Page 1





The Cities of Heaven with Celebrations of Solitude

by Alice Fe D. Lavina ACEA Honors Celebrations of Solitude Copyright 2006 ISBN 971-93416-1-0 Revised with copyright 2013 All rights reserved. For information about permission to quote, reproduce for use at presentations, store portions of book contents in a retrieval system or transmit by manual, photocopying, electronic, and recording or by any other means, please contact the author: Email:

Cover photo: Aidan Lavina by Aloha

All Lavina, BASE and other images possess their own respective copyrights.

To Chris Lavina, my beloved son who has become one of my BEST Mentors! To Aloha Lavina, my beloved daughter who has become one of my BEST Teachers! To Aidan Lavina [cover photo], my first grandchild who hears all the echoes of my prayers, To Einstein Lavina, husband and best friend, To Leanne, the world’s BEST Daughter-in-law. To Beebop and Baloo for their quiet loving, To the PBTs, the PBSs and the PACT Community of the Balanced Achievement School of Excellence [BASE] and all its friends & To all who live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, To all who believe that life is a sacred gift from God & To all who believe that the Holy Spirit is God.

The Cities of Heaven What if the life lived in truth had to run its course through the world of fiction? Where would have the world gone then for anyone in any walk of life? Each anyone carries the answers, some may share and some may keep their celebrations secret. There comes a time when sharing one’s joys in any circumstance is the only way to go. I reached my 60th birthday last September 12, 2009 as a celebration of solitude. Solitude, I say, even though my gifted and talented children and my husband always found some time to spend with me from wherever they’ve been assigned by the Lord to show Himself through the gifts He has entrusted them. There is no sense in mentioning places, as these are immaterial to the substance of joy. Suffice it to say that I had the privilege of recovering well from a touchy neck surgery in March 2005 to replace a shattered neck disk. Albeit slow, mostly taking at least 22 months for my body to accept the implanted polymer and to recover from paralysis of upper extremities, the recuperation process rendered many benefits. The period from March 2005 to July 2010 was full of privileges coupled with responsibilities. Once again I can say that to change the events during this period would be akin to me fighting against me. Solitary moments offer distinctive celebrations. They somehow make one in charge of them because as they are presented, one does not accept

them all ready-made. One has to participate in their designs such that the joy reaped becomes a city of heaven. Sixty-four years old now [September 12, 1949], my journeys in life have been full of rich encounters of both events and people. The events were the creations of these people or that they participated in their occurrences. As active participant in these events, I always experienced immersion into creative problem solving or into the fullness of the joys of learning something new. There are not enough schools, colleges and universities as yet, even with all the educational advents of modern innovative strategies

and policies; to teach about how to understand life, even as just life per

se. This is my opinion and may meet disagreements. Life’s half and

full turns can be intricate and fragile in their simplicities. The same can be as powerful in their weaknesses because the strong attracts the weak and vice versa, I believe. The balances are attained by juxtapositions and contrasts. Where comparisons exist and flourish, they do because they know which areas need props. Comparisons allow cooperation while also allowing competition. Where contrasts thrive, they do interdependently. Conflicts arise for the sake of the same goal. Life is like a math formula that asks for a precise response but that such response can be reached through many ways. Having said all

these in brief about the plight to understand life, even just life per se; I declare that there are not enough words to fully describe it.

Being human or as a human in the process of being, my journeys into the cities of heaven cannot all be described using words but at least, I can try. To my gifted and talented children, Daughter Aloha, Son Chris Who all understand life more than what can be said or what has been described. To Aidan who will know about her roots through her parents’ and grandparents’ stories and poems. Here is your heritage book. Alice Fe D. Lavina Ed. D., Ph. D.

CONTENTS The Legend of Dreamland Lorenzo’sVillage Coconut Hills

Tio Minggoy’s Solo Tio Minggoy’s Other Solo Eliordo’s Heart The Beautiful Tia Carmen Tia Celia, The Quiet One Miss Dumaguete Aunts Treasure Chest 1

The Song of the Everlasting Love: C Major Ice Heat Bills

Premature Masters Five-Hour Productions Theaters on Weekdays From the Legends The Unicorns Wait Along

A Portrait of Hope Two Virgin Jungles

Series of Slumbers, 1 to 4 The Soul of Your Peace Virgo Sunrise Samples If a Seed

Whatever the Moon Dusts May You Children of War

Poem for the Rose The Answer Wellington Winds Photos

Simile Poem Song of the Everlasting II

Fantod of Pampered Secrets The Wait for the Child’s Promise Overdue Mangrove Visit

