Kung basehan ang normal nga kinabuhi sa baboy sa Maribojoc niadtong mga panahuna, milagro na nga makaabot ug usa ka tuig ang ilang pag-ungad sa inadlip nga bani sa saging nga gilubok sa awho unja gisagul sa tahop nga pinalit pa sa tindahan nila Manding Rose. Maajo pa ang mga pinireso nga gisentinsyahan ug 'silot kamatayon' kay pakan-on pa, kay ang alaut intawon nga baboy, anti- desperas pa lang gani gilaming na. Di na ko mo adto sa among lujo diin ang among ad sa baboy nahimutang, kay tiaw mo bay halos usa ka tuig kung pakaon ug ligo sa alaut nga baboy, sajong kaadlawon sa desperas sa fiesta apagalubaon na man ni Nong Inting nga taga Anislag. Diha pa to'y higayon nga nagbanag-banag na ug si Mama nataranta na kay si Nong Inting nga nag-ihaw sa baboy sa among silingan perti na man hinuong huboga. Laktud nga estorya, gilajug namo uban sa ahong manghud ang dakong baboy, gihigtan ug pisi ang mga tiil dajung gujod doul tubig nga gipabukaw kay nadesisyonan nga kami na lang ang moihaw. Unsa bang milagroha nga hapit na lang maputol ang liog sa among giluba nga baboy, nagsige pa man gihapon ug iwik-iwik kay lagi buhi pa. Nagpasag na sa juta ang dugo nga sa kalihok sa baboy di na man namo masawd sa palangana. Maajo gani kay dihay mangingihaw nga nilabay maong human sa usa ka oras namong pakigbuno sa tampalasan, naihaw jud intawon 'tong baboya sa kadugayan.
Human sa higup sa sabaw sa bas-oy nga namitoon sa kapreska ug sinugbang lumo nga gisawsaw sa sukang pinakurat nga arang lami-a , tagayan pa jud sa kinutil nga inutang pa sa tubaan ni Nang Pesya malampusong naghiwa-hiwa si Tiya Floring nga pahiping nagkatawa samtang nagtan-aw namong duha sa ahong manghud nga nangaluja.
Wa pay uso ang ambit-ambit ug karne sa baboy atong panahuna kay halos tanang balay magbuhi man ug ihawonong baboy para ihalad sa fiesta. Kung naa pay balaod nga mosukot kay sala ang pagluba ug binuhing baboy, preso tanang taw sa lungsod ug di madajon ang fiesta sa Maribojoc.
Ang ilugon maoy unang pangitaon, kay kuno iputos sa putaheng murkon. Ang dugong sinawd sa palangana para pod kuno sa dinuguang pina-ma, kadtong lutong pina-uga nga dili mapan-os ug pila ka semana,. Usahay di modawat ug kwarta ang mangingihaw kay ang ulo sa baboy mao na man la'y ibayad sa ijang pag-ihaw.
Kawa nga arang dakoa nakamontar na doul sa giihawan, nga gisugnoran ug sini-ak nga pagatpat ug lukay nga pinunitan. Didto sa nagbukaw nga tubig ilunod ang binaretang karne sa baboy, unod, panit ug tambok nga hiniwa nga murag Perlang sabon ang amgid nga gidak-on. Gamit ang palwa sa lubi nga gihimong luwag, dala na ang singot ug tulo sa laway sa hubog nga nagsugkay, manglutaw puera gaba ang mantika nga nagabuwa-buwa ibabaw sa tubig nga gilata sa karneng hiniwa.
Kadtong sinugba nga tijan sa baboy nga sa uling gipahapla, kagisan lang ug gamay ang unod nga napagud, dajung tunlob sa sukang sinilihan ug usa ka kumkom, pagkatagpod jud pwera gaba ub-ubon. Sa makanunay mopuli nag hiwa ang mga baje kay kaming tanang nagbuno ug ihaw sa baboy nagsige na man lang ug ipis sa bahal nga tuba samtang nagsumsom sa sinugbang nagmantika.
Kuryuso ko sa una ngano nga ang mga klase-klaseng panimpla mogawas ra kun magfiesta didto sa among kusina sama sa ginasantis, pork and beans, pineapple chunk ug black beans nga de-lata. Ang bagiuo beans, star anise ug dahong laya nga tawgon nila'g laurel, ubanan pa sa ketsap, mayonaisse ug pickles nga among sekritong pagatilapan hasta ang tabon sa botelya ug tam-usan kun duna man gani namilit sa kutsara, magdasuk jud didto sa among lamesa sa kusina. Lihiro 'tong mga tig-luto nga mokalit la'g abot sa amoa kada fiesta, di man to namo mga paryente pero sa kadugayan murag naanad na ming motahod kay lagi mga soud nga kaila sa pamilya. Diha to'y tig luto ug kan-on tibouk hapon, naay tighiwa ug lamas ug lihiro moluto ug sud-anon. Klase-klase to sila'g mga kalaki pero kun torta, 'cake' ug polburon na gani atong estoryahan, way makalupig ni Tiya Dadie. Kaming mga batan-on mao kunohay mag abi-abi sa mga mamistahay, nga sa sajong buntag pa gani sa besperas nagsugod nagpanaka sa among balay ug nagpakli-pakli na sa nga 'album' ug mga basahon samtang nagsige'g pasiplat sa lamesa kun nahukad na ba ang mga pagkaon. Kasagarang bungat nga estorya magsugod sa 'Mao ni si 'kuan'? 'Sus pagkadako na ba diay ning bataa, perti pa man ning gamaya sa una'! Pagkagwapong bataa jud!
Kalami jud tubagon nga 'kalooy sa Dios hingtubo na ko intawon'!
Kasabot mi nga bolada ra kasagaran 'tong mga estoryaha pero kadtong katapusang hunat nga kumo nangagwapo mi mahimo ra pod usahay patulan. Wa pod ko kasabot nganong ang mga 'album' maoy unahon ug lantaw sa mga bisita kay kun sumahon ug klaro, kada tuig man ni sila mamista. Syaro na man pod ug wa ni sila maka sag-ulo sa mga kataw-anan namong mga hulagway nga sa amo niadtong mga pangidaron di na jud namo ikahimoot balikon inahay gilubong na sa kagahapon.
Bas-oy, dugo-dugo ug kinuposang tambok ang kasagarang iduso sa besperas kay ang mga lamia'ng sud-an sama sa inasal ug murkon sa katumanan sa fiesta pa man lutoon. Torta ug sikwate nga perting hawta sa dis-oras nga painit maoy bida samtang ang Tanduay ug Añejo nga sa souk giloklok gipabugnaw pa. Magsige lang mi'g huwat sa nagbantay sa 'softdrinks' nga malipat kay tiaw mo bay kun hilantan ra intawon mi sa una makatilaw'g ahat. (kadto bang Tru-orange ug binatil nga itlog sa manok nga ipahurot jud nimo ug yaruk!).
Naa koy nahinumduman sa una nga painit sa fiesta diin giyaruk sa mamistahay ang sikwate nga natulog, kana bang tungod sa ka hawt ang ibabaw sa sikwate murag bugnaw tan-awon pero ang ilaom perti diay'ng inita! Nahibong ko sa taw nga nagtan-aw kay nagsige na man lang sija ug hangad sa among arkoba unja nitulo ijang luha dajon nanghupaw. Dihang ahong gipangutana nganong nihilak man ka, ni tubag pod ang karaho nga gimingaw kuno sija sa ilaha. Nagsige'g katawa si Tiyo Remy nga nagsud-ong, kay matud pa nija, tungod siguro sa kagutom ang baba sa mamistahay napaso na ug nanglagum.
Kadtong mga kubyertos nga tinipigan sa among karaang aparador sa fiesta ra intawon makabuhi, di pa jud mi pahawiron kay kunuhay mapusgay unja'g mabuak sa sunod fiesta wa na mi gamiton. Wa pod ko kahibaw ngano nga ang mga lamiang pagkaon ingnong nila nga 'para ra sa pari', kay kun sumahon ug hunahuna, wa man jud ko sukad makahinumdum nga napad-pad ug pamiyista ang kura paroko sa simbahan didto sa among pinuy-anan, hasta man gani pod sa among mga silingan.
Beperas sa gabii ang kinabibohan nga panahon sa fiesta niadtong mga panahuna kay mapuno na jud 'tong among gamay nga balay sa mga 'stay in' nga mga bisita. Magkagubot na 'tong among mga kaulitaw-han ug mga dalagang kaparyentehan kay kunuhay naa may dakong bayle nga pagahimoon sa basketbolan. Ang mga karaho nagsige nalag-ipis-ipis sa imnonong makahubog samtang ang mga baje sa kwarto nagkayamukat na intawon ug pang lipstik ug pamolbos. Nagpasag lang ang Fanbo, Eber Belena ug Three Flowers pomade sa among tukador samtang kaming mga bata nagsige na lang ug paniplat kun dunay mahabilin sa mga basong Nescafe nga sa mga palahubog gitagayan buwahan makalad-ok ug gamay sa nahibiling Tanduay nga ilang gi-imnan.
Kasumaran sa fiesta, sajo sa buntag pa lang ang among karsada perti nang biboha. Nagdout na ang mga debotos ug mga mamistahay kay sa kaalaot sa mga panghitabo, nahimutang man sa 'main road' paingon sa simbahan ang among balay. Nagdasok na ang mga mamaligjaay ug kandela, ubanan pa sa tiling-tiling sa 'ice cream' , 'cotton candy' ug mga panghaplas nga baligja. Naglaray na pod ang mga tolda sa mga namaligja ug mga duwa-duwaan, 'balloon', mga relihiyusong abobot ug mga hubot-hubot nga among kalingawan. Kadtong pusil-pusil nga balahan ug 'papel de gunis' ang among handumon nga paliton, kay sikat na man gud kunuhay ka sa una kung naa kay gitakin sa imong bag-ong pantalon, nga inutang pa ila Manding Eyon!
Modalikyat pod hinoon mi ug tabang ni Nang Amon ug baligja atong ijang mga kandela, aron makapalit ug trak-trak nga sa plastic ginama.
Kadtong peryahan nga gikoralan didto sa plasa naug-bok na pila pa ka mga semana sa wa pay fiesta. 'Ferries wheel' nga perting habuga ang kina-nindotang sakyan, naa pay 'flying trapeze show' kada gabii nga himoon sa tolda nga tag 'jes tabos' ang 'entrance'. Naa 'toy mga iro nga molukso sa nagdilaab nga "hoola hoop', mga inano nga perti jud kapalamout. Diha pod 'toy mga niwang nga taw nga nagkarang-karang, mga bajeng nagtambling- tambling ug nagbalintong-balintong sa hawanan ug mga majikero nga perti jud makalisang. Kay tiaw mo bay tigbason sa espadang arang haita ang baje nga naghigda samtang nagkitiw-kitiw ang ijang mga tudlo sa tiil ug nagngisi ang ijang nawng bisan pa man naputol na ang ijang lawas kay lagi gihiwa. Kadtong majikero nga gisulod sa kahon unja kalit lang nawala, wa ko kasabot. Kay sa kadimalas atong tawhana didto man ko sa kilid naglili ug nakakita ko nga naghinay-hinay sija'g lusot sa tabil nga itom sa kahon paingon sa likod sa telon. Pagtuyhakaw sa majikero sa kilid sa entablado wa na ko mahimout, nakabalikas jud ko sa ahong kapungot.
Aw hinoon, sa dihang nagngabli na ang 'target-target' gamit ang talinis nga igpalantig ('dart' ni oi, sa Binisaya), wa na ko mahingawa, kay tabhanter man kunuhay pod ko gamay sa una. Diha pod 'toy bola sa pingpong nga ihulog sa imbudo ug maglukso-lukso sa lamesang pinturado. Ang hunungan nga kolor sa bola maoy makadaug tugma sa pilay gipusta pero kun sa berde mohunong ang bola sa pingpong, madoble ang imong kwarta.
Bingo ang sugal nga kinabibohan, palamuot tong magsiaibya kun unsay numero sa bola nga nahulbutan kay ija man pod apilan ug mga pakapin nga kataw-anan. Kadtong 'shooting gallery' nga ang premyo duwaan kun swertehong makaigo ka sa imong gipuntarya wa ko mahimout. Kay unsa ba 'tong pusila nga bisan unsaon nimo ug paningkamot nga moantimano motalipsay man gihapon ang bala bisan gidul-itan na. Bisan pa man ug mahurot ang sensilyo nga halin namo sa kandela wa gihapoy tagam, kay tabhanter lagi jud kuno ko ingon pa's ahong mga kauban.
Pagkahuman jud sa misa mayor sa alas jes sa kasumaran, diin mapuno ug moawas pa gani sa gawas ang mga taw sa among dakong simbahan, magsugod na mi ug pangatang sa atbang sa among nataran. Sugoon mi ni Mama ug pangimbitar sa mga debotos nga tiguwang nga klarong wa pa joy pamahaw, arong pod intawon makakaon human sa panaad atubangan sa istatuwa ni Sr. San Vicente nga magsinulog ug sayaw. Ambot pod ug unsang hitaboa nga sa paglapas sa pipila ka mga tuig nangahimong suking mamistahay ug mga paryente man namo sila, gawas sa manok, kamote, ubi ug mga lagutmon nga ila kanunayng gidala. Kadtong taga Talibon nga among suking mamistahay lisod to sija hikalimtan, kay magpas-an man intawon to ug bukag sa gipabukawang lambay ug pasayan.
Inig kapaniudto sa kasumaran dinhi manggawas ang pinakalami nga nilutong sud-an kay tinglugsong man ni sa tanang mga espesyal nga bisita, maparyente man, ig-agaw o soud nga mga higala sa pamilya. Dugay mahuman ning selebrasyona kay way labot sa pangaje, magkaguliyang na man mi tanan sa himamatay ug estoryahanay sa tinuig nga tabì. Mao pod ni hikaya nga ang inasal maoy bida ug sa ka-espesyal sa mga pagkaon ining higayona magsige na lang ko'g pahiping molilì, kay maghuwat ko kanus-a moabot ang pari!
