Showing posts with label leyte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leyte. Show all posts

Monday, October 5, 2015

These Fields of Gold

When I was young, I, with my sister and childhood friends, would pluck out some kuhol (snails) pestering the greening rice fields and earn some dough out of it. We were paid one peso per kabo (container) of kuhol. Yes, we were snailmongers. Those kuhol, especially their eggs, were such a headache, as they would proliferate in the fields like wildfire. Mom would always ask us to help every time kuhol were already eating up and laying pink eggs on rice stalks.

Dipping our feet into mud was, to us, just a game, not even close to a sore chore. I had always been with an army of friends -- the same children who after school would stay out on the street -- play all Pinoy games imaginable, and only tire out early when we had to do homework. Much more on weekends did we have to get extremely physical. Sweaty, soiled, burned, hurt. That was a part of our being hyperactive kids. We never really ran out of activity. No wonder I never had any obese friend back then.

If lucky enough, we could then catch halwan (mudfish) in rice fields. They are the kind of fish that hibernate during summer, burrow into mud, and stay there until the land gets soggy. They have an amazing ability to survive out of water for months.

I can recall the plowing and harrowing of rice fields with the use of carabao or tractor. Also, I can remember the incubation of rice grains inside a sack soaked in water. Placed inside an empty water reservoir, our kitchen would reek of urine or rotten fruit or the like because of it. After 24 hours or even longer, when the seeds had finally germinated, farmers would strew them all over a seedbed.

When the fields had finally turned gold, farmers would cut the stalks using a sanggot (sickle), place them on a mat where they would do the manual threshing with their bare feet. The grains would then be sundried for days, which would be spread on a trapal (tarpaulin) with a wooden rake.

I have very fond memories of rice fields.

Narrative: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines
Images: Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Nostalgia: Matalom, Leyte

It would have been the classic tragedy of all tragedies, had I stayed and been staked firmly into your ground, and killed a dream, forever. I would have been more quiet and still than the already quiet town that it was. I would not have seen, heard, and known what I should have and what I should have not. The parting, truly, just made all the difference. 

Had I not bitterly bidden you farewell, the towers I would have only known then were the guava-rich rolling hills, home to fighting spiders of all colors, cocooning inside the deadest and driest of all leaves; the melancholic, yet itchy bamboos, swaying and rustling against the breaths of distant mountains; the three-meter pole to which I would hold my chin up high, with squinted, sleepy eyes, during endless 8 a.m. flag ceremonies, singing the national anthem and reciting the pledge of allegiance; the lofty coconut trees, the trees of life, rising from our backyard with harvest-ready tomatoes and bell peppers rooted to garden beds gorging on carabao dung, and living on Canigao island, white and lonely and the purest of all virgins imaginable, shy and meek; the wooden power posts, greened by algae, pestered by accidental mushrooms, and nested by jet-black crows in holed heads; the two-storey, corrupt municipal hall dressed in cracked paint, leaving texts unintelligible, useless; and the centuries-old Saint Joseph church that stood high through the sweat and blood and tears of those who labored hard under the tropical sun disguised as Spanish crown. 

But the things I knew, I have grown up and smiled and laughed with them sealed in between my throbbing temples since the time of our bitter parting, welcoming wherever the world takes me. I have always reminisced our memories, good and bad, immortalized in shameless, old-school diaries kept inside shoe boxes, shunted from dust. Those were sweet and tangy-smelling every time I recall my youth and playground at every possible square soil. I crave for it like the juiciest fruit known to man, and I sincerely apologize to you at the same time. There is a must in all things. And I must do what I had to, explaining and hoping you would understand. 

I called out your name one morning of my last young summer, but you didn't hear me. I saw you with a curious companion riding habal-habal (motorcycle-for-hire), as if on a chase -- swift, unmoved, indifferent. And clouds of dust rose above the choked up slender greens lining the roadsides, and my poor, sore, allergic nose, growing red and terribly sneezing. 

Still, if you asked me the same question on that fateful day today, I would answer the same and sail the same rough seas convoluted with uncertainties and heartbreaks -- even if it meant leaving you in the cold, again, you feeling betrayed, and me coming back after six full years. 