Between Friends, for So Much and For Nothing A Brief Titleless Song A Lesson Where Understood Profundity in Nonsense

The First Rain for Buyuan Praying for a Southern Sunrise Grandpa’s Song

Sticky rice and Chocolate Syndrome Lola Maria

Occasional Punishment More About Lola Maria Lola Maria’s Store Teabags Without Legs

Lola Maria’s Kitchen Acumen “Iron! Come Home Now!” The Lorenzo

Keep It Clean! My Mama Tina Mama Tina’s Spunk for Life Beautiful and Fast Tina’s Store The Bamboo Slat Hut Dashingly Handsome Air Tosses Egg Drops

Reading the Walls

Hand-Washing Methodology Fish Chips in Hot Water To Soar, Spirit Soar Catch the Spirits Bettina’s Weathering Cane Look at You, Earth See Through Eyes Still Life World Keeping Queries Should Life?

When Soul Questions

The Legend of Dreamland “The Legend of Dreamland” was a storyline I created in 2008 for the newly established school, the Balanced Achievement School of Excellence fondly called the BASE. I converted the storyline into a play for stage portrayal by the BASE community of teachers, parents and students for the BASE Festival of the Arts in December 2008. The story mixes fact and fiction and it is not just for children to enjoy. The story begins quaintly… Once upon a time, there was an island that was very dry and barren. It was a lonely-looking place because it had no trees, no plants or flowers of any kind. It was very dry and the springs of water did not find it in their meanderings. Somehow they found other places faster than finding the dry barren land. It must have been too much to get there. It’s been a living warning that the soil of this land could only be penetrated by a special kind of mild, salty water. The sun shone on the land and the winds blew but still no plants grew because

the rains did not know the way to this land. The springs they have mingled with declared it was too much to get there. This dry land did not know how else to be but as an isolated place because of circumstances beyond its control. The barren land listened to the sounds and languages spoken by its neighbors. Of all gifts it received in abundance was time, to listen, to remember and to store. The barren land mastered these sounds and languages but they were not useful until one day that was different from all the rest. One day a bird flew over the land, that we now call Barren land. The bird landed on Barren land to rest from a long flight.

That day, Barren land was taken aback by the landing of something on its space, something that it had never seen before. The bird spread out its wings to dry out a bit of its sweat from such a long, long flight. The land was even more surprised that this moving thing had such a wide spread of wings. Of course, the land did not even know about this moving thing and not even so much about

wings. It has heard a lot of noisy talk among the neighborhood animals that wings can be impressive in their functions and spans. But what it had just seen was nowhere near the chatter. Barren land waited for the thing to speak. Maybe its language is among what it could understand. Somehow. Barren land could not wait. “Who are you? What are you? I’ve never been visited by anything like you before.” Barren land ventured using one of the languages it knew. “Hi. My name is Eagle and I’ve come a long way from the south over many many islands. I must have been distracted because I kept flying with the wind, enjoying the lift. May I have a minute to rest on your kind space please?” Eagle was still out of breath. It spoke a slightly different language and tried to settle down to drop its wings to rest. “Maybe. If only for a bit, as you say.” The land responded, using most of the Eagle’s language. “Thank you so much.” Eagle was glad she could stay and rest. Barren land and the Eagle talked about a few things, mostly about the weather and about how dry the land is. Soon it was time to

go and so Eagle fanned out her wings, which awed Barren land the more, now that it has the Eagle as a friend. “It will soon be dark. To reach my island I have to start flying now. “Eagle looked up and saw the sky turning a little darker although the blue color was still clear. The land did not realize that the visit was over. It felt sad. “How about if you stay a little longer? It really is too quiet for me out here, all on my own. I can let you choose any spot where to rest yourself.” The land tried to plead for a longer visit. The sky was indeed getting a little darker now. Eagle could not respond right away. She looked around. “I don’t think it’s a good idea. You have no sheltered spot and you have no trees. It was hard enough to rest with the late afternoon sun beating down. I also have to finish building my nest and get ready for the coming eaglets. I have a long flight ahead of me to get back to my island. There, my community has a lot of trees for shelter and for nesting.”