Way bisitang mouli nga dili magbitbit ug 'bring house', ma karne man, sud-ang dinuguan o tortang kinalamian. Ang mga nahibiling salin-salin andamon pod hinoon kay inig ka liwas pohon sa fiesta talamdan na man sa tanang panimalay'ng hingtungdan ang mangaligo sa dagat didto sa pantalan.
Niadtong mga panahuna nga wa pay pili-pili kun kinsay padajunong mamistahay o mga bisita perti ju'ng alegreha ang fiesta.
Ambot lang pod kaha ron labi na nga nagkamahal na ang karneng baboy kun imong paliton!
Who to Vote in the Upcoming Presidential Election
Warning: I'm not a political analyst, I mean not just yet, so puns are not intended intentionally.
Federalization of the Philippines
Those people who managed to outlive FEM's Martial Law era must be a bit scared of this guy, his only son and heir apparent. The inevitable question however is this, 'What if the apple falls short of the tree it was clinging into'? The legitimate voting public born after that disputable event in the history of Phil. politics must be scrambling hard by now for any subjective bit of information to satisfy their innocent sensibilities and will likely still end up clueless and foolhardily biased nonetheless.
Liberalism, Social Liberalism
Typically a naturally bred-in the-bone Filipina, a newbie in the field of dirty Philippine politics and the only candidate outside the Nationalista party's grip, her political experience and platform is highly dubious and implausibly weightless. That, if she will survive the onslaught of eventual accusation and counter-accusation from her distractors in the next quarter prior to the election period. Or, being the lone wolf in the pack, her candidacy is bound to fail with predictable certainty unless of course she will come up with the tried and tested aid of divine intervention strategy, which is highly unlikely. Nonetheless, appeasing the masses after her excessively contradictory performance as the current VP is also tantamount to primarily dishing out her floundering attempt for the presidency, especially with the administrations strong constituency up NoMa and the rest of the voters down SoSo. Millennials against the rest of the ruralist is a fight to watch and a good betting prospect.
Progressivism, Liberal Democracy
Young, ambitious and...what?
He may win in Tondo alone but it doesnt mean the whole country will eventually accede and follow through unless Facebook will crash down in the next six months or had MaRox edged out Du30 in 2016, he might have the chance. Erap made it through and he interestingly went to playing 'jueteng' in Muntinglupa.
Social disorganization anyone?
Watch out for this guy in the next twenty years, though.
Hugpong ng Pagbabago
Idi Amin is already dead and gone and the world would be much better place to live if we will not resurrect him. Diplomacy-wise, there will probably be a throwback to African politics in the mid seventies if this guy miraculously wins and we're not even that close to that continent. Watch out criminals though, Du30 is still alive and killing, I mean, kicking!
Democratic Socialism, Left-wing Populism, Phil. Federalism
Clearly a nuisance candidate(?) that does not need any introduction or a review whatsoever. What was he thinking anyway? The probability of aliens voting for this guy is a big possibility otherwise there would be an exodus of Filipino immigrants to any country willing to accept residency status because of lack of govermental certitude and confidence in democracy if he succeded. Boxing will become the national sport of the country and its not far to expect a PPV match after every calamity.
Anti-communism, Social Conservatism
Other than the English interjection 'bang' which implies the sound of a discharged gun, 'ping' is a bit milder but still lethal, a clear miss, discernibly.There is just something not right for any former carrier military entity to govern a country democratically although for the last 32 years that is, in part, precisely what happened in this country. Military government is passe, eg; Myanmar, and the phrase 'old soldier's never die, they just fade away' is a dreadful consequence to consider anyway.
Apparently the catchphrase for this upcoming election is federalism, societal change and populism, words associated with every dictator who came to power directly or indirectly in the past and it is, in this democratic society we figuratively believed we're in, utterly scary. But there is nothing to worry about as this upcoming 2022 PresElec. is evidently a race solely between a sole Liberal farmer and a horde of Nacionalista stooge of a billionaire and we already know who will win, eventually. Unless of course if the Chinese had their way or the Americans decide to invade the country. That, however, would be unprofitably counterproductive yet hilariously funny.
NoMa- North of Manila
SoSo- South of Sorsogon
I can't cook and my wife and daughter will gladly testify in court about that. But Saturdays are so damned different as we normally woke up late, famished to the bone and apparently have nothing else to do since the advent of the laundry shop craze. So then the kitchen becomes the staging place for our ultimate gustatory excursion. Some bake pastries while others try to mimic their mothers crazy food inventions and the internet always froze in traffic by noontime. These is where comedy, as we came to know it, probably began.
(Forty thousand years ago.)
'No man, it's just overcooked', says the other caveman.
So they invented the griller.
(Thirty thousand years ago.)
Phwee...phwee..phwee, its bland!
'No man, it's just a baby dinosaur, says the other stoneage hippie.
So they discovered salt.
( A few seconds ago.)
OMG, it taste funny!
The other guy (me) raise his hand and said,
'How's McDonald sounds right then?
Just forget the kitchen, chico!
Get your phone and dial 465-5656, pronto!
"Gather your things and hurry up to the gangway my friend because you will be be going home before the ship leaves at two this morning", the captain said as I was roused from a pitiful sleep, hopeless and dejected after three confirmed denials from the manning agency regarding my overlapping contract. Eleven months and a few days ain't that long, sure, except for the fact that I was the only one left behind from the seven ship rats that boarded this ship in Singapore last year and amazingly doesn't seems to have an available reliever yet until today. Three succesive calls by the captain to the company's principal probably did the trick though I'm not really sure if he will survive the flood of e-mails from the manning agency afterwards or the dreaded sat-calls from the principal later in the day. Repartrating a crew from a far-off, non-convenient port in the remotest corner of Africa logically do cost a lot of money but I'm not about to mind that either, would I?
It was raining hard and windy when a svelte woman in tight jeans emerged from a compact car, wisely ducking the shore crane jibs overhead, and hopping deftly from the countless water-logged potholes of the pier in her stilleto shoes towards the ship's gangplank which was promptly lowered by the duty AB. In all probability, the guy manning the gangway instinctively had the carnal inkling that a young lucious lady boarding a ship at midnight should be dealt with utmost pleasurability. In this desolate and remote corner of African backcountry this isn't atypical and I'm being honest to even say!
She was soaked from head to toe her wet undershirt pressing against her skinny body that was partly covered by the flimsy transparent raincoat she was wearing. Her speckled skin glow luminiscent against the dark and foreboding dawn tempest that lashed the moored ship since last night, a flotsam bobbing violently from the roiling sea and banging hard time and again against the squeaking rubber fenders of the squalid quay.
'Are you the guy who's disembarking today?', she brusquely asked while leaning slightly on one side as she squeezed her soggy flaxen hair with her pallid hands. She was exceptionally beautiful and I was dumbstruck silly all I could manage to reply was a leery half-smile. 'Hurry up then, chop-chop! The airport ain't that far and I need to get home fast. My baby's alone in the house so we'd better be get going', she added.
'I dont mind the baby' I whispered to myself half-grinning and fantasizing at the thought of spending a few minutes with this heaven-sent blond beauty.
She smells like a blossoming garden, her vaporous sweet scent trailing as she began to descend the rickety gangway down towards the quay where I, following closely behind, was blessfully enveloped by her overpowering fragrance.
The car was rather much smaller than I thought as I stuffed my seabag under the tiny trunk and quickly seated myself up front hoping of all hopes for a car breakdown somehow, somewhere in a secluded place along the way. It didn't happened and the more I wished it would, the faster we had reached the airport instead.
The airport? Or so I thought.
All I could distinguished was just a single-storied small building standing right in the middle of a clearing, or a field to be bluntly precise, which was eeriely dark as the lights were apparently still off. Graciously topped by a limp red-stripped conical wind sock which was depressingly clinging halfway on a small steel framed tower, it almost looked like a surreal movie scene of an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a fog laden nowhere.There was not a single soul loitering around too except for an old stooping black night keeper who was leaning from a mop handle and peering curiously at our apparation behind the framed glass doorway.
'Why so early, Missy?, the skinny oldhand, in an oversized denim coverall that was hanging loosely from his bony shoulder, blurted out as he yanked the door just wide enough for us to squeeze ourselves in. 'We're supposed to open up at six thirty', he submissively added, his downcast eyes transfixed firmly at what was left of his worn out sneakers. There clearly was a slight imperceptible tinge of helpless obeisance from the tone of his half whisphered voice for maybe he knew her beforehand and this ain't the first time either for her to barge impudently into his menial realm of decency at this ungodly hours.
"This guy's taking the first flight bound to Johannesburg today. His ship is already undocked from the port and the agent didn't manage to spare a room for him at the inn. Try to find him a bench or something to rest for awhile and wake him up when the plane's ready to depart. Do you understand me?', the girl in an emphatic tone said while pressing a few rand to the man's widespread palms. 'Be sure to rouse him up for the first flight or you will find yourself cutting the weeds next to the cows along the runway', she added threateningly.
Apparently, blond white African ladies can also be feisty, assaultive and beautiful altogether sometimes.
'Here's your plane tickets, sir', she said, while handing me three sets of stapled envelops snugly wrapped in a cellophane packet. 'A friend of mine will meet you at your next stopover and will assuringly assist you with the next flight details'. I'll call her in the morning. Goodluck, and that's it.
She was gone before I could even ask her her number in case of any unforseen eventualities. This is Africa, for the love of God!
'Come along, my little friend. 'I'll find you a place to lay your head down for a while', the old guy motioned towards me as he gently began dragging my seabag along the mudded walkway towards the relative dryness of the airport's bare lounge.
It was a bench alright, made of hard, cold, unvarnished wooden pallet and it was all there is inside as I scanned the dark entirity of the waiting area.There was not even a single one of those unmistikable plastic butt-hugging blue bucket seat that we always find all lined up in neat rows in most conventional airports. Not a single coffee vending machine was in sight either and with the rain pouring like a burst dam outside this I reckon will be a very, very long cold and freezing night.
Wear your jacket!
I know you'd probably say that but whoever thought of wearing a parka in the middle of Kwa-Zulu, Natal, S.Africa let alone had any idea that the winter nights here is even colder than the farthest inhabited part of Canada?
I never counted how many cigarette butts there was that eventually began piling up on the bare cemented floor underneath the bench where I was ushered into but I guess it was a lot before I managed to fall asleep miserably shivering from the cold and damp only to be awakened by the old janitor's grinning face inches from mine.
'Get along, mister'. 'Yo' planes about to depart any minute now', he imparted wearily as he began to sweep the littered cigarette butts under the bench where I was lying. 'Just show your ticket to the usher by the door and off you go to where you're heading to', he said pointing his bony finger towards a tall and skinny fellow standing next to a side door. A second later, he too was gone before I could even say thank you. These people are always in a hurry, I lamented silently.(They probably knew I had no money too!)
So where's the queue?
All I could see heading towards the side door were a bunch of people running briskly with their luggages and baskets stopping briefly only to wave their tickets right in the face of the skinny sentry who was sporting a close-cropped kinky hair-do and a floral shirt. Aren't tickets supposedly have to be confirmed first before you're going to issue me a boarding pass?, I asked the usher by the door. His quizzical look says it all so I decided not to press any further and instead rushed out the side door smacked into the blanketing fog of a typical bleak African morning, whitewashed, damp, dewy, misty and dense.(Whoa, sounds like Cinderilla's dwarves,right?)
The silhouette of a small whinning turbo-prop plane revving up by the tarmac looms in the distance. Something must have gone horribly wrong this time because I'm supposed to be on a passenger plane and this thing looks more like an oversized cropduster. For pete's sake, where's my plane?
'Thi's yo ride alright, mister', said the black porter guy who hastily shove my seabag into the void of the plane's underbelly. 'Hurry up or yo' lose yo' seat to the chickens', he added laughing hysterically while flapping his hands in the air like crazy.
So this is the reason why my fellow passengers were all running ahead of me. This carrier's motto probably might be a case of 'first come first seat basis' as there was not even a seat number printed on the tickets!
There were less than fifteen passengers already onboard, by the time I reluctantly propped myself up on the plane , most of whom were triumphantly seating by the window as there were that much seats available also. Your guess is predictably right because being the last to board the plane I somehow managed to squeeze myself up into the last available seat in the last row by the last window. Luckily, there weren't any chickens sitting next to me either as I reckoned they were probably being stuffed in the compartment abaft along with the baby pythons and the freshly-poached horns of endangered black rhinos. Who knows?
The lead pilot was definitely Caucasian and the co-pilot black, precisely the entire crew, and that I'm quite sure of because five seats straight ahead of where I was sitting bares the doorless cockpit with its unmistakable array of knobs and flickering monitor lights. Caramba, Puchuelo! No pretty stewardesses on this flight, amigo! I reckoned the flight cart won't even fit through the narrow aisles, anyway. 'Jambo,' to that!
'This is your captain speaking. Please snugly fasten your seat belt all the way to the next destination as we will be experiencing a rough weather pattern this morning. Please secure all your carrying baggage infront of your seat or inside the overhead bin above you. Your lifejacket is stowed somewhere under your seat and if the oxygen mask should deploy due to an eventual thinning of cabin air pressure, please wear it correctly as stated in the safety card stowed in the pocket of the seat in front of you. Please take the time to read the safety instructions carefully and remember I already warned you so don't blame me for anything that might happen to you during the flight. This is a non-smoking flight if you don't have a cigarette. We will be departing in a few minutes or honestly until the fog will clear up and I can clearly see the runway. Thank you for choosing Mtumbo Airlines and we hope to see you again soon, by God's grace.'
