read something about Alexander the Great consulting the Oracle at Siwa to find out if indeed he is a god-sent son. “The Pharoah will bow to you, ” the priestess told him.  And it did 

7. Paper wasps on the run! Or was it the other way around?

This happened to me, rather what I did, when I was five or six - perhaps younger, because I don’t know why I attack a colony of putakti or alimpipinig (Ilk). It was raw courage called bravado when you put on courage on something without weighing the consequences. It was hatred dominating reason, motivated by revenge. 

I was sweeping the yard near a chico tree when I suddenly felt pain above my eye. No one had ever warned me of paper wasps, and I hadn’t been stung before. I retreated, instinctively got a bikal bamboo and attacked their papery nest, but every time I got close to it I got stung.  

I don’t know how many times I attacked the enemy, each time with more fury, and more stings, until dad saw me.  I struggled under his strong arms sobbing.  I was lucky, kids my size can’t take many stings. There are cases bee poison can cause the heart to stop. 

 8. Trapping frogs

It was fun to trap frogs when I was a kid. I would dig holes in the field, around one and one-half feet deep, at harvest time. Here the frogs seek shelter in these holes because frogs need water and a cool place. Insects that fall in to the hole also attract them. Early in the morning I would do my rounds, harvesting the trapped frogs.  

Frogs are a favorite dish among Ilocanos especially before the age of pesticides. The frog is skinned, its entrails removed, and cooked with tomato, onion and achuete (Bixa orellana) to make the menu deliciously bright yellow orange.

9. Getting drunk at an early age.

I was already a farmhand before I was of school age, but dad always warned me not to be an aliwegweg (curious at doing things), the experimenter that I was. One morning as dad went on his routine, first to hear mass in our parish church just across our residence farm, I went down to the cellar with a sumpit (small bamboo tube) to take a sip of the sweet day-old fermenting sugarcane juice.

 I didn't know that with a sip too many one gets drunk. And that was precisely what made me feel sick, but 1 did not tell dad. He called a doctor to find out what was the matter with me. When the doctor arrived he found me normal. What with the distance from Vigan to San Vicente - on a caleza (horse-drawn carriage)? But the doctor was whispering something to dad.

Then it happened. Dad had left for the church, so I thought. I went to the cellar and as soon as I probed the sumpit into a newly fermenting jar and took a sip, someone tapped my shoulder in the dark. It was dad!

Imagine the expression of his face (and mine, too) in the dark. I sobbed with embarrassment while he took a deep sigh of relief.  

Since then the doctor never came again. And I promised never to taste my “beverage" again.

10. The caleza I was riding ran over a boy.



Basang, my auntie yaya and I were going home from Vigan on a caleza, a horse carriage. I was around five or six years old, the age children love to tag along wherever there is to go. It was midday and the cochero chose to take the shorter gravelly road to San Vicente by way of the second dike road that passes Bantay town. Since there was no traffic our cochero nonchalantly took the smoother left lane fronting a cluster of houses near Bantay. Suddenly our caleza tilted on one side as if it had gone over a boulder.

To my astonishment I saw a boy around my age curled up under the wheel. The caleza came to a stop and the boy just remained still and quiet, dust covered his body.  I thought he was dead.  Residents started coming out. I heard shouts, some men angrily confronting the cochero. Bantay is noted for notoriety of certain residents. 

Instinct must have prodded Basang to take me in her arms and quickly walked away from the maddening crowd.  No one ever noticed us I supposed. 

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