Eagle explained as carefully as possible, hoping the land would soon accept her farewell as the sky was getting really a little darker grey blue. Barren land started to cry and its tears flowed down and wet a part of the ground. “Oh please, don’t cry land. I promise to come back someday. It may not be me that will come back but an eagle will visit you again. But I really must go for now.” Worried but determined to go back to her island, Eagle assured the land of a visit another time. The land understood Eagle and nodded. Barren land watched her fly away. Barren land looked up the skies everyday and wished hard for Eagle’s return. After five lonely full moons, on a sunny day, Eagle landed on the land but she was not alone. A younger version of herself was with her.

Barren land started crying but this time, because it was happy. Eagle has come back and with another eagle too! They were carrying something in their beaks. The eagles dropped the things they were holding in their beaks on a good spot where Barren land could see them. Barren land asked, “What are these?” “Those are called seeds. They will grow into trees and when they do, you will have shelter on your dry barren self.” Eagle explained. “Oh! But how will they grow, as you say they will? What do you mean by grow?” Barren land became curious. “The seeds have to be watered so that they can germinate and grow into plants. “ Eagle further explained although she was not sure where the water could come from in the Barren land’s space. Eaglet offered a thought, “How about if we talk with the wind and the clouds on our way back to our island Mother Eagle?”

“That’s a great idea, Eaglet. Let’s start back early and not let the skies grow dark before we start out. “Mother Eagle remembered her difficult flight through dark skies. “But you just got here! You can’t leave yet.” Barren land protested and already starting crying. Tears flowed down Barren land’s face and wet the seeds. Barren land cried hard and so Mother Eagle and Eaglet stayed a few minutes more but the land kept crying. When Mother Eagle and Eaglet finally had to go, Barren land kept crying anyway. It cried and cried until its tears flowed down and wet its ground. Its tears soaked into the dry land and trickled down deeper into it. The seeds got wet and still Barren land kept crying until it fell asleep. Barren land was so exhausted that it slept for one whole day and one whole night. The noise was either coming from a dream or was real. Barren land heard the sounds of flapping wings, the gurgling sound of something somewhat familiar, and chatters in many languages similar to sounds from the neighborhood.

Barren land awoke to the mixed

sounds of excitement. Eagles, big and small, were flapping their wings like they were trying to dry them of sweat from long flights. Smaller

eagles excitedly walked around the spot where Barren land fell asleep for one whole day and one whole night. Barren land soon saw the cause of the excitement. The seeds brought by the eagles have sprouted. Barren land could hear the baby plants growing from the ground. Barren land wrote the rest of this story but it did not tell me where the story capsule is hidden. I heard that its title is Dreamland. I shall search for this mystery capsule so I can uncover the story someday.

See more photos in

Lorenzo’s Village Lorenzo’s village was born in the year of 1954, at least to me. I am not sure when exactly the village was born but when I came to realize at the age of five that it existed, that was its birth time for me. It was hard to understand at first but I learned to listen well and to watch how my Lolo Lorenzo or Lolo Insong ran his village. The village was big when I was five because it took me three hours to go around its perimeter with my short legs catching up with my Lolo’s long strides. Well, it took me forever, really or I think. I just think because at that time, I did not really know how long three hours was. The village became smaller for three reasons as the years passed until I reached sixth grade. My legs grew longer and it took me only half the time to walk around the village perimeter. Secondly, my Lolo got older and slower. His legs stayed long but his strides were slower. Thirdly, more and more people lived in the village. There was less space to walk on. The people that lived in the village were not related to us by blood but only by character. What I mean is the character that my Lolo Insong liked that he also portrayed to the village people. My Lolo Insong was a firm person. Others said that he was strict. I prefer to describe him as firm because “firm” begins with the same letter as “flexible”. Lolo Insong was not very flexible according to other people’s comments but he was flexible to me. He gave me his full attention whenever I asked him questions. Questions I always had plenty but

Lolo Insong was always patient with me. I asked many questions about the village and its people. One of the questions I asked ran like this. “Lolo, who are these people that have come to live in our village?” Lolo answered as simply as he could. He said, “These are people that do not have homes, they have nowhere to go.” “Why do you let them live here?” I would pursue. “They come here maybe because they would like to have the chance to live a better life.” Then I would keep asking, “How can they have a better chance by living here?” “These are homeless people that beg or steal in order to survive. When they come to apply for living space here in our village, they sign a verbal contract with me promising that in three months they will find a decent means of livelihood.” Lolo would patiently respond.