Obviously, he need not mention anything about refraining from loitering around because apparently there was not enough space even for a lavatory.
Two minutes later on and we're off taxiing the runway, the same asphalted road that the feisty blondie and me were traversing earlier in the day, a black-topped strip of a country road in the middle of two adjacent grassy field which by now were already blanketed by a mantle of dew-laden cobwebs. The accelerating cresendo of the airplane's four roaring turbo-propellers were beyond calibrating but imperceptibly we began lifting slowly off the ground and into the murky mire of the fog up ahead. 'At least this thing can fly', I said to myself, upliftingly astonished. The Brahma cows grazing on both sides of the grassy-patched runway barely stirred. The feisty blondie probably warned them too!
And fly it did, climbing labouriously at first, towards eternity as there wasn't anything much to see anyway except for the enveloping grayness and the occassional swooshing of something zipping fast by the windows that wasn't even discernable because of the fog. Two and three-quarter hours of travel time is not that burdensome enough if there were a few amenities to be occupied about, like a miniaturized TV with a wide array of movies and music preferences to choose from or an occassional snack of biscuits and coffee. Sadly there were none whatsoever though the guys ahead of me were having a boisterous kaffeklasch straight from their personal thermos bottles and lunch packs while I, on the other hand, hadn't even had a bite yet since yesterday! "Bring your own food" might be this carrier's second catchphrase, I supposed.
Five minutes into the flight and the cabin loudspeaker crackled again though this time it was a little bit comforting. 'Good morning gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will be skirting our prepared flight plan today and instead head down and south to avoid the predicted incliment weather that the meteorological bureau had recently issued. The fog will be clearing up momentarily so enjoy the view, relax and have a wonderful flight ahead.
If he'd just turned his head around and spoken a little louder than usual, then it would have been the same, anyway.
'Well, everyrhing is okey, I said to myself. At least I'm going to have some quality time for the memories and a more meaningful flight watching the vie...WHOA!
Aren't those trees?
Have you ever experience the feeling of being surprisingly shocked that your lower jaw unintentionally drops and you find yourself choking? One time in my life I did and this was it.
Who wouldn't, considering that the airplane we were flying with had been zigzagging through the mountains of the Drakensberg range all along and the occassional swooshing apparation that somewhat bothers me beforehand were actually trees clinging desperately on the granite cliffs a few meters away from the tip of the plane's winglets?
Down below stretches the sediment-laden and murky rapids of the snaking Ulundi tributaries where legends says giant crocodiles had a penchant of snapping unwary humans in half, let alone airplane survivors if they by any chance survived the crash or from merciless maws of the beasts that lurks stealthily under the canopied watershed. The airplane's traversed altitude was so low that I would have been able to see the monkeys clambering up the forested banks of the winding river down below if I squinted my eyes long enough.. Down and south indeed, as what the captain had said!
Surely you would think that this is going nowhere and far too unrealistic to be believe in but then honestly everything was all true. Well, almost all are, except perhaps for the monster croco's, I suppose.
It was 'terrifyingly amazing' and that's what I probably would have defined the feeling if I had been given the chance to exhort something after that q reflexive involuntary gagging. The plane deftly followed each winding curve and crevasse that the river had patiently chiselled through time across the rust-red layers of the granitic mountain range that for a brief moment of bless I had the feeling of being in an adventure themed movie set. I also think that for a moment I saw the captain grinning.
After an agonizing two long hours of hard twisting and turning coupled by an innumerable gut-wrenching downdrafts and updrafts we were unbindedly thrust right into the verdant savannah of the fertile Gauteng region, a pancake flat and picturesquely mosaicked expanse of endless cropfields and vineyards marching along as far as the eye can see. (much farther of course since I'm not myopic) Whitewashed villas basking besides reflecting cerulean pools and towering crop silos that are bunkered among clumps of tall trees dotted the landscape like islets amidst the fallow fields and emerald greens of cultivated paddies that are crisscrossed by surgically linear straightaways. Wispy ground-hugging fog blanketed the early morning horizon creating a surreal manifestation of comfort and benediction, the blessed White Africaan Land.
(I reackoned that if I survive a plane crash here there'ĺl be a horde of blond beauties and that's for sure!)
This is the rich white African country, as I learned later, and obliviously a parsec apart from the half-clad Bantustan natives proudly embellished in their colored beads and prized seashells huddling in the earthen floors of their dung huts that were protectively barricaded by twig fences against the fierceness of the marauding highland kraal beasts.
After what seems like eternity the chicken had finally landed though definitely dizzy and probably being overly grateful to be alive somehow. Some may have contemplated in hugging the captain if they had the chance save for the nagging interruption from the plane's loudspeaker. 'This is your captain speaking'. We have arrived at Thumbo International Airport five minutes early as promised. Please get your baggages carefully from the overhead bins and hurry up to the tarmac as soon as possible when the plane is in a complete stop. Passengers with connecting flights are advised to consult to their respective transfer airline front desks as the airport building is under renovation and I have no idea where the transfer gate is anymore. Thank you for flying with us and have a wonderful day ahead'. Click. (Yeah, I also wondered what the black co-pilot would have said given the chance but I guessed he too was dizzy, just like the chickens!)
Down the ramp we go and into the warm and steamy morning of a blazing African sun. Predictably there were no transfer buses waiting at the tarmac so we had to walk a couple hundred meters more dodging baggage-towing cars and trailing persperation from hauling our personal packets before reaching the nearest shade of what used to be the airport terminal building. The captain was precisely right as residual tokens of plastic wrappings hanging from above the reconstructed building were lazily flapping wildly in the wind and seemingly waving goodbye to the planes taking off in the nearby airfield. Jackhammers and crowbars were pulverizing masonry everywhere and the dust was blinding. Well, it is always dusty in Africa anyway.
'Are you the guy transitting from Richards Bay who's bound for Hongkong'? said a diminutive black thing in a travel agent's uniform topped-up by a ball of frizzy hair and holding a piece of cardboard with my crookedly scrawled name on it. 'I'm your contact person here, she announced, and I haven't eaten anything yet since this morning. I know a place where we can negotiate over a meal', she added.
"Now you wait a minute, lady. This is absolutely a straightforward, plain and simple 'in your face' extortion! I have had my tickets alright and looking for the front desk isn't that much of a sweat, dont you think?" I also have enough layway since my next flight will be in three hours time! A chicken could have said that but I didn't and instead concocted something like, 'Oh, Im sorry, Missy, but I believe I'm the wrong person you are referring to. I just came from Timbuktu', I assertively lied. She probably knew I was lying because with a leery smirk from her bloated red lips, a rolling over of her disproportionately marble-white eyes and with a weary sigh she was gone without even saying a single word.
Just like that!
What's wrong with these people anyway?
Why the hurry?
There wasn't any ressemblance of a queue let alone an orderly line of people by the information desk exactly an hour after I found it. It was more like a scene from an old war movie where the front desk is swamped by a horde of boisterously yelling commuters desperately vying for the last available ticket out of a failed country. Regrettably, I shouldn't have lied to that frizzy-haired woman.
An hour of pushing, shoving and a bucketful of sticky perspiration later this is what actually happened.
African man at the front desk:
CX 643 bound for Hongkong?
Don't use the escalator, it's broken. Turn right at the landing and then proceed to the door with Chinese markings in it and a logo of a stork flying over a green sky.
Chinese girl at CX booth:
Good morning, sir. Here is your boarding pass. Please proceed to Gate 17 immediately for your final boarding arrangement. If I were you, I wouldn't pass through the Custom's area. It's notoriously corrupt.
Young boy at the boarding area's waiting lounge:
'Hey,mister, you want Marlboro? Chicklets? Coca Cola perhaps? I can get you very, very cold water too!'
Me: No. I'm good.
Boy: 'No? No cigarette, no chewing gum, no drinks but good?
Who wants to drink a two-dollar "very, very cold water" in a capless Pepsi bottle anyway?
'Si Gilbert, edad 13'
'Uyab mi sa una pero iya kung gibuwagan kay nakasala man gud ko niya'. 'Nanarato man gud ko ug lain mao nga naglagot siya'. 'Dugay na sab mi wa magkita, mga usa ka buwan na kay di man na siya taga Macaas'.
'Kinsa man anang duha ang niangay nimo, Dong, kanang taas nga babaye o kanang medyo gamay nga nagkalagum?', nangutana ko sa bayongbayong nga nagduko-duko ug nagsige'g kuhit-kuhit sa mga hulmigas nga nagkabuang intawn ug panagan sa nagbundô nga yuta ubos sa among gilingkuran.
Domingo, nanglaag mi didto sa balay nila Dodo Fredo, ang buotan bana sa akong maguwang nga taga Catmon-daan. Ug kay sarang Domingo man, nanimba ming tanan isip pagsaulog sa grasya sa Ginoo. Aw, sila ra diay uy kay sa pagdalidali namo ug larga wa man ko kadala ug bisti nga tugma sa pagsimba. Sa laktud nga pagkasulti, nag''shorts' ra ko mao nga didto ra ko sa gawas nagpaso-paso.
Ang simbahan nga nagaambo sa dagat nga inubanan pa sa kampanaryo nga pondasyun pa lang ang nataruk, wa pa intawon mahuman ug sa iyang landong nahimamat nako ang duha ka batang lalaki nga nagsinikhanay ug nagpahipi'g lantaw sa duha ka batan-ong babay"ng nanimbahay. Nagkatawa ko nga nagtan-aw, siguro kay nakahinumdum sa kapanahonan nga ako pa'y bayong-bayong, ug tawhay pod nga giubanan sa malisyusong handuraw nahitipik sa alimpatakan ang kagahapon.
'Pareho man na silang duha nga naibog nako. Kanang taas dili mi uyab pero niingon na siya nga niangay kuno siya nako. Kanang mubo'ng babaye mao jud nay akong uyab sa una', nitubag sab siya nga nagkisdum ang mga mata tungod ba kaha sa kainit sa adlaw nga nilampaso sa barandilya nga among gilingkuran gawas sa wa pa mahuman nga simbahan sa Panilipan, Catmon-daan.
'Si Flor nang gamay, Nong, si Merrill nang taas', matud pa ni Gilbert dihang nangutana ko kun si kinsa nang mga bataa nga nagsige na la'g pasiplat ug lingi sa among nahimutangan.(medyo nahauntol ko'g gamay sa 'Nong' nga tahod.) Naglagitum sa way kahimout ang mga nawng sa duha ka batan-ong babaye nga nalandungan sa kainit sa adlawng tutok nga sa amihang hangin gihuyop ug mga kalimutaw na lang nga nagpabiling puti ang nagbanagbanag sa ilang mga nawong ubos sa landong sa atop sa simbahan.
'Wa man ko moangay nilang duha,Nong, (untol na sab ko!) unya sila may sige ug lingla nako kay nanga-ibog lagi jud kuno sila nako', manggiuwawong sagbat kunuhay ni Gilbert.
'Ikaw Jong, kinsa man sab ang imong naibgan anang duha?', nangutana ko sa kaubang bata ni Gilbert nga klaro kaayong mao pay pagmata kay nabulit pa sa muta ang mga mata.
'Onse pa ko uy, wa pa ko ana', tubag sab sa bata nga nagngisi samtang pahiping nagkupot sa iyang karsusilyo nga napuno na sa tinapakan ug ginansilyohan. Sigurado ko nga lain ni'g kolor karsonesa sa bag-o pa.
Nagngisi ko ug wa damha nakatawa.
Wa ko kasabot ngano nga naikag ko ug sukit-sukit ining duha gawas siguro sa kalaay sa paghuwat kun kanus-a mahuman ang misa.
Kalawat na dihang mibirig na jud ug migawas sa simbahan ang duha ka dalagita. Pasumangil-sumangil sab kunuhay ug tan-aw sa namaligya'g ice buko sa kilid sa simbahan diin didto mi nanglingkod sa unahan. Pahiping nitindog si Jong ug nag-imbay-imbay'ng nag- aginod paingon sa duha nga takulahaw lang nagkinusi-ay'g nagkirig-kirig. Naputos sa kakulbahinam ang mga gutlong milabay labi na sa dihang mihunghung, dala sa pasiplat nga pahiyum, si Mirell ngadto ni Jong nga sa maka-usa pa naggunit intawon sa iyang karsusilyong busloton.
Nabakat sa kakulbang inubanan sa kahinam ang nawong sa binatilyong akong katupad dihang mitalipsay'g kalit sa among tungod ang nagkamuritsing nga mga dalagang hugot nakinuptanay sa ilang mga kamot, birig nga daw susama sa sunoy'ng manok ug ni wala man lang gani mi panumbalingnga.
'Adto kuno sila maghuwat nimo ubos sa kumbento, Bay Bert, matud pa ni Jong. 'Ayaw sad kuno pagdugay-dugay kay layo pa daw sila'g baktason paingon sa igbaw!', sumpay pa sa batang bulingit nga sa pagkakaron nag-ugom na sab ug White Rabbit.
Pahipi kong nagkatawa, kay kolera, mura man sad ni'g ako sa una!
Ah...,makahimuot handumun ang kagahapon sa mga naka-agi ining mga hugnaa sa ilang kabatan-on. Nagkalahi lang ang mga lugar sa kanhiay'ng panahon. Kaniadto sa amoang baranggay diha to'y sa eskwelahan magkitaay, ang uban sa Cristo Rey atbang sa simbahan, sa pagpanuroy-suroy kunuhay inubanan sa talisawp nga adlaw sa pantalan ug diha say uban nagtuhak-tuhak luyo sa dakung kurus atbang sa hagdan-hagdan. Diha to'y nag-abot sa kawayang lingkuranan sa nataran, sa barandilyang semento kilid sa kang anhing Monsenyor nga 'pespan', sa nag'parking' nga 'Ford Fiera'ng karaan ug sa mga nagkaguliyang nga mga boarding house sa Tagbilaran.
