Saturday, December 26, 2015

Uncle Cippi, Born Naturalist (San Vicente IS to the World Series)

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid (People's School-on-Air) with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday

We, boys in our time, soon after the war ended, found ourselves a bit of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer who knew well how to catch fish and crabs with bare hands, drop a bird from its perch with slingshot, hook a purong (mullet) with roasted lumot (alga)as bait - among many other skills that would qualify us today to take a survivor's test.

Faded photo of the late Uncle Cippi, grassroots' naturalist 

It is because we were disciples of a ranger in his own right, self-taught and tempered in the field and wildlife, and along the Busiing River that runs like the Mississippi River in Mark Twain's novels. He built the most accurate slingshot - perfect-Y, the most sensitive fishing pole that quivers at the slightest touch, and bird trap (taay) that ensnares small and big bird alike. He would point at the North Star or Big Dipper in a starry evening, "You won't get lost at sea, just consult the stars."  And he would tell the phase of the moon, when ipon (dulong) would enter the sabangan (mouth  of the river), or the mother bangus arrive to spawn.     

Believe me, Uncle Cippi - a title for being a distant relative of my dad, and trusted guide - knew when a typhoon is coming just by looking at the sunset, if rain would spoil our sipa game in the afternoon, pointing at the hovering dragonflies, or know if a suha (pomelo) is sweet or sour or bitter just by glance. "We have to walk fast," he would urge us curious at many things in the field, pointing at the drooping leaves of the acacia. Dusk is a time of the kibbaan and the unseen. Angelus is holy. Supper brings the family together. And he would be telling all these to us kids in low tone as we quickened our pace home.  
"Don't go near that hole," he would warn.  A snake could be hiding.  He knew if it's a rat tunnel. "See how smooth the entrance is?"  And we would retreat to arm ourselves with stick or anything. "No," he would calm us down.  "He is harmless, just leave him alone." And when we became cautious with the large holes on the river bank, he explained, "These are holes of burrowing crabs (gammarong). And he would set bamboo traps over the holes. (You can keep a gammarong as pet - just tie it around its carapace in a damp place and feed it regularly with morsels. This, he taught us, too.)  

We would comb the riverbank for kappi (small crabs), shrimps and fish, picking along the way edible fruits of tul-tullaya (herbaceous weed), applas (wild fig), and during summer longboy (duhat), bugnay, salamagi (tamarind), and to quench our thirst, sugarcane or coconut. Who would think of the sun going down fast?  Then we would go home and dad would be waiting at the gate. But on seeing Uncle Cippi with us, his anxiety and fear would soon vanish. And he would offer an ungot (coconut shell cup) of basi wine to our day's guardian, and listen to our day's adventure, looking at us with pride and appreciation. 

Monument of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, 

characters in Mark Twain's famous novels. 

It was purong time. Old and young tried their luck in fishing near the bridge going to San Sebastian, the farthest barrio.  Historically this is the Bantaoay River where the Basi Revolt of 1807 took place.  The river has not changed as history tells us, and it has not changed since we were kids. Oh, how nostalgic it is to visit the scene in old age!

There I see myself hooking a purong - probably half a kilo but with deceiving pull. I see my late brother hooking one fish after another. Now he has a dozen, but all medium. Then Uncle Cippi lands a big one after a struggle with the fish tiring itself.  You can hear a chorus of hurrah!  Along the bank and across the river, and clapping that joins the lapping of the shore. Our fishing guru bears a broad smile and takes off his wide brim hat.   

We had no camera. But the image remains fresh and vivid to this day. There was no trophy. But there was a champion - a champion of all time. A champion of boys growing up fast and strong to face the world of men.

Sixty years had passed.  I asked my sister if she can find a picture of our hero.  She sent me a worn out photo of his, seated on a wooden cart we once rode - the cart that took us boys to reach our dreams.~    

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