“What happens if they do not find work? How long are they allowed to do this? Do you ask for money from them?” My questions ramify. This was the time when my Lolo would wink and chuckle

twice “tsek tsek”, signaling that he had to go. I learned that when I became too excited with my questions, that Lolo would dismiss our

discussion. I then would have to wait for another time, promising to myself that I would ask questions nicely and not rush. Some of my questions I had to gather answers for myself. When I was in third grade, I was already allowed to go around the village to inspect the free tenants’ homes. They were required to be clean and to practice hygiene with cooking and toilet. I state these two consecutively because they are related, of course. So you might ask, “What happened when the tenants were messy?” I will respond directly because I know the answer. Messy, filth-loving, lazy tenants were given only two warnings. Lolo Insong had a waiting list of “applicants”. In the history of Lolo Insong’s village, not too many free tenants were kicked out. There were a few that got hard lessons to learn from Lolo Insong, but everyone tried their best to be neat, well behaved, and with a decent means of livelihood. Now, I hope what I mentioned about character, as the identity in Lolo Insong’s village is clear. So you might ask a follow up question, “What were the village people’s decent means of livelihood?” I can answer this too. One of the decent means of livelihood was gathering empty bottles. These were glass

bottles, not the plastic ones of which we have plenty these days. Some tenants that chose this self-employment gathered empty bottles. Bottles were washed and sold to a Chinese junkyard businessman. I heard that this businessman got rich largely because of empty glass bottles. If this truly happened then those poor tenants of Lolo Insong should have also gotten rich, instead their bottles made someone else rich. Maybe it was because the rich businessman did something to the bottles besides buying them. This is not a story about the Chinese businessman so I better leave him out starting from this point. Another decent means of livelihood was being a “coconut pilot�. A pilot of this category had to learn how to climb coconut trees, tall or small. This type of pilot must go up to the topmost part of the tree where the tree bud is located. The bud has to be wounded with a sharp knife without felling it. The tip of the bud would drip its fresh juice out, and the coconut pilot must catch the drips in a bamboo jar. This jar had to be latched on safely onto the tree so that when it got heavier with the coconut bud juice then it stayed where it was strapped. The jar if left overnight could overflow so the pilot needed to make sure the right length of bamboo jar was used. Then the pilot could sleep the night through while he gathered the coconut juice. Early in the morning, the pilot had to collect the juice for delivery to its regular buyers. Clean coconut pilots washed their bamboo jars before strapping them onto the trees being juiced. Messy pilots reused their bamboo jars without rinsing them. Pilots also needed to wash the

wounded bud so that fly droppings were flushed away. Coconut pilots earned good money. Their jobs were dangerous but if they did not succumb to drinking the overnight fermented juice themselves, then they remained decent tenants. I know of one coconut pilot that drank from his bamboo jar of coconut bud juice who fell down to the ground and terminated his life promptly, just like that. Other coconut pilots earned more money if they did not sleep during the daytime that their bamboo jars were collecting coconut

juice. While waiting, some pilots wove nipa-roofing strips. Lolo Insong liked these pilots better for as long as they were honest with their

business dealings. Many of these pilots’ wives wove mats with them. When husbands and wives both worked to help out with growing family expenses, they earned more to even send their children to school. For pilots that fermented their collected juice for more than 24 hours, they engaged in other means of livelihood. I came to know early on that coconut juice left to ferment for more than 24 hours could bomb out some drinkers into some kind of stupor. I wanted to experience this if only I did not see the stupor that made the bomb drinkers display. The chances were not worth it. No wonder that stupor comes from the word stupid or vice versa. It does not matter where the arrow points, it means the same thing or goes the same way. Decent means of livelihood went along with honesty in business dealings. Once in a while, Lolo Insong would call a tenant from his

village for a meeting. At age nine, I was privileged to sit with Lolo Insong during these meetings. Lolo always reminded me to listen well because he said, ‘There is more to learn from these meetings than just the words you hear. Remember, the better person is the one who tries to understand. “ I remember Lolo’s reminder to this day and I have added to it as well that I have come to learn more about understanding life. Understanding may not be enough. There will be occasions when one has to respond, to strategize, to solve the problem, and to act. But it is not in all occasions that one has to respond, to strategize, and to act. I have a section in here for one last question. That may be this. “Did Lolo’s village tenants exit the place after settling into a decent lifestyle?” Lolo’s timeline was usually six months to a maximum of one year for homeless tenants to establish themselves with their choice vocations. Tenants who attained this status were given the freedom to exit the village with one-month notice. Tenants in this status that opted to remain in the village were asked to contribute an appropriate amount to the village land’s annual tax, to take a turn in changing the filter of

the village pump, and to take one more turn in tending the common garden. Rarely did anyone leave. Rarely did anyone fail. It needed only one person’s big heart to lead a village.