Ambot lang kun naa pa bay mag-abot-abot sa kanipaan o ilawom sa kasagingan ug kalubihan 'rong panahuna di na siguro ko magpakabanà. Kay sa panahon karon, sama ni Gilbert nga huyang pa uyamot sa pangidaron, way lugar nga gidili sa inosenting pakigtagi.
Haskang swertiha hinoon sa mga tampalasan ron kay sa SM baya perting bugnawa ang aircon!
Salamat sa gamayng panahon nga nagkaila-ila ta, Gilbert, kay susama sa pelikulang karaan ang among mga kanhiay'ng kabuang imong gibalik.
Salamat sab sa buko juice ug matam-is nga White Rabbit, nga ako ra sab diay ang nipalit!
(The Parable of the Fledgling Mice)
A man once had a stay-in job at a huge lumber company and temporarily made the second floor above the main office of the establishment as his private living quarter where he ate his meal and occasionally sleep during work break periods. The mice scampering under the rudimental dining table were probably living there long before he did. For countless times he tried to pamper and feed them with table scraps that he deliberately place near the small hole by the corner wall to no avail. But the man persisted nevertheless and continually made every effort to offer the helpings each time he had his meal. He said that it was better he feed them rather than the mice nibbling his clothes and leathered belongings.
The man was jubilant when after a few weeks of this forbearing routine tell-tale signs of minute morsels were observed scattered liberally near the entrance of the mice den. ‘They’re eating but are still afraid’, he triumphantly said. Weeks passed unremarkably until one hot summer evening when he heard a chorus of tiny squeaking from under the table. He was aghast to find two new born mice, with entrails visibly discernible through their transparent livid bodies, emerging from the den’s entrance and staggering blindly on the wooden floorboard towards open space. The squealing became louder still when the man cupped the thumbnail-sized rodents into his hands and gently placed them in the middle of a cloth rag that he oftentimes use to clean the table top. He then dipped a few drops of milk on his fingers which to his delight were voraciously sucked by the embryonic hungry mouths lapping and squealing at the same time blindly. This act of compassion was repeated continually over a period of time until the mice were big enough to fend for themselves and resorted to habitually wait for the man to give them their share of food of which he did unfailingly with impassioned observance.
When the man’s young son came for a visit on a summer break and asked him about the rodents playfully running nimbly under the table the man replied that he would explain everything later at mealtime. Come dinner the two mice boldly came up to the table top as usual and were fed by the father who by now was surreptitiously watching the young boy for any sign of abhorrence and disgust before he explained everything to him.
‘Children are like rodents, he said. Nurture them while they are young and they will leave you blissfully happy and contented. Leave them be and they will take everything you loved dearly, all your life’s sacrifices, and leave you a broken man as you grow old . Hold back until they’ve already grown up and they will be like rats that are afraid to come out in the open, devious and crafty, wary of man’s frailties and suspicious to a fault. They will rip-off everything you've had while you’re away and leave irreparable damage and destruction without even a hint of gratuity. Hatred and resentment will reign in their hearts for they shall forever be envious of the others who’d embraced the light. They will hound you forever until you will end up in the gutter like them and eventually become a victim of your own design’.
‘Feed and guide them while they’re still young and blind to the fault of insecurities and life’s uncertainties and they will grow to be bold, respectful and kind. They will face life unafraid and forsake nothing but goodness for the next generation to inherit. That, my son, is what every parent is hoping to leave behind'.
A few months later the whole lumberyard accidentally burned to the ground. The conflagration was so great and devastating that it took a couple of weeks before the fire was finally put out completely. The small quarter above the main office was gutted down, the mice were nowhere to be found and the ailing man, now jobless, went home to spend the rest of his days with his wife. Convalescence from his enfeebling illness, like the loss of his pampered mice, never came. His children all came to bury him when he died, a sad and a lonely man, never knowing whether he had succeeded in nurturing every single one of them including the tolerant mice about the simple joy and struggles of life.
He need not to worry anymore.
Although our life’s path doesn’t necessarily need to cross cognately oftentimes fate would not somehow betray the fact that we are all a father’s son*, all the same, even if we all vehemently deny being an itinerant mouse once.
Thank you, Father.
March 08, 1985
This post is intended to be an open narrative where your comments, corrective revisions, additional information and contribution is highly appreciated for posterity's sake:
Mother suddenly appeared in the classroom and hurriedly asked permission from my fifth grade teacher that I'd be excused for the day. It was the first time I saw tears streaming down from her face. I still remembered that it was a hot and sunny March midday, exactly a week after my elder brother's birthday, and as long as I could remember from that day onward I despised Tuesday's.
Grandfather and my Uncle Diloy had been in a bizarre accident a few days earlier. The only witness to the incident, an old friend of my grandfather, said that my uncle came home from work on that fateful day and leisurely asked them both whether they would like to have some star apple, which is in season every summer, and hastily climbed the huge tree that overshadowed the concrete benches where they were sitting. A few moments later he said he heard a loud crack and watched helplessly as my uncle fell down from the tree right into where my grandfather was sitting. Grandfather was brought to the hospital in a coma while my uncle, though still conscious and communicating, suffered a few broken ribs and a huge bruise on the left side of his torso all the way to his back. Grandfather always brought me along on most weekends to the town where my uncles lived but for some foreboding reason he never did, not on that tragic Saturday. He probably knew what was coming.
For all I know grandfather was always there for me inspite or rather because I grew up differently from the rest of the brood or either unwittingly pitied me for being just like that, I wouldn't know. Somehow, I oftentimes resolved to believing he just wanted to squirrel me away to safety from being ridiculed and bullied constantly. Like that one unforgettable time when I spent a few hours in the town's municipal jail, courtesy of mother's overly concern for my desultory well being, all of which to my relief and irascible disposition I had as always embraced grandly mollifying. With him the world was a little bit friendlier and for a young guy who had the propensity of being peculiarly independent like me, aside from being rebellious most of the time, it was always a bless and glorifying. I literally grew up anticipating summer breaks and Fridays.
Grandfather's life story was a bit profound and sketchy although based on fragmented information that were painstakingly collected from just about anybody, it was believed that he immigrated to the country in the early years of the 20th century and landed up north. There was no unanimity as to the date of his migration and from where he came from except for the general assumption that it was probably China since he was definitely speaking Hokkien. Chan Pek Chen also known as Tomas Chiu, along with his younger sister whose name was already lost sadly in memory, were said to have trekked down south and settled or rather were both adopted by a family somewhere in Panay Island. How'd he came to Bohol was a mystery though it was a known fact that he became a median businessman, buying dried copra from the hinterlands and remarketing them to the big kahunas in the city. He was also fatally captivated and beguiled by a pretty mestiza named Baldomera, my grandmother. Nobody knows if he'd converted to Christianity but they were probably married in a church somehow and had four offsprings, Remigio, Cirilo, the youngest of the brood Cristina and my mother obviously, christened Josefina. Or was it Zosima?
Nothing was heard of from his sister to date.
During the Japanese occupation the family relocated to the hinterlands of Bohol and grandfather, who was as always a good businessman, managed to procure (claimed?) a huge track of prime property that he cultivated and subsidized efficiently with good management and dedication. A large plot of virgin forest was apparently cleared through slash and burn method and planted with a variety of foodstuff that sustained the family and the indentured workers who were living off the land prior to their arrival. Evidently his cunning and diplomacy kept the family away from the Japanese warpath wrath and the guerilla's conspiracist harm that inspite of the strained situation the holding even prospered reasonably. Mother used to say that the farm they were living in was so huge that my uncles and their horses could barely manage to explore the periphery of the whole property in a day. There were caves, ravines, streams and forested areas where my uncles used to hunt monkeys, wild boars and chickens.
After the war, the property was said to have been appropriated equally to the indentured farm workers who tilled the land and grandfather went back to being what he once was, a copra businessman. One reason for that was acknowledge when he passed away.
Grandpa was a good cook, far better than average particularly when it comes to his ever appetizing Chinese culinary creations. My father always had a persuasive reservation for his presence in our home for most of the time, aside from being his only talk buddy as none of us can even barely speak Hokkien literally. Sunday meal was always anticipated whenever he was around as it was 'pancit' day, one of the best food creation he could muster, aside from being fathers favorite, and 'chao phat chen', an authentic seven variety sauted vegetable dish that was a precursor to the modern day 'chopsuey'. There were strips of beef jerkies hanging on the dirty kitchen rafters, pungent 'maho' and 'baho' fillings in glass containers that we used to sprinkle liberally in the daily morning porridge, the occasional 'lomi' and so much more.
Grandpa sequestered the space on the loft above the kitchen as his sleeping quarter and into that small recess we oftentimes clambered at night to hear his never ending stream of fables and classic stories, tales that are always sprinkled with wisdom and mordant morality, all this while being enshrouded by the illuminating light of a small gas lamp that never left his side. He was probably the only person who can't tell a pleasantry but always wear an infectious Solomonic smile. Nobody ever seems to remember him being angry either.
Althought he was already in his prime when we were growing up, he could easily outpace any of us even in that ridiculous upgrade locals fondly called 'higad', a runoff gulley used as short cut leading uphill to the town where my uncles lived. Besides my father, he was probably the fastest walker* I ever had the privilege of running abreast (and that includes the other definition of the asterisked.)
Strangely enough, it was believed that he was also an accidental healer. As the story goes, when grandmother was degenerating from an unknown malady and being bed-ridden for a long period of time, she supposedly summoned all her siblings and offered them to inherit her healing ability so as to rest peacefully but to no avail. She was known to possess some healing powers including the ability to see the realms of the other side and her fame was widely regarded by the local community. But at a stiff price, for it was believed that a healer can never die unless the gift is passed on to anybody but a close relation. It was only when grandfather went to her room that she succumbed submissively and he came out aggrieved to announce her demise, a decision that can only be surmised as born out of his unwavering love and hallowed pity for his beloved wife. From then on, grandpa's disposition changed dramatically. Being old and marginally feeble he closed down his business enterprise and came to live alternately between our home and that of his younger son, Uncle Diloy. Father's persuasive entreaty for him to live with us permanently failed for every chance he got and we were both off to scale time and again that dreadful gulley. Maybe he longed to be in the place where he and grandma shared their fortuitous destiny though as we were told it was grandma's last request before she died that did kept him true to his binding promise.
There were inconsequential happenstances that made us believe grandma had reserved her talismanic capabilities to him as evident in the case of my cousin Bernie who at one time was too fond for blasphemous expletives and became erratically obstreperous. Grandpa healed him with just a lump of mud and a candle floating in a water-filled basin. Whenever I complained of having a headache, grandpa would just write something on a piece of paper and burn it all in the palm of his hand. He then would gather the ashes patiently into in his thumb, swipe them all across my forehead while muttering something uncomprehensible to nobody but himself and the fever is gone. There was no way to skip school whenever he was around, especially impossible when complimented with that bitter tasting white powdery concotion in a red envelop with Chinese markings that were always kept abundant inside fathers medicine cabinet. But then these are just mere stories, tales spun by a wayward youth who had a penchant for spaced-out introversion and imaginative discourse wandering along the illusory reflection of an endless ocean.
Or were they?
From the school, mother brought us directly to the hospital in the city in a hired vehicle and went straight to grandpa's ward but he was nowhere to be found. The bed that he was occupying was already made up, clean sheets and pillows and all. An orderly at the nurse station whisphered something I could only surmissed to be horrific and dreadful as it made my mother cry uncontrolablly and at that moment I knew grandpa was gone already.
Uncle Remy and a doctor came to restrain mother who was already hysterical and brought her to a safe place away from the people who were startled by her loud wailing. There was a consensual decision to keep grandpa's death from reaching Uncle Diloy's knowledge and it was hard restraining the loss emotionally when we went to visit him in the other wing of the hospital where he was recuperating. Uncle Diloy was already sitting in his bed when we came and though the visitation was deliberately planned to be brief, the awkwardness was definitely showing. He was already in high spirits but was complaining about the pain and the large swats of bruises on his torso and backside. Before my uncle could ask, someone told him that grandpa was still in a coma but that he was fine and the topic was quickly shifted to his well-being.
We all lied.
But the ruse was mortally short-lived when my uncle asked a relation who was watching him over for the night about grandpa's condition to which oblivious to the agreed decision inadvertently revealed the true circumstance of his passing. It was said that from that moment on Uncle Diloy did not spoke a single word, retired calmly to his bed and slept eternally. He was pronounced dead the next morning while the rest of us were still mulling over grandpa's death and catatonically mourning.
It was the worst tragedy the family ever had.
Grandpa had a habit of crossing both his hands in his back when bored or listening to almost just about anything and resting one leg on the stool he was sitting whenever he is eating. He used to wear white, white short sleeve polos, white boxer shorts (karsusilyo), white undershirts and, with the exemption of a single black pants he wore when commuting between the towns, nothing more. He smoked Titina occasionally, or when he had some spare money, although most of the time it would be a rolled up tobacco leaf that he always kept hidden from my sight. Just like father, I have never seen him go to church either but he was always there sitting in his chair everytime we had a novena or the daily Angelus prayer. Curiously enough, three old statue of the Holy Family dominates the space just above the old dresser in his room in Cortes.
He drinks local wine (tuba) occasionally but for some unexplicable reason only in Cortes, the town where my uncles lived. There was a local wine store by the highway just across the town's plaza that we frequently used as a stopover, after climbing that steep gulley, and we always took the time to rest there for awhile while he took a swig of wine and bantered with the old patrons loitering inside. As time goes by, it came to pass for my turn to hold the glass.
Grandpa was not a womanizer, as what people used to say, although there was no denying that during his wake there were two sets of families who came to pay their last respect, one of them apparently an open secret. There might have been more, considering the kind of business he was dealing with as a trader but there was no story to tell that may corroborate to any reason whatsoever for his actions. He simply was just who he was, an honest Chinese trader with a few undisclosed families to spare.