I bade you farewell, my Matalom, the second time, in the hope that you would be happy for me and wishing me well on this journey, even farther and longer and sleepless and uncertain and brokenhearted.

Caridad Norte
Hitoog Cave
Mahayahay Falls
Canigao Island

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Take me to the place. Take me to the place where my body sweated off its childish yet full, bursting, relentless spirit, as I ran swiftly, slipperless over a dusty and uncemented track, and breathed off a steam of relief at the finish line. I claimed the first prize from our local captain, such a meagre amount, a pittance, but was fat lunch enough to feed my piggy bank. It was a most momentous day despite having to walk home with a limp thereafter, for I gloriously scraped my left knee and elbow at where the lowered, down-to-my-ankle, stiff line was. How could they? I don't remember their faces, but I can't forget what happened. Victory was ironic that it had to be painful, bittersweet, and I just stared blankly at the colorful banderitas over my head as blood was let out. It was our barangay fiesta, and it was high time for money-making for me and my sister by winning games. 

Take me to the place where my cranium and its innards plotted "The Strongest Fish," an underdog story that moves the good-hearted to stand up for himself and gives bullies a taste of their own medicine. For as long as my memory aids in my recount, the young, valiant protagonist knocks down the smirking, arrogant, Goliath-sized bully in the underwater boxing ring. I wish I still had a copy of our elementary school paper. 

Take me to the place where I buried the pages that I tore off from my notebook. It was a sunny afternoon. Using my trusty gardening tool, the sometimes rusty bolo knife, I dug a small hole in the ground where the trunk of my gmelina tree stood. The tree was a treasure find for someone with green thumb. The sapling jumped off our neighbor's truck, was left lying across the street, and good Lord, I safely brought it home at night. The nonsensical love notes met top soil and water, and were gone in a month's time, united with humus. 

Take me to the place where dreams, ghost stories, songs, riddles, and even gossip kept us awake until midnight. More so, squashing mosquitoes was part of the routine. We often had our not-so-secret meetings at the pergola of our ancestral house, which served as a walkway, the second gate. It was a shed made from bamboo amongst guava, lanzones, and santol (cottonfruit) trees, santan, roses, yellow poppies, and a variety of orchids. After we tired ourselves from playing on the street, all soiled and wet, under the pale, Friday moonlight, a stream of puerile, excited laughter still managed to seep through the walls of the pergola, while we beheld with wonder the hundreds of magical fireflies glowing in gold around the bent, old guava, and lent an indifferent ear to the buzzing crickets -- until our angry parents came looking for us to go home and hit the hay. Sticks proved to be more effective than just an endless nag. 

Take me to the place, and then tell me what it means to be back to where my mango, tambis (love apple), jackfruit, and mahogany trees grow. They must be full-fledged, bearing fruits by now, spreading their sturdy branches off the bamboo fences. Watching them grow is a deferred capacity, long overdue. 

Take me to the place. Take me home.

Photo source credit: Ecology Global Network

Sunday, June 27, 2010

MacArthur Landing Memorial Park (Red Beach, Palo, Leyte)


I have returned. By the grace of the Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil – soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples. We have come dedicated and committed to the task of destroying every vestige of enemy cordial over your daily lives, and of restoring, upon a foundation of indestructible strength, the liberties of your people.

At my side is your President, Sergio OsmeƱa, worthy successor of that great patriot Manuel Quezon, with members of his cabinet. The seat of your government is now therefore firmly re-established on Philippine soil.

The hour of your redemption is here. Your patriots have demonstrated an unswerving and resolute devotion to the principles of freedom that challenges the best that is written on the pages of human history. I now call upon your supreme effort that the enemy may know from the temper of an aroused and outraged people within that he has a force there to contend with no less violent than is the force committed from without.

Rally to me. Let the indomitable spirit of Bataan and Corregidor lead on. As the lines of battle roll forward to bring you within the zone of operations, rise and strike. Strike at every favorable opportunity. For your homes and hearths, strike! strike! For future generations of your sons and daughters, strike! In the name of your sacred dead, strike! Let no heart be faint. Let every arm be steeled. The guidance of divine God points the way. Follow in His Name to the Holy Grail of righteous victory!

A walk down history lane

Red Beach and the grassy park