Coconut Hills Tina had another vertex of Lolo’s village. The place consisted of several pieces of land, a number of which I personally bought from Lolo Insong, and from owners that needed quick money. Quick money for medical reasons I accommodated easily. Quick money for gambling was a complete refusal even before the request got all stated. Tina also bought a few portions that she placed in the names of my only sister’s three children. These were declared invalid later on due to the vendees’ minor ages. But that could be another story that gives lessons for those like Tina who took something for granted with national laws on landholdings. This story is about the hill farmlands that I now call the Coconut Hills. At the Coconut Hills, one of the pieces of land that I bought had a farmer that requested to stay on. He had no other place to go at that time but had to sell because he needed the money for his ailing parent. He continued working on the land, earning his fare and from time to time, delivering to my house produce from his gardens on my land. I was unmindful of the time he stayed to earn his decent living. Then he got married and children came year after year after year. Titong’s gardens flourished while his family kept growing. He and his wife Eta were a hardworking team, both in farm and children production. Problems also started growing for them and for me.

Eta was the spirited one, so I thought at first. It was much later that I came to know that due to his family’s needs for security, Titong got enmeshed with some undesirable actors against the authorities at that time. It is hard to say which entities were more corrupt, what I was mostly aware of was that exploitations started to bloom on my landholdings. The coconuts did not produce as much although they were obviously fruiting profusely as seen during periodic visits made at the farm. But this is not even Titong and Eta’s story either. Let me try again. My mother, Tina, spent more time visiting the farm than I did. My aquaculture work on another island took most of my waking days. My hectic job as researcher paid well and supported family needs plus some extra. I needed to earn as much extra to support three families in all and there were cousins in need as well that ran to me and my mother for help. Mama Tina and I discussed about how to help the other people in the nearby areas that did not produce as much food. These areas were either too hilly, and so crops would slide off during heavy rainfall. Some areas had dead soil, a problem caused by kaingin.

Kaingin is when gypsy farmers burn vegetation including forest trees in a chosen area. All vegetation is turned into ash. After cooling

and cleaning, farmers plant their corn and vegetable gardens. Due to constant use of the land without crop rotation, the soil dies. It becomes sterile and cannot produce anymore. The farmer moves on and burns another area. There the farmer produces food again, but only for some time before moving and burning again. Every piece of kaingin land left behind is a picture of death. This is why I call these temporary resident producers as gypsy farmers. After a while, these farmers suffer intense poverty of their own making. Most of these farmers’ children grow up without education. They also become gypsies. There were good characters among these gypsies. My Mama Tina, employed them to weed our modest property. We did not really need to do this but we gave money to the workers. We did not want to give money as dole although we could have done that. Lolo Insong would not approve of such a thing. In our family, earning an honest fare is a living tradition. The gypsies were glad to weed from 7 A.M. to 12 noon, and received a good fare enough to buy dried fish and a little meat for their meal tables. Because Tina could not be as regular in her visits as she approached her 50’s, she and I had to come up with a system of selfreliance among the homeless children and young people of Coconut Hills. The system we came up with worked well. First we explained to the homeless folks living close to the Coconut Hills how the cassava plots could support them almost forever until they could be on their

own with some decent means of livelihood. Several plots of about 3 by 5 meters were planted with cassava. This is one plant that does not need too much care time so it grows quite independently. Each homeless was allowed to harvest 3 to 5 mature stalks every two weeks. Upon harvesting, the gypsy must replace the uprooted cassava with an equal number of cassava seedling stalks. The replacements grew while the other plots continued to also produce. The recycle/ replacement method was effective. Mama Tina did not have to visit too often anymore. From time to time, someone would deliver some cassava to the house. The well-cleaned root crop would be presented as cuts of certain lengths ready for cooking. Sometimes cooked cassava would sit on the porch covered with banana leaves. We had no way of knowing as to who put them there. Perhaps it is fine to call the Coconut Hills as Cassava Hills. I do not think my late Mama Tina would even mind.