It would be of no coincidence that some of his familial descendants may also become, just like him, sincerely honest traders.
Comet Kohoutek appeared exactly forty days after they both died and we all went to a small promontory overlooking the town's public cemetery to watch it streak across the early dawn sky. It was the first comet that came to appear in my life. The huge sweet and sour fish dish that graces the after prayer meal come dinner time was quite memorable as I happen to discover a large hook still embedded snugly in its gaping mouth. Some say it was a good auspice though I believed it was more like a closing repartee from grandpa who probably wanted to say ' stay humble in life, be careful of the things you bite'. I should have known better.
Mother used to tell a story that when grandmother was near death she made grandpa a binding promise to never to leave Uncle Diloy's side whatever may happen in their lives.
True to his word he never did, not to my knowledge.
But then again these are just mere stories, delusionary tales spun by an old man who......
Skyflakes and the Failed Rocket Scientist
It is common knowledge that there are 54 tiny holes in every single Skyflake cracker, 18 in each of the three piece bite size portion fused together into a single flake . Dont try to count it because I already did, 11 times. I am not a rocket scientist so as to how they come up with that number is beyond my understanding other than the fact that they were perforated intentionally in order to cook the individual dough evenly. They probably took into consideration the surface area of the cracker, the thickness of the dough and the heat and time required to bake each bite size into a crisp snack evenly . This is where it gets interesting though. How big is a bite size? Well, M.Y.San, the company that produces the cracker was apparently prepared for that. For an adult person, the average width of an open mouth is about two inches, exactly the same width of a single Skyflakes cracker. If this goes to show that you're still a child if you cant shove a single cracker, I wouldn't know. The three section definitely was designed for the women who, inspite of having the same mouth width with adult men, tends to modestly purse theirs a bit smaller when eating. (with the exemption of Julia Roberts, of course).
But did you know that there are also 64 red lines on the plastic tub of a standard 850 gram Skyflakes container, not counting the 8 printed on the lid? The red and white stripe design was adapted in 1935, the time the American influence were omniprescent in the country, as it was also the year that the product was launched. Skyflakes immediately became the staple food for the western culture-adapting Filipinos, especially after the war, and much of the credit goes stateside eventually. M.Y. San didn't cared much because he was already six feet under by then, in China!
This is where it gets a bit confusing. Who's who?
M.Y. San was a young Chinese immigrant when he came to the country at the turn of the century, partly to escape political persecution for being a nationalist, and with the help of a naturalized Filipino partner ventured into the food industry business, biscuit making specifically. By 1910, he went back to China and with the backing of a mere friend known as Chiang Kai Shek, established himself as one of the three major biscuit making company proprietor in that country, the other two being managed by his brother, M.K. San and a relation named M.P. San who also started their businesses first in the Philippines. M.Y. San's Philippine venture was eventually taken over by his partner who, along with his wife and children, manage to reorganize the company until 2001 when it was sold to the Monde's group billionaire Betty Ang. Yup, you read that right, the Nissin's Ramen conglomerate boss owned your 10pm midnight snacks, noodles, biscuits and all!
As for M.Y.San, his businesses in China sadly went bankrupt partly due to corporate infighting, innovative production line machinisation, fierce competition and the failure of his sugar milling venture. He died in Hongkong at a young age of 51. His epithapt reads Mar Y.S., Mar being his last name in Chinese and not San, which of course begins with an S. His brother M.P. San's company eventually relocated to Taiwan after the expulsion of the Nationalist in China in 1947 and is still one of the leading producers of baked goods and pastries in that country to date.
The expiry date of each batch of Skyflakes cracker however is digitally printed on the lid of the container and not inked inTaiwan, in very small letters. The reason for this is practicality because the company knew that as long as the cracker is not soggy, covered in molds or still crunchy inspite of being more that 6 months past expiry, we Filipinos will still consume it. So they added a small warning that says, ' Press all sides of the lid to ensure freshness.'. Poetic!
The capital D just above the expiry date means that the product is for domestic distribution only, coupled with a large print that specifically says 'For sale only in the Philippine market'. Skyflakes products sold internationally has a blue sticker that says it is not to be resold in our country. Don't ask me because I have no idea why but apparently this is worth investigating further. Does the other one taste a lot better or some ingredients were purposely switch to pass international standards? I couldn't possibly know since I'm still not a rocket scientist.
A Braille system of dots is also incorporated and stamped below each letter of the brand on their internationally distributed containers for the sight impared but none on domestic consumption packaging. The company probably thought it unimportant somehow since we usually keep the empty container afterwards to store anything from rice grains, chicken feed to sewing needles anyway. Or turn it into a beautiful flower pot, somehow.
Fita, another famous line product of the company however is a biscuit and not a cracker which is somehow fitting enough for it to be called as such rather than a cracker which it is not. Fita cracker sounds absurd as Skyflakes biscuit is and I dont know the reason why although Skyflakes really is a cracker and not a biscuit, like Fita. Or is it?
Well, you dont have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. Just go directly to the nearest sari-sari store and buy a pack of Skyflakes cracker then face yourself in front of a mirror and measure your mouth. Forget counting the perforated holes because I already did, 11 times!
Lucifer and the Rich Chinaman
'Tell me your name and I will tell you who you're ancestors were'.kbt.1220
Surnames were always a mess ever since the Spaniards tried to implement a random choice of irrelevant add-ins in the Filipino names, who, by the time they arrived in the pretext of proselytizing their faith to the natives, was nowhere near chaotic as it was before. Early Filipinos use a single local word name that envisage the nature of their birth or conception like Marilag if the parents had high hopes that the child would grow up to be beautiful or Batubalani if the mother was unsure who the father was. Cilapulapu's father probably was not a fish but a toughie who thought to pass his trade to his son but turns out to be unlucky when the latters minions accidentally whack the still inebriated Magellan in the thigh and became the hero. Sikat-(sa)-una's father's fall from grace was probably legendary so the local midwife gave his son the stigma of branding him for eternity although the later wisely managed to reverse the curse by becoming the first Filipino diplomatic attache when he successfully managed to drag the Spanish big boss Legaspi to a drinking party. Or was it Humabon, the guy who was born on the first day of the rainy season? Duhaylungsod may have been a lady's charmer and probably was also a crafty merchant for how was he able to live in two separate towns and get away with it? My first cousins are ashmatics, the Apat's had four of everything including wives and the Lumaads were purely natives, as the word suggest. I could go on forever.
As for the three sisters from the town of Buenavista, there was no mention of their names either so the youngest probably changed hers after the marriage and the eldest, the one that cried foul as the lyric goes in that old Boholano song, became a spinster. She probably had her name changed to Putli or Putri, the eternal virgin.
(🎶Sa lungsod sa Buenavista, may tulo ka mga dalaga🎶...)
Despite the fact that the real reason as to why the early inhabitants of the country were having single names was human migration and geographic in nature, the islands being swamped by singley-named, caste-classed Indo-Malayan people from the south bearing huge curved swords and trade language, there is little known reliable information about the ethnographical history of the native inhabitants beforehand. There was no written history either and if there may have been the Spaniards probably burned them all a long time ago to melt the wax in making the candles that they gave to the unwary natives during their baptism.
Although most of the common Filipino names were forcibly replaced during the Spanish administration, some native names remain due to their influence, wealth and social standing amongst the rest especially when it comes to the payment of taxes and their status in a certain jurisdiction. Village chief, land-owners, warriors and businessmen probably were exempted, so much as the people who were branded as bandits and revolutionaries by the establishment and those who never cared to register and chose to become mountaineers. Eventually, dialect-based surnames remains clustered mostly in remote areas far from the Spanish sphere of influence and until the advent of the American occupation remains indistinctively low-keyed and socio-economically curtailed and subjugated. If only Macario Sacay did made it through, he could have been the first non-Spanish surnamed president we've ever had.
Thus, people born three centuries later were usually named after a saint based on the day of their veneration, feast or consecration in the daily almanac and any other name thereof were considered inappropriate by the church authority. English names came later and somehow naming a child by combining both parents first name became trendy, much to the dismay and embarassment of a college friend whose parents were named Lucy and Ferdinand respectively. Numerics came like crazy later on, followed by misspelled and hard to pronounce double names to the consternation of the Church authority who may someday baptize somebody called LeBron Sony Eriksson Antolihaw, the seventh. Somehow Yaman Insik did made it through and is sitting right in front of me minding his own business.
So, what is the queeriest name of a friend you've ever met?
ps. Lucifer changed his name to Ferdinand Jr. by the time we were in 3rd year. I was one of the dis-interested person to sign his affidavit papers. As far as I know, OS Yaman Insik Pos..... never did.
Heaven Must Be Too Far Away
It has been a lifetime quest for me to understand the extent of how big the universe is that the first thing in my bucket list was to own a 1500x magnification refracting telescope capable of watching the faintest object that emits light within the sphere of the observable limitation at the least price I could manage, budget-wise. Then it dawned into the inevitability that 50k is too much for such a folly and the internet is practically cheaper yet still immensely informative and hassle-free.
Why the passion?
Maybe its because of instinctive curiousity.
Maybe it's because of the intriguing truth that there are more celestial objects and anomalies in the entire observable universe than all the grains of sand in this planet, each one a few light years away from each other and moving at an enormous speed towards a place where no man-made instrument is yet capable of calibrating.
Or maybe because it is all in there yet we still never knew the reason why it exist, how did it all began, where is it going and when will it end.
There are may be a lot of aphoristic spiritual and scientifically based reason for man to believe in but the truth is far more conflicting and impossible to fathom, far beyond our minds capacity to understand and speculate even the slightest notion as to why we came to happen.
There is always a beginning for everything that ends, may it be life or a reason, and for us to understand why we exist.
The answer to all of that question however is simply easy. It is printed on the label of an original Mang Tomas All Around Sarsa bottle.
In the early 80's, Mang Tomas created a sauce out of a variety of locally available condiments and ingredients for his small eatery's specialty offering, a charcoal-roasted chicken dish. Instinctively, people who tasted and heard about his sauce became too curious to want more that he hesitantly began selling them to his neighbors and eventually, with the backing of a few relatives, created a small home-based factory solely for that purpose.
The truth about his sauce was too obvious, it was really good, and the demand was too much for his small enterprise to handle that he began to speed up production by creating a bigger factory and investing more into the business. Faith in his incredible creation was all that matter. Many local food processing companies miserably tried to imitate his prized dressing but failed because they were incapable of calibrating his secret recipe.
'They are all mixed in there and that is why it is good', he once said when asked by reporters about the ingredients of his sauce.
But then everything abruptly ended when the company he created was sold to UFC, a subsidiary of Nutri-Asia, the Malaysian food processing giant for an undisclosed amount of money, millions of it. Scientifically, it was all about the money although the spiritual aspect may differ slightly between both parties.
We may never know the real reason for the buy-out but we can only speculate that for once it existed as a true Filipino creation.
Mang Tomas Special All-Around Sarsa sauce had a humble beginning and a profitable end if you have enough time to search it in Google religiously and that is why we came to know the truth about its existence.
So, how far do you think is heaven?
Scientifically, it's too far away, billions of light-years away.
Spiritually, Mang Tomas knows it's just within the limit of one's faith and a few saintly ingredients.
Niadtong kanhiayng panahon ngadidto pa sa Anislag nagsugod hangtud sa atbang sa balay ni Dr. Sanchez ang espaltong dan sa lungsod, usa ra ka lugar ang di mawad-a'g tawo, ang merkado. Sajo pa sa buntag didto na nagtipun-og ang tanan, apil na'g mga tsismosa'g tsismoso ug mga lab-asera'g isda gikan sa Pantalan. Diha nay mga tiguwang nga nagdama sa barberohan ni Nong Inting ug mga palahubog nga nagsugod nag inom ubos sa atis sa tubaan ug palitanan ug tablija ni Nang Epe. Nangabot na ang mga kargador ug kopras nga nanggihukas sa tindahan ni Bua ug ang mga taw'ng nanglugsong gikan sa bukid. Daghan nang istambay sa bilyaran ni Tatay Datoy ug diha nay mga estudyanteng nangatang sa MB Liner sa eskena ila Kwan Yut. Nanimahung pan ug browa ang tindahan ni Ayut, nga namaligja pod ug kandila, bombilya ug lansang para sa atop, Sa kilid nagsugod na'g pangarga ug pan ang mga pahenante sa trak nga karaan kay ibyahe pa nila sa ubang kalungsuran. Daghang buwad nga kinahon ug kopras sa ilang Two Sisters nga tindahan, diin sa sulod nangumbitay pod ang mga lamas, nylon nga pisi ug tsinelas. Didto sa gawas namaypay na si Nong Menes nga nagpaniid ug kinsay makakurom ug madjong sa di pa mopalis. Ang mga biyaherong nakapamahaw nanutpik na gawas sa karenderya ni Nay Iyay samtang didto sa lujo, nagkaguliyang ang mga kusinera'g kusinero unsa na poy sunod lutoon para paniudto. Way kulba mokaon atong karenderyaha kay naa ra man sa tapad ang kang Fernandez nga botika.
Sa tindahan ug bugas ni Nong Tiago mag-ulos-ulos na ang mga tawo, di kay sa mopalit kundili moagi lang kay didto man ang latasanan paingon sa sulod sa merkado lagbas sa mga lamesa nga mapuno ra'g manggad ug paninda kada tabū sa Mierkoles ug panahon tali-abot ang fiesta. Ganahan ming mga bata nga mulatas atong tindahana kay sa lujo naa didto nagbundo ang mga kamay, bugas ug monggos nga among pagahakpon kun ganahan mi magluto ug binignit, kana bang libreng painit nga way palitpalit. Sa kadaghang taw nga mangagi, malipat intawon ang tiguwang ug tindera nga sa mga mamalitay nakig-abi-abi. Sa kilid nga barberohan ni Nong Vicente naglinya na'g namungko ang mga batang naghuwat nga tupihan, nagkumbayot pa intawon sa ilang mga inahan ang uban. Usa ray estilo sa tupi sa una, sinaw hangtud ibabaw sa dunggan ug ang nahibilin buhok sa pad sa kamot mahimo nang tabunan. Swerte tong mga batang mohilak nga gi-awtan, kay aron mohilum, palitan man dajun ug ice candy nga ang nagbaligja nagpungko didto kilid sa entrada adtong merkadong daan.