Tio Minggoy’s Solo The year was leaner than any other year. Lolo Insong’s life principles would not allow him to get Tio Minggoy employment at the hacienda he managed for the rich Chinese people in the city. It is tradition in our family to avoid sliding in relatives in the same establishment, institution, organization or business. This situation could only happen through separate applications and without the socalled political sponsors. It has been tradition in our family not to lean on political sponsors. Lolo’s position as overseer of so many thousands of hectares of sugar cane land held him back from hiring his own son. I was aware that Lolo had the power to employ even all of his sons if he wanted to. Tio Minggoy had to suffer still another lean year. Mama Tina understood completely why Tio Minggoy could not hold a regular job down. I was too young at this time to understand the dynamics of Lolo Insong’s philosophy, Mama Tina’s understanding, and Tio Minggoy’s irregularly employed status. So now you may ask me, what it was that Tio Minggoy could do. What Tio Minggoy could do he always did well and fast. But what he could do well and fast was not always available as a job in the neighborhood where he lived. He built houses well and fast. He built houses for a few rich people and a lot for poor people. For the latter employment he almost got nothing and

because he built more for the poor people, he also almost got nothing out of every building engagement. I knew this because I saw Tio Minggoy help some of Lolo Insong’s Village homeless adoptees. These people did not have any visible money at all. When Tio Minggoy helped these people, he ended up paying himself by bringing or buying his own food, and sometimes providing materials that he would gather from his brothers and sisters’ scraps. I tried to ignore my deepening understanding of this situation as a growing child. My strong belief that Lolo Insong always did the right things stayed firm. It was much later on that I saw how Tio Minggoy’s carpentry abilities got recognized by the biggest university in the city. I was happy in the thought that Tio Minggoy, who needed only one more semester to finish a college degree in education, preferred to handle the hammer and nail. During the period that Tio Minggoy worked as part of the university custodial and maintenance team, he tried to avoid making himself known as my uncle. I insisted on introducing him as my first degree uncle being my Mama Tina’s younger brother. It’s tradition in the family that we are proud of our chosen vocations because part of the tradition is how we always try our very best in what we are good at, that it is our gift back to our Creator. With two and a half doctoral degrees now, I stand humbled by our family’s traditions. Whatever we do, we do for God’s honor and glory, not for ourselves. Nevertheless, I need to acknowledge the fact that we have all been excellent, and have been duly recognized in all our endeavors.

That lean year that was leaner than any other year, that I turned seven years old, Tio Minggoy came to see Lolo Insong and Lola Maria. I knew it was a Saturday because I was not going to school that day. I came to know that on Saturdays and Sundays, there was no school, seriously! Tio Minggoy passed by Mama Tina’s little store by the big hospital. He ate some food and talked with Mama Tina for a bit. I heard these words many times during their talk, “no job”, “no money”, and “very hard”. Then I heard him asking if he could have me ride on his bike to Lolo Insong’s place. Mama Tina told me to eat faster and get ready for the trip to visit Lolo and Lola. She packed some nice goodies for taking along and off Tio Minggoy and I went. Tio Minggoy maneuvered his bike well over the many bumps and around the coconut trees on the way to Lorenzo’s Village. Tio Minggoy made me a wooden seat hooked onto the front bar so the rugged roads were not as felt by my bottom. I will detour a bit and mention how Tio Minggoy made me a chair with a built-in writing side. I had the best chair in the public school where I attended elementary education. We had to bring our own chair and mine served me well until graduation! At my grandparents’ home, I had a room assigned only to me so in I went straightaway to be out of the way of adult conversations. But the room was left open and I could hear the alto voices of Lolo and Tio, and from time to time, Lola’s gentle interventions. Then for a

long time towards the end of the conversation, I heard Lola Maria’s voice mostly. She was saying something like this, “If 30 pesos per day is good enough then you could start working on the project right away. Give us a list of materials and equipment needed. Your Papa and I will give you the money to buy the materials and equipment. It will be up for you to get a helper or not. We give you the money for materials and equipment so it is up to you to budget the money. If you need more materials, let us know. We want a good house built on that spot. Maybe we can see some progress within this month if you start tomorrow.” These were not the exact words but they sound like they were the ones I heard that morning of that very lean year for Tio Minggoy. I heard Lolo’s alto voice saying a summary of the meeting that sounded like this, “It will be a great project Minggoy. I know you put your heart into all your housing projects. Show me your sketch first thing tomorrow. Then your Mama Maria will hand over the money to purchase the materials and equipment. At the end of the project, when we are all satisfied with what we see, you get to keep all the equipment bought for use in this project plus whatever leftover materials there might be.”

Tio Minggoy’s voice came at the very end, “Thank you Papa, Mama, this will help my family a lot in this hard year.” The meeting concluded with coffee that all three adult relations enjoyed. I got hot chocolate freshly made by my Lola Maria. I can imagine that you are now curious about Tio Minggoy’s Solo. That hard, lean year, Tio Minggoy built a two-story house made of wood and concrete for Lolo Insong and Lola Maria. My grandparents’ house was nice and also two floors but the house Tio Minggoy built solo was prettier. I should tell you that Tio Minggoy and Lolo Insong built my grandparents’ first house in tandem. Just the two of them built the house with Lola Maria tending to their snacks and main meals. The second house Tio Minggoy built alone. He needed to keep the 30 pesos per day wage for his growing family. Let me tell you a bit of how Tio Minggoy built my grandparents’ second house solo. Tio bought all the materials he needed plus one kilometer of rope length. The rope was made of the strongest fiber called abaca. This fiber comes from a tree that looks very much like a

banana tree. The trunk is stripped into lengths of strong fibers that are woven into ropes. I have seen how this is done but that information has to be woven into another story, maybe at another time. Maybe, if you are in a rush to know about abaca, you can google it. Tio Minggoy cut the rope into ten lengths of 100 meters each. These ropes became his helpers at no further cost. The house of course had to have the foundation first. The ground floor had concrete flooring. At each concretized side and in the central portions, posts went up with the help of these ropes. On Saturdays, I went to watch Tio Minggoy’s Solo. He would give me ten centavos if I helped him look if the posts were vertically straight or not. He would not ask me to do this against the sun’s glare and that was very kind. In two Saturdays that I went since he started the project, all nine posts were up. Ropes steadied the posts until their concrete bases dried totally. In two weeks the foundation was finished and Tio had to give another two weeks for drying the concrete. During the drying time, he cleaned and cut the pieces that would become the framework of the walls and the beams. He measured, cleaned and cut the pieces that were to become the walls. Tio polished all the pieces and stacked them up close to their areas of use. By the end of the second week of waiting for the concrete to dry, all the pieces of wood and even the various sizes of nails were all classified and strategically placed.

We had no cameras to capture Tio Minggoy’s Solo. I wish that there was another way besides mentally sketching the growing project to show how pretty it was that the new house went up with ropes as workers and my Tio Minggoy orchestrating the joining of concrete and wood to build my grandparents new house. I wish that there was a way of keeping such amazing images for our younger generations in the bloodline to realize how Tio Minggoy was so smart and so fast at building houses. The house is now 56 years old, it is aging but I keep trying my best to keep it repaired. The house earns part of its own keep by earning a little rental from low-income tenants. I try to put repair money in the house for the sake of Tio Minggoy and also my grandparents. The house also helps poor people in this manner while it is helping to keep itself. For how long, I do not know. I had a visit of this house three months ago when I could in my ever-busy-by-choice lifestyle. I literally talked to the house, its rooms, walls, and its staircases with the old and newly repaired railing and especially its posts. Before leaving the house at this visit, I thought (said) to it, “I am proud of you. You are my Tio Minggoy’s Solo, an amazing feat you were and standing to this day, you still echo the tunes that Tio used to whistle while pulling, tugging, hammering and polishing, all alone, to make you look pretty.”

Tio Minggoy’s Other Solo Sundays were free for Tio Minggoy and family as they were also for the rest of the families in the Pinero-Trasmonte clan. Being the alleged and accused clan’s favorite, I was sought after by all my three Tios and my two Tias whenever they were in the city where we lived. Forgive me, I am not bragging. I did not really know the exact reason why but my mother’s brothers and sisters doted on me. Maybe it was because I was always helpful and open to requests for help here and there. I ran errands and did chores, maybe these made my relatives happy. I earned a little money running errands and I saved for crayons, pencils and such for school use. Most times only three Tios and my Mama Tina, among seven sisters and brothers came together for special Sundays. A special Sunday meant one or two of many special events. Baseball would be one event. Tio Minggoy’s youngest brother, my Tio Dading was a baseball scholar at university. Tio Dading from time to time would ask his university baseball referee and his famous pitcher of a son to come and spar with some of the local baseball enthusiasts. The referee agreed to these requests because after the game, the men would all celebrate victory and loss over some 12-hour old coconut palm juice. Then there would be endless banter. During the happy hours, I was usually asked to sing. I sang “Greenfields” and “Wooden Heart” with