Ambot ngano nga maikag mi usahay nga manungtong atong timbangan nga puthaw nga sa puerta mayor sa merkado nakabutang bisan pa man ug masuko tong nagbantay labi nag kami masakpan. Didto ang mga manggad molukat ug tiket nga murag estampa, naay tag singko, tag jes ug naa poy tag peso ang usa, ang mabayran depende ra sa kadaghan sa baligja ug kadako sa pwesto nga maakupar sa paninda. Wa pod mi kahibaw asa paingon ang kita nga kwarta, sa munisipyo ba o sa bursa. Ang among kalaki sa una mamunit ra mi ug nilabay nga tiket nga buwis kay gamiton man to'g kwarta-kwarta kun tingduwa-duwa na.
Kilid sa puerto mayor sa merkado, nahimutang ang bugasan ni Manding Rose Chiu. Di mi kahakop ug kamay didto kay naa ra man sa atbang ang nagbantay nakapwesto. Sa tanang bajeng intsik nga tiguwang nga ahong nailhan, sija ra tong dili maldita ug maot ug batasan. Aw hinoon, adto man pod mi usahay mangutang.
Unahan gamay ila Manding Rose nahilaray ang tindahan sa Five Brothers, diin naka display sa samin nga mga estante ang ilang mga baligja, gikan sa kandado hangtud sa pabilo sa Petromax nga suga. Binugha nga kahoy ug uling sa ilang likod nagpatungpatong, inubanan pod sa mga bugas ug tahop nga gipangsulod sa kahoy nga kahon. Boutan tong intsik nga tag-ija, aw, kay kinugos man pod ang ahong maguwang nga baje nija. Syempre makautang pod mi didto kay amigo man sila sa ahong Papa.
Latas sa mga bakanteng lamesa ug espasyo nga lataran sa mga kamote, gabe ug kinampay nga ube, labi nag tali-abot na ang Pasko, ang mga naglarayng paninda ug utanon. Sa di pa ka makasulod sa inaptan nga estraktura nakapwesto si Nang Babeng, ang nag-inusarang tindahan nga namaligja ug saging, puro ra jud saging, gikan sa lakatan, tundan, seňorita ug hasta gani saging nga hilaw pa. Ganahan mi mobirig sa kilid atong tindahana kay kung naay saging nga hapit na malata, manghatag man sab to sija namong mga bata. Si Babing sapatero sa kilid nija nakapwesto, nagpunko nga nag-ajo sa mga sapatos ug tsinelas nga guba, ma panit man, goma o kahoy nga bakya. Adto pod mi nija mopalit ug Goodyear nga tsinelas nga nilaslas gikan sa ligid nga guba.
Nagpasag ang mga utanon ug lamas nga paninda dinhing dapita, naa tanan klaseng kamates, sibuyas, ajos ug luy-a. Suka ug patis, inubanan sa mantika nga gipangtakos sa tanang klaseng botelya. Sari-sari maoy among paboritong utangon kay kumpleto na man tanan sa utanon, tubig init ug rekados ray idugang, naa na mi masud-ang lamian. Labi nag subakan pa jud ug tinap-ang tulingan! Dinhing dapita mahimo pod kang moabang ug Bisaya, sa tag kinse sentabos ang abang. Kinahanglan pod noon iuli dajon aron di ka usob mapaninglan.
Inig latas sa utanonan naay na poy laing hawanan nga kun tabū gani nakahakyad ang mga banig nga paninda, sugnod nga binugha, uling bagow ug uban pa. Dinhing dapita makapalit ka ug sapyaw, nylon sa tirador ug pamana'g isda, inubanan sa kahoyng antipara nga ajuhong jud namo''g sukod kay kun masajop, malibat ka inig sa tubig na ka molublob. Kadtong mga tinaro'ng ginamos ug tinabal nga nagpasag sa hawanan di kaabtan ug udto kay hutdon man sa mga komprador nga taga laing espidno..
Daghang basket ug nigo nga ginama sa buli ang nangumbitay sab sa kilid, naay sug-angan nga hinulma sa juta ug klase-klasing planggana'g kaldero, maplastik, mabuak o sartin man ang pagkahimo. Usahay makaswerte ming manabū kay ang mamaligja ug tambal ug lana para haplas sa tanan sakit kasagaran dinhi dapita mupunko. Syempre di mawâ ang ijang binuhing sawa, nga mahuman na lang sija sa ijang pangampanya di pa mogawas sa kahon diin kini naglokū. Para namo niadtong panahuna waysapayan, kay naa man pod sijay mga madjik-madjik kunuhay nga makalingaw ug kataw-anan..
Isdaan ug karnehan ang kinatapusang estraktura. Solid taga Pantalan ang mga namaligja ug tindera. Naay namaligja'g bolinao, kinhason ug gagmayng isda nga kuha sa sapyaw ug usahay naa poy tiniltil nga swaki ug tujom nga presko. Panahon sa tabū ra mi makakita ug lambay, kay tinumod man pod gikan sa laing mga lungsod. Kun naay kasag nga sinu-an ug sinibot nga pasayan, abtik-abtik jud ug hakop kay sa kanihit basin ka mahutdan.
Kilid sa isdaan nakapwesto ang karnehan ug baboy. Ambit-ambit lang jud pod hinoon daan kay kada Domingo ra man pod mag-ihaw si Nong Juan. Swerte na'g makapalit kag karneng baboy sa di pa moudto, kana kun gusto kag bukog-bukog ug salin-saling unod sa ulo. Maajo na kaajo kun sa usa ka buwan makakita ka'g karne'ng baka. Ambot pod kaha'g ngano pero sa akong tantiya ang mga taw kanhiay sa amoa 'vegetarian' o wa juy mga kwarta
Sa tuong bahin sa merkado naglaray ang mga restawran. Dinhi ang mga taw'ng tapuwan magluto makapalit ug sud-an nga human-daan. Daghang pod ka'g mapilian, naay nangkang gitunuan, ginaling nga baboy ug dinuguan. Kun gani ting klase, tapokanan ning lugara sa mga taga barrio'ng estudyante.
Sa wang bahin dunay mga tindahang gagmay ug lumber ni Medequiso. Di kaajo mi tig-abot didto kay ang tag-ija medyo estrikto. Hinoon kun panahon na gani sa litik ug lastiko didto mi tanan magpundok. Ambot ngano nga perting sinawa man ang sawg nga semento didtong dapita. Kana kun wa poy kamote ug ube'ng gipangtapok nga usahay imbis paliton, bayluan na lang ug ginamos, tinabal o buwad nga lawlaw.
Bibo tong merkadoha labi nag adlawng tabū ug angat fiesta kay mapuno jud sa mga manggad ang mga tag-as nga lamesa. Naay tinapok nga panty, brief, Bang-Bang nga karsones ug Guitar nga kamiseta. Daghang pod mantil nga nilukot ug nagkalain-lai'g kolor nga kurtina. Dinhi pod dapita usahay matug si Victor buang.
Kami, nga mga batang boutan, sa matag tabū usa ray di makalimtan, kadtong mga panahon nga nagkisikisi mi sa sementong pasilyo ug hinilak kay sa tiling-tiling nga 'ice cream' di mi palitan!
Usa ray nindot nga mahinumduman kada sugod sa eskwela sa elementarya niadtong panahong kami mga bata pa. Ambot lang kaha sa uban pero para nako dako ju'ng kalipay kun ting-klase na kay pohun-pohun, pagkahuman sa di maihap nga lusi sa dunggan ug kusì sa bugan, bakasyon na man pod ang paabuton. Pwera lang sab kung way masaag panahon sa bakasyon nga mga madre sa katekisis nga sa among karaang simbahan mgsige la'g bahis-bahis. Inig tungtong sa buwan sa Enero mangabot na jud sa dunggan ang ngisi kay takulahaw lang, sa pipila ka mga buwan, bakasyon na man pod ang matagamtaman. Ingna ko'g bakakon kun di ka maghinamhinam inig dawat jud nimo sa imong grado, di tungod kay nakapasar ka sa tanang subject way labot gardening ug home economics, kundi sa kasiguruan nga pagkaugma mahimo nag di ka momata'g sajo, maligo ug magsipilyo.
Unang puntarya inig sugod jud sa bakasyon ang dagat, kay daghan mag mahimong kalingawan sa katungan ug hunasan, mamana man kung taub o manginhas kun tinghunas. Ang pamasol sa Tawg naka eskedyul na daan. Taub pa gani adto na mi mamasol, omang ray pama-on kay ibis ug islawan ra man ang kasagarang isda'ng makuha. Didto sa ubos sa kalatsutsing karaan nga nag-ambû sa lapad nga katunggan, naa didtoy gamayng lam-aw diin magdasok ang mga ibis ug bakagan. Murag kumag-ku ra ka dako tong mga isda-a pero lami pod kilawon labi nag mahimbisan na. Kung makasibot mi'g pasajan, adto sa Emburna ag padulngan kay dagko man ang mga isdang katambak nga kasagarang makuha didto, kana kun swertehon pod ug way sakajan nga mag sige'g bahis-bahis ilawom sa taytayan. Kun wa gani isdang makuha, aw unsa pa, ambak dajun aron mangaligo, i-tumong jud namo kun naay sakyanan nga mo-agi, hubo sa short pants ug syagit nga ala-Tarzan dayon ngisi. Dakop-dakop ang duwa nga unang mahuna-hunaan kay inig kapoyun na gani mi, gira'g lapok na man pod ang kalingawan. Usahay, kun tugka'g kabuang, mangawat pod mi'g sakajan, kun dili gani didto sa sapa-sapa, sa Tawg ug sa mga nakahigot nga baroto didto sa Ihawan. Perting sukoa hinoon sa tag-ija pagkahuman kay ang barotong among kawaton ug sakyan-sakyan amo mang ilublob sa dagat unja batobatu-an. Di pod sila intawon mang reklamo kay ang kasagarang tag-ija sa among kawatong baroto di man taga Pantalan kundi taga baryo.
Inig sugod na jud ug hunas moatake na mi sa katunggan. Daghang supsupon nga daw-daw'ng kinhason didto nga nanapot sa nga bakhaw ug tuod sa kanipaan. Daghan pong mani-it ug gagmayng kasag nga among kubkubon sa ilang mga buho sa lapok, matamataon lang ang mga bali-sà nga manidlit o sabwagan ug tubig gamit ang tsinelas aron motuyhakaw ug dali ra mapunit. Perting swerteha na kun makasugamak ug alimangong mat-an kay kasagaran sa sapyaw ra man ni sila madakpan. Kadtong imbaw nga hawt kaajo ug sabaw ila ra to sa nga hanas kay kapoy baja pod ning sige'g tuslok sa sundang nga amow sa lapok makakuha lang ug pila ka bouk.
Paglusad sa panas nga perting haita ug mga bato nga buyon sa Tintinan, didto na magsugod ang panginhas. Lisod mata-on ang aninikad nga kinhason kay kasagaran maglibon man ug lumot maong kinahanglan abtik jud kag mata nga mo-ila aron dili puro bato imong madala. Kun maka-agi ug linaw nga gamay maghupo-hupo pod mi'g ginagmay, kay kun naa gani tubig nga mosidlit siguradong naay kinhasong litub nga mapunit. Hiway-hiway pod panagsa sa mga gagmayng bato ug mga lusay kay buwahan naay nitapot nga lukot nga ingon pa sa mga tiguwang, ta-e kuno sa dunsol nga buktot. Bat-tulì ug bat-hanginan usahay pod mataymingan, balihon ra inig hugasan dajun ub-ubon. Hinay-hinay lang pod ug hungit kay usahay ang kinaon sa bat nga bas ang imong ma-ingkit.
Magsige mig atang kanus-a magbukad ug batö ug bunsod kay inig kahuman sa tag-ija ug panibot , libre na man mi tanan manakop sa mga isdang nahibilin. Abtik lang jud pod ug panigbas sa mga isdang nakaikyas ug panakop sa mga danggit nga sa mga bato nanuksok kay kun malas-malason ka'g matunok, aw hilantan ra man pod ka inigkataud-taud. Kun malas-malason kay maot ug panahon, hipos tanang bubog nga maagi-an, putlan sa gaway ug ilubong ra kadiyot sa bas aron ang ijang laway mangalibkas, libre na sud-an ug sumsoman sa bahal nga muna-muna namong gi-amotan. Swaki ug tujom kun takdol ang buwan among paborito bisan pa man ug kapoy magtilang ug maglimpyo. Gamay ray unod hinoon ang makuha, pero sa kalami, hurot ang bahaw kun mao nay among ma-suwà. Inig tali-sawp na ang adlaw ug padung na motaub mi magdali-dali ug pang-uli kay mahadlok mi nga matauban inig labang sa lawom nga dan-dan nga sa suba gi-agian, sa di pa makahaw-as sa Ihawan. Wa pa gani ma-uga ang among mga sinina nagsabot na pod mi nga manapyaw ug manghilo'g kugitang gagmay inig ka ugma. Magtigum ra hinoon pod mi ug upos sa tabako kay mao may among gamiton panghilo sa mga tama-ã nga dagko.
Panahon sa tinglatuk sa buwan, kanang di kaaju motaub ug mohunas ang dagat, mamana mi didto sa kilid sa pantalan. Tukog sa pajung ug kabhang sa bolpen ray among gikinahanglan. Ang antiparang kahoy nga mapalit ra inig tabù mag-ulos-ulos mig huwam kay ang tres pesos atong panahona, para namo, perti pa man intawon mahala. Pata,ibis, bakagan ug mga isdang labajan ang kasagarang matuhog kay di man mi maka-utong lapas sa duha ka dupa, ug sa makausa pa, perting lawma na man kun adto mi mamana sa taliwà.
Usa sa timailhan nga hanas na ka mulangoy sa pantalan kadtong pahambogay kun kinsay makalahutay ug langoy hangtud sa gitagdok nga timailhan ngilit sa mabawng dapit sa hunasan, mga kapin sa usa ka gatos pod ka metros ang gilay-on gikan atong kaliguanan nga gihagdan-hagdanan. Ambak sa tumoy ug langoy-langoy sa mga haliging napuno nag tagimtim magtud-tod mi'g kinsay mo-una, kay sa kalawm atong dapita, inig lingi nimo paingon sa unahan maglagitom na jud ang imong makit-an. Hadlokon mi sa una sa mga katiguwangan nga naa kuno didto mag-atang ang mga iho, pero ambot lang kaha kay wa man jud koy bisan usa'ng nakita, na-opaw na lang ko.
Kadtong panahon nga daghan pa ang bolinao nga mabaling, manguban mi inig kagabii sa lawd arong motabang ug pangay. Sa tag piso pa ang kilo kun daghan ang kuha o uno bayntsengko kun nihit, way bata nga di maningkamot mangay aron makakwarta sa palit. Magtimaan na mi daan kun Biernes na sa gabii ug Sabado kay ingon pa sa mga tiguwang hinay ang bolinao sa Domingo kay kuno sagrado. Kapoy man tuod tong kalaki-a pero perti pod ka-alegre labi nag magkujog mo tanan mga barkada. Sabot-sabot ra mi'g unsay dalhon inig ka gabii sa lawd, tuay nagdala ug suka, asin ang uban ug sibuyas dahonan para sa tinuwa nga sa dala namong soû among dabdaban. Inig ka busog na ug panahon sa tingkatog, magsige lng mi'g panimpãd pamasol buwahan makakuha ug isda nga saging-saging ug usahay swertihon, tambakol. Kadtong medyo maldito, magdala'g La Yebana o sigarilyong Titina, buhot-buhot pod mi panagsa kay sa katugnaw magsige na la'g siga imong mata. Sa di pa manguli, mohapit mi sa mga naglaray nga mga paninda, mga nagtapun-og nga puto,biko ug bingka, nga paresan namo ug kaping sinangag o sekwating perting espisoha. Alas kwatro sa hapon sa eskina na pod mi magtapok, kay magsabot-sabot unsay dad-on sunod inig balik na pod namo sa lawd.
Kadtong mga panahuna, sa wa pay TV, selpon ug computer nga makalinga, para namo perti na jung lingawa labi na nga ang tanang bata sa lungsod hangtud sa kasugpanan kaila namo ug suod nga barkada.
Aw, taym sà ha, way diay labot mga taga pikas eskina.
(Kung mangutana ka ug 'Ngano man?', palihug basaha'g usab kadtong estoryang "Guerra Tibouk Kalibutan!").😂
Men Bake Roses, Women Plant Cakes
I used to bake Tru-Orange flavored puff pastries when I was younger which mother affectionately called 'chiffon cakes' although they're not thin cloth materials made of silk and weren't that soft either, literally. There must be something wrong with the ovens today since I can't figure out as to why all my kneading and pleading doesn't work out its magic anymore. My wife said I must have forgotten the recipes or probably the yeast I was using were already past expiration date. She must have noticed that every single cake I baked flopped or turned into something ressembling a millstone. My daughter said its all because I was scrimping on everything, baking time included. Gas is expensive too, right?
It was also during that time when a few varities of roses were blooming right through Mother's front yard garden, the years she anxiously thought I turned yellow, although much of that passion was born out of reading Mills and Boon's paperback novels my older sister was hoarding in the dining room bookshelves. Tradition must have equated flowers and cakes go well together to sum up some silly notion that I was going soft, as vacuous people are inclined to percieve, though I didn't blame them for being so. Boys just don't plant roses, right?
I do and the poor St.Valentine has nothing to do with it considering I've never had any serious relationship whatsoever with the opposite sex during that wimpy life phase I wasn't very fond of remembering, regretfully. My day as a youngster always starts with a bowlful of steaming rice porridge and ends well under the kitchen stairwell thinly slicing those sticky banana stalks and pounding them afterwards with a wooden pestle before mixing them with milled rice husk to feed mother's voracious hogs. Serious relationships were far and remote as the chilly Siberian tundra except perhaps for some coercive happenstances of mutual understanding borne out of youthful taunts, unrestrained ignorance and envy. I can't even remember saying 'I love you' to someone else, not even to myself. There were instead a few potshot crushes and short shrift affections especially with the loveliest girl in high school who remains as lovely as she is today than as she was before. Turns out I was stupid enough to believe that we were of distant relation which eventually wasn't true either. Anyway, we both grew up in a kquaint little town where everybody is related to anybody at some point in time somehow, either by intermarriage or just by the simple fact of being long time neighbors. Honestly though, I believed she never knew about my intentions until now and hopefully, to make things less embarassing for me, will keep it that way. She was definitely the reason for the white roses. People usually wear white during Chinese funerals, right?
The potted double-petalled purplish pink hugging inside the unpainted picket fence just below the guava tree in front of our old house were strickly for show-off partly because they were grafted hybrids from a cutting that I yanked from somebody else's garden. My on and off girlfriend at that time was totally unaware that what I had been giving her were actually from the elementary school garden and the reason for it was because there were also a few bees in her bedeviled heart, as what my best friend reminds me of, constantly. We're not friends on Facebook anyway so there's no need to worry.
Unquestinably, the prolific bloomers were the deep reds which goes bald as they were in huge demand for the corsage during school's yearend commemoration exercises. They were the only roses planted right in the soil because they were of native variety and were highly resistant to aphids and other pest. I also happen to hate their prickly thorns. 'Never sell your flowers if you don't want to be castigated by the whole neighbor-friendly community', mother used to say. I'm not a whore but that would have been a lot of pennies for a hard-up youngster like me and it was agonizingly tempting.
You don't need to be a romantic to be able to plant roses anyway, or a horticulturist for that matter, as I reckoned years later. A 'handsome' sapling or a 'decent' grafting in a nutrient 'rich', moisture retentive soil is all that is needed other than a pest and temperature controlled environment to grow most varieties of roses. (Mother said to remember those three words too!)
So, why roses?
It was all probably because at that age I thought roses are like girls that needed constant attention and all-out patience in order to grow and bloom into something beautiful and sweet-smelling. They must also be handled delicately otherwise the petals will wither easily or you will get feverish from a single prick of its pernicious thorns. Too much water and the stems will molder and rot. Starve the soil and you'll get miniaturized flowers that only flourish for a day. It would take a lot of time to understand their nature and disposition inasmuch as their inversely inscrutable intentions. They are mostly beautiful externally but dare to venture a tad closer and you will definitely be scorched crisply by their temper or worst being prickled by their biting retorts. Mother said to be very careful with them, one freakish parental lesson I never took to heart very seriously then. I should have known better!
Roses too are like second chance promises that men foolishly fall into believing. Girls like everything expensive, that's the hard truth, though it is only through the gift of a flower where their hearts melt and eventually reveals the fidelity of their true feelings. Roses are like truth serum that most girls can't resist or lie about though luckily for them men gullibly believed otherwise.
The exquisite canary yellows are definitively exotic, larger than most varieties and very delicate to grow. The buds seldom flourish into full-blown flowers but when they do the waiting was worth it. Compared to the other varieties, they wither easily and will never last long enough in the vase even when am Aspirin tablet is added to the water, one reason why they're best suited for cemetery votives.
Compost takes a long time to rot while fertilizers are expensive and hard to procure during those days so the eggs shells that were proudly impaled and lined up along the decorative finials of the kitchen sink were expropriated instead as a substitute along with a few sun dried starfishes that were pounded into powdery dust by mother's garlic pestle and the redolent cow dungs that bemired the town's public plaza. Some say urine is good when mixed with water but I was afraid the flowers would turn musky so I settled for beer. Turns out I liked beer better than flowers, and skittish girls too, so the plan was stupefyingly dismissed heartily.
The bold pink roses were definitively the most memorable of the lot partly because of the circumstance of its incipience rather than its distinctive rareness. It took me a few months to win the heart of a girl just to be able to transgress her uncle's garden for the pretentious variety and it was worth it! Her uncle, ( for heaven's sake, forgive me!) was a priest by the way.
Nah, that's totally rubbish. Winning the heart of a girl with a wrapped Cartier, a glittering Bulgari or a sleek Prada is exponentially much better albiet to the special someone that you really, really loved, a bouquet of flowers is honestly more than enough. I recommend the 'all-weather' polyethelene ones made in China because they really suggest something like 'forever'. Otherwise, get busy and bake a damn cake!
Understanding a Pandemic
Writing anything about this pandemic is an ambiguously perplexing task for one simple reason which hopefully will remain impartial and subjective throughout this narrative. 'I am not a virologist and I have no idea what is this all about, other than knowing that a lot of people had already perished and our way of life has been altered drastically from what we were used to a couple of years ago. In this time of extreme contagion there is no room for half-baked pretension so let's try to be blunt with the facts.
Definitively it is a virus, any of a large group of submicroscopic infectious agent that are nonliving, extremely complex molecules, typically containing a protein coat sorrounding an RNA or DNA core of genetic material but no semi-permeable membrane. They are capable of growth and multiplication only in living cells, and that cause various important diseases in humans, animals and plants. Summarily, according to Mirriam, it is a causative agent of an infectious disease.
Any of a family (Coronaviridae) of single-stranded RNA viruses that have a lipid envelope studded with club-shaped projections that infect birds and many mammals including humans, and include the causative agents of MERS and SARS.
Infectious Disease. Fatal.
Less than a fortnight. That's how long it will take for your body's immune system to decide whether you live and will continue watching Netflix day in and day out or you're helplessly doomed and may be dead due to complication. That is also the extent of everything I know about this pandemic and for a non-scientist like me, anything other than that is bullshit.
So, lets start with every bullshit that you may have probably learned and believed from social media while living in sedentary hiatus for a year and a half as to where this virus came from.
A bustling large industrial metropolis in the heart of the old imperial China situated along the confluences of the Yangtze river and its largest tributary, the Han river. Chinawise, Wuhan is a class-A city in terms of wealth, development, social standards and the resultant corruption mentality with a categorically upscale maritime traffic, though landlocked, that served as a major transportation conduit and a hub for trade and commerce in the central China region. Without the extensive river and the webs of interconnecting channel and canal system in the region, Wuhan and the nearby cities within the river's reach is practically non-existent. This is also one of the places in China where research institutes can be found, 350 of them to be exact, one of which is the reputably infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Wang Jian, a 3rd Engineer cadet on one of my prevous ship lives here along with his young capricious wife and her nagging mother who berates him constantly especially when he sends no money. Tradition dictates that if you hold a girl's hand her parents can demand marriage instantly to avoid familial indignity. Apparently, that is what happened in his case of which he openly loathed and forfeited to fate. I hope they're still alive by now.
Exotic Meat Market.
The first mention of the emergence of this virus strain was said to come from this place which I'm particularly confused of as all meat markets in China are deemed exotic even to Asians. Chinese markets always sell meat of any kind of animals because as Xiaopeng once said, Chinese eat everything that swims, everything that crawls, and everything that flies, except airplanes. Animals we oftentimes see in the zoo are butchered here for meat and traditional medicine including endangered species imported and smuggled from as far away as the African savannah and the Amazon rainforest. The more exotic the meat, the more commanding the price. Live frogs and dried insects are even normally displayed in most food section of large swanky supermarkets besides choice beef cuts and imported truffles from abroad. Bush meat swamped local markets. Apparently, this virus came from animals and was transmitted to us humans in an inconceivable and uncomprehending way other than consumption and infection albiet through unintentional contact or elective absurdity.
Bats and Other Exotic Animals.
The identification of a certain kind of bats allegedly found only in the caves of a particular region of China that hosted the deadly corona virus strain was discovered a few decades ago, extensively studied, scrutinized and genetically analyzed down to their sub-molecular composition by various researchers. Various entities, which in this case is not principally subjected only to the Chinese virologist who discovered it but by the entire scientific field of virology research all over the world. Bats fly but they are not airplanes so they are probably part of the menu.
The postulation of this virus coming from pangolins, another type of exotic zoo display animal of the anteater (Myrmecophagidae) specie, was also suspected although there were inconsistent research result to assume validity to the claim.
Laboratory Leak Theories
A lot of American media ballyhoos specifically pinpointed Chinese research laboratories as the primary source of this pandemic which I find very conflicting from the onset. For how could a seat of government justify the notion of intentionally culling half a million of its citizenry just to assess a virus effectivity? Apart from being too farfetched to be accepted, it does not logically imply that since the pandemic allegedly started in Wuhan, the laboratories within its vicinity are all deemed suspect as the source of its transmission. It is also widely established that there are a handful of laboratories specializing in virus research all over the world other than China. Why is it then that their existence were all discounted for considering it is general knowledge that most various research projects particularly in the field of science all over the world are openly tied up and shared research materials even to the extent of breaching national security, I have not the slightest idea. With this factual reasoning alone, the notion that some foreign agencies are covertly funding research in aiming to create advance viruses in Chinese laboratories could also be feasibly warranted. Inasmuch as an accidental release is concerned, as prattled to be one of the possible cause by most analyst in the western countries, that would be very unlikely considering foolproof measures are always a top priority in research facilities dealing with these kind of hypersensitive experiments. There are also international standard and practice commissions that certify and oversee the operation of this facilities to avoid any possible slip ups and unintentional circumstance that violates its operating protocols. However, there were verified reports of three researchers from WIV who became sick enough to require hospital care way back in November 2019 which substantiated the incipiency timeline of the pandemic and adding credence to lab-leak theorist proponents.
World Health Org.
A branch of the United Nation that specifically deals with and monitors the health of the entire world population may have dampened the spread of the disease through their information and rehabilitation programs but were unable to evade mounting criticism in its initial conduct in handling the pandemic. Their search for the source of the virus in China were also inconclusive as Chinese authorities were uncooperative and hesitant to divulge their own findings and statistics. However, there were circumstantial postulation regarding the agency's lackadaisical outlook during the onset of the pandemic that raised eyebrows among academics and other health monitoring agencies specifically in relation to their complicit reluctance in stamping China's outright culpability of the crisis. China’s refusal to cooperate in the investigation is also tantamount to admitting damaging lapses in containing the pandemic intrinsically. China's alledged funding contribution to the agency, according to unsupported assertion by some financial watchdog, is also suspect. Though blaming China for this crisis is tantamount to censuring westerners for introducing cancer catalyzing hotdogs and genetically modified foods to the world, the fact that the pandemic started in China eventually remains true in nature although the origin of the virus. Whether it was from animal spillover or laboratory leakage, still remains vague and debatable.
Two years ago, a symposium that chiefly addressed the virus strain was held somewhere in the North American continent. The Chinese scientist who was the leading authority on the subject mysteriously became infected and died along with a dozen investigative researchers who had audaciously delved into and exposed conspiracy theories regarding its origin and nature, including prominent WHO representatives. The death of the Chinese doctor who exposed through media the initial surge of patients and casualties and who nonetheless alerted the relevant authorities regarding the possible onset of a pandemic sadly also became a fodder for conspiracy theorist.
There would be no mystery casualties and conspiracy theories without black operations and this in itself is self explanatory. Most superpowered countries acknowledge their existence decades ago though initially intended as a deterrent to foreign intervention that could jeopardize national interest and security. It is however recently being expanded to covertly exercise and influence the psychological characteristic of the people within its contituency and beyond by using social media platforms as a tool. Whether this is a black ops gone haywire or an economy based deliberate strategy for world dominion, I would not know because I'm also not a political scientist nor a financial strategist.
The media and internet wars of today that is currently waged by competing superpower countries is a billion dollar industry. The corollary effect of mass communication brought about by the invention of the world wide web considerably became a lethal weapon considering it has the capability to act and produce an effect that could influence world politics and the economy. Media, as we all acknowledge, is also responsible in providing veracious reports and proliferating fake news that spread solicitude and panic other than public differential diagnostic attitude. Their actions further complicate the efforts of the relevant health agencies to combat the scourge. In as much as blaming the Chinese for the spread of the virus or creating racial tension to stave off the reproach, mass media became the focal point of interest in this war of words and the source of pointless namedropping allegation that instigated worldwide mass hysteria for reasons way beyond our already distressed comprehension.
There were countless pandemics and plagues that came to ravage the entire world ever since men started to record history and it is remarkably interesting to ponder the consistency of its recurrence. Though the discovery of vaccines may have saved countless lives in the past, nature has its way that we still can't figure out and relentlessly unleashes novel vaccine resistant virus strains we've never encountered previously. The progressing coronavirus epidemic at the onset of the 21st century that preceeded the lentivirus, filovirus and orthomyxovirus scare however is noteworthy. These viruses, notably MERs, SARs and the current SARs2 Covid-19, all of which are of the Coronaviridae family, came to emerge in Asia. HIV, Marburg, Yambuku or Ebola in the late 20th century all mysteriously came to manifest in Africa. Apparently, natures way of disseminating viruses is also peculiarly discrimatory.
The rapid spread of the disease however can also be summed up as the effect of inequality of living standards between rich and poor nation, the unintended result of globalization. People from poor nation immigrate to developed countries to seek affluent lifestyles as investor flocked to third world countries to extract their resources and cheap labor. With the prevalent ease of travel and border restrictions, the spread of the disease became inevitably uncontrolable. Complacency, which is a common human trait that transends all aspects of life's boundaries, may have also became the multiplying factor in the spread of infection and fatalities, a self assumption that was dispelled by the sudden shock of morbid reality. As it was before, people never learn.
Vaccines were available within six months since the outbreak which is quite unprecedented considering the novelty of the virus strain. This may be partly due to the alarming and rapid propagation of the disease that affected the whole world and the widespread economic downturn following the general lockdowns and quarantines imposed stringently by almost all countries. Although a host of speculation regarding the initial test phase of most vaccines were insidiously circulated through the media, the demand however validated their importance though their effectivity are still closely being monitored particularly on the emerging regionalized variants that are said to have an increased transmissibility rate. Most Covid-19 vaccine brands however have shown remarkable capability to neutralize the virus ranging from as low as J&J's 85 percent to Pfizers 97 percent effectivity particularly in combating B.1.351 strain, which is also known as the deadly South African variant, the fast spreading Indian variant and the latest dominant B.1.1.7 variant that is currently ravaging the US and Israel. Studies have shown that those who had received vaccination, especially the frontline health workers who are more prone to be infected, had a high percentage rate of immunity in staving off infection than those who shun the medication. Generally, vaccination is a must, whether the drug is made in China or anywhere else, and the only option to those who does not approve of it (e.g. gene therapy theorist) apparently is to live like a hermit inside a cave a thousand miles away from civilization for life. Eating those cave bats though will still probably end their lives in less than a fortnight.
These are some of the examples of misleading nonsense that were fed to us by the media lately. More is yet to come. But for all this hype, three things still remains essential for our survival in these pandemic and that would be by getting vaccinated, by not getting infected and by trying not to infect others. Generally, media these days are mostly for entertainment purposes only, so let's just keep it that way.
The Gods of Summer
Guan Dong Mountains, 1427 AD
It was during the turbulent year of 1427 when Pek Chen was born to a peasant woman who worked the land for a rich and powerful town magistrate in the mountainous region of Fujian, three years after the death of Emperor Yongle, the greatest emperor of the Ming dynasty. A war for succession between competing factions in the Imperial Palace was raging in the capital and an eminent civil war in the south was threatening the large towns in the lowlands. But there was relative calm and peace far in the hinterlands for the harvest was plentiful, the hunt was successful, the forest was cleared and Pek Chen came out healthy and strong. The plague that ravaged the countryside had long been gone and the previous winter was mild. And to top it all, there was joy in the large compound where the magistrate lived for there in the lofty private rooms of the only three tiered estate that overtopped the pine trees up above the mudbrick cottages where the servants were quartered, his newborn daughter wailed. The local necromancer, who was also the resident healer of the clan, declared that it was an auspicious day for the household as it was a full moon on the 8th day of the 8th lunar month when the child was delivered. She was the old magistrate's firstborn daughter, after ten years of marriage to the principal lady of the house, and he named her Rang Be in honor to the Gods of Summer. A feast was to be held the next day at the courtyard to welcome the princess of the estate and the squelling pigs that were caged in the backyard shed next to the bamboo fenced chicken coops were marshalled to the slaughter house by the male servants. Festive red lanterns were hastily festooned up along the entirety of the courtyard, gold sequinned silk draperies flapped along the broad latticed windows of the main house and the round red bricked main gate that served as the main entrance to the huge property was enlivened with bouquets of fresh flowers plucked from the grand mistress's garden that was tended by Pek Chen's mother. In the eastern inner wall near the communal well, the huge painted dragon paper-mache and the ribbon ornamented festival drums lay. People from the nearby villages were already camping out in the outer wall of the compound, wrapped up in the cold mist and drinking steeped tea leaves besides their makeshift tents as the smoke from their wood burning stoves muddled the fogbound morning into a surreal scenery welcoming a forecast of a wondrous and festive day.
From his perch above the ornate council house that served as the towns administrative office, the town scribe bawled out the decree that marked the week a special non working holiday as the kindly magistrate came to the servants quarter to wish the convalescing mother luck and well-being with her newborn son. It was he who named the child Pek Chen and laugh heartily as he raised the child that was still wrapped snugly in a flimsy burlap sheet close to his face. He then dug deep into his pocket and brought forth a small keepsake, a jade inlaid puzzle box with the boys name exquisitely engraved in it.
It was indeed a wondrous day.
The Gods of Summer
Amoy, China, 1914
It was only a few years ago that the juvenile Emperor PuYi had been forced to abdicated or rather was unceremoniously relegated to become just a figurehead by the quasi-government hastily installed by the coalition of professed reformist and nationalist. Although royalist forces loyal to the Emperor waged a failed resistance for the reinstitution of the dynasty in the early days of the conflict, it was the squabble for dominance between the different political factions of the coalition that actually led to the civil war. Ultimately, as what had happened centuries ago during the early Han invasion , the convoluted war was fought between the people of the north against those that lived south of the Yellow River, the ragtag Royalist forces against the disciplined soldiers of the Nationalist and everyone else against the pesky Marxist.
War had ravaged the land and the unfortunate Chan Pek was in the middle of the fray.
The dilapidation of the once swanky four storey hotel was twofold — it was ancient and it was made entirely of wood, though the tides of war may have hastened its rapid decay. Nevertheless, the war may have also bailed it from its misery as it was sequestered by the Nationalist authorities and reserved temporarily as a halfway house for soldiers returning from the frontlines instead of being demolished. The huge centerpiece, a wrought iron chandelier in the foyer, was already laced with cobwebs, its diamantine beads dulled by the detritus of neglect and dust. Since the caged elevator was broken and inoperable apparently because of spare parts inaccessibility, Chan Pek, heavily burdened by all of his life's possession in a canvas military backpack, climbed the dark rickety stairs to the third floor where he was billeted a lodging. The small room was bare except for a bed and a side table with a lighted candle on top that was barely flickering in the dark. The single window fronting the street sagged, its glass panes deliberately replaced with blackened plywood sheets as a deterrent to bomb shocks. Dust was everywhere, he felt it even in the dark, and he was not alone. A few rats were scuttling between obscured holes underneath the thinly mattressed spring bed. But he was too tired and famished to bother other than needing a few hours of rest from juggling transport trains and buses just to be nearer to home. Splayed wide in bed, he also came to notice the silence of dawn that for the last three consecutive years were constanly being bombarded by distant rumbles of howitzer barrage, small firearm crackles, and the desperate wail of pain and anguish of humankind. The bed was comfortable enough, he thought, far better than the compacted mud and sandbags that also served as peripheral defensive wall of the trenches that he and his comrades have been digging for almost the entirety of their forced enlistment. The war was brutal yet necessary and he knew that something extraordinary will come out of it. His wounds and sacrifices will never be in vain.
The Gods of Summer
Guan Dong, 1427 AD
The huge iron-bracketed wooden east gate of the brick and mortar walled town was partly opened by the nightguards early the next morning, in anticipation of the expected large number of revelers from the nearby villages, but only wide enough for the palanquin litters that bore the few expected dignitaries to pass through. People camped outside the wall were already scurrying inside, perhaps to escape the morning chill and the resultant enveloping fog that smothered everything and making visibility of less than two arms lenght at the most. The wandering circus from the lowland town arrived early, resplendent in their colorful costumes and glittering contraptions, heralded by jugglers, lithe acrobats, midget clowns and bamboo stilt walkers. There were martial artist too, sword performers and fire breathers amongst the horde that streamed gaily into the main street, each one flaunting off their talent to the early risers who were beginning to gather on the skirt of the gravelled road. There was an atmosphere of rapturous anticipation in the magistrate's courtyard as countless longtables bedecked with adornments under sheets of white linen were laid out, assembled in a square fashion, with the central area purposely made bare to host the performers and dancers that were expected to enliven the affair. Temporarily commissioned for the festivity, the communal kitchen was already alive with frenzied fermentation, with cooks jostling for space to finish their specialty creations and bakers in their flour besmeared aprons balancing loaves of freshly baked breads over their white capped heads. Servants and indentured housekeepers were busily propping up the household with festive decorations, red and gold paper ribbons intertwining and enlacing all of the posts and ceiling of the main foyer area up to where the anteroom opens up to the main door, as lantern balloons were being tied and lined up against the inner wall of the courtyard by the nimble manservants. Even the ancient cherryblossom tree that stood at the entrance of the mistress garden was not spared, and bedecked with countless adornments and hanged ornaments, its branches sagged helplessly in submission. Pek Chen's mother Shui Dem from the Chan clan came to the main house, leaving him in the care of her younger sister, to help in the preparation of the festivity to the consternation of the magistrates wife whose apprehension was dismissed outright by her adamant reply. Both knew that she was the only househelp that the magistrate trusted with her daughter and, inspite of her youthful age, was a direct descendant from a line of esteemed stewards that the family had retained over a long period of time. It was also not a coincidence that Shui Dem's father was the magistrates squire and confidant when he was young and growing up, the latter's regretful loss unsetlling when he died during the recent plague that swept the land.
Rang Be had already been bathed when Shui Dem came to the nursery and, along with the magistrates mistress, began to suit her up with the elaborate raiment specifically made by the best dressmaker in town for the occassion. Embellished in gold sequins with silk underlining, the red flowing gown accentuated the baby's milky white complexion that seems to glow with the effervesence of royalty and grandeur that can only be percieved in the crannies of the Imperial Palace by those lucky enough to have lived that long to tell the story. A bracelet made of red and black shell beads which was painstakingly crafted by the best jeweler in the far-off provincial capital of Amoy, adorned her tiny wrist, a popular talismanic charm to avert evil and bring good fortune to those who wear it. Binded loosely by strips of fine silk, bright red satin shoes with ornamental flakes of gold covered her tiny feet. In her tiny neck dangled a gold pendant in honor to the gods she was named after. Indeed, Rang Be was an impressively spectacular child to behold.
Down in the servants quarter Pek Chen abruptly stopped wailing when he was fed with rice porridge but his tears never did.