my ukulele. For each time I sang these songs I earned 10 centavos. From earnings I could buy a pad of writing paper and another Mongol # 2 pencil. Anyway, for now I would like to tell about just one Sunday baseball event. Tio Minggoy was called the flat-footed baseball player. He used to be teased by adults and children alike. Even my Mama Tina would occasionally tease him about this but with a quick waiver statement saying, “Minggoy, it doesn’t matter if you are flat-footed. You can still run as fast as you can. How you hit the ball and where you let it land is more important than your running speed.” This was a statement that churned inside my head for a long time but could not say anything about it. I love all my Tios and Tio Minggoy was very special. I did not even have the heart to ask him to show me the soles of his feet. At seven, I thought that flat-footedness meant exactly that the person had flat feet soles. I did check out Tio Minggoy’s footprints whenever I had a chance. Like when he was building the second house of my grandparents, there were times when he walked around barefooted. I would put my own feet beside his prints and see what flat footedness meant. From these comparisons and contrasts of prints, I came up with the theory that human feet have bellies that dented inwards. When the dent is not emphasized

enough then a person is flat footed. Tio Minggoy’s feet were not too dented in their bellies. My theory did not help me much to explain why if the bellies are not dented enough, that a person cannot run fast. I experimented on running landing my feet flat on the ground and sure enough, I ran slower than if my feet were positioned forward like on tiptoes. I still did not believe that this would hinder speed when running. Surely a flat-footed or a relatively flat-footed person could run with feet curled forward. I started thinking that the air occupying the dented part helped with speed and momentum…maybe. Tio Minggoy was almost always judged to cause losing a baseball game. The team that gets him would tease him but Tio Minggoy did not mind. If he did then there would be fights, maybe with fists. I do remember that winning was also under Tio Minggoy’s teams’ belts, 40 to 70% of the time. He was just a nice subject to tease because he did not fight back. I was glad that he did not fight back because I knew how strong he was. He could down anyone with one blow. This I was certain about, not a guess on my part. Now let me tell you about that one Sunday event among a few more that turned out really ultra-special. In the morning of that Sunday (that I have chosen among a few other special Sundays), Tio Minggoy and his beautiful wife, Tia Carmen, came to join my family to a grilled fish and roast pork lunch. We always had these treats once a month. Then we altogether went to visit with my grandparents at

Lorenzo’s Village. There, almost the whole clan congregated. The only uncle missing was Tio Mateo who lived in Mindanao. I only saw him and his family in photos that rarely came in those days anyway. As discussions progressed into baseball, I busied myself campaigning for peanut vendors. There was no need to give second calls in those days for peanut vendors. It seemed like roasted peanuts, peeled or unpeeled would just materialize from somewhere. At seven, I was learning how to organize the vendors in the area. I also organized the mothers with small infants to stay where there were no coconut trees right above where they’d sit. Elderly folks were also placed in a similar spot. Sometimes the latter stayed with the nursing mothers to take turns with using the lavatory at the public market near the baseball area. The baseball space was not flat. There were a few coconut trees that impeded the triangle. But this was the biggest free space the neighborhood could use. Part of my assignment was to organize the youngsters to weed the base spots. The other assignment that required volunteer adults was to clear the area from broken glass, scrap metal, and trash. All these had to be done before noontime. By 12:45 P.M. all the bases had white lime on them. At other times reject flour was used. There was a hot cake vendor at the public market who I asked to save all her reject flour that she could not use anymore. She would put this in an empty biscuit can and save for me. Well not really for me but for the baseball players. She would give me the whole can of reject flour but with a 5-centavo deposit on the can. I left 5 centavos with

the hot cake vendor so that I could get the flour, return the can, and not worry about the deposit. By permanently leaving with her the 5centavo deposit, she was very confident with me holding her reject flour can for the rest of the day till the games finished. At 1 P.M. all the players were already throwing balls to each other. Some were practising on the bats. I was going around the areas for the elderly folks, and the mothers with young infants. I had to keep the reject flour can with me at all times because the bases needed remarking from time to time especially during time-outs. Flour did not stay on the ground as well as lime. This was one Sunday that we could not get the white powdered lime. It was fine although a lot more work for me. Sometimes my young cousin Eliordo would help me with re-marking the bases. It was a tricky thing to do because we had to remark while the game was ongoing. This procedure may not be officially acceptable in official games like at university where Tio Dading played. But this was fine for us. At times Eliordo or I would be caught in the crossfire of flying balls, and running players. It was tricky but it gave us the rush of excitement. We could feel and even see each other’s temples beating in the rush. The games were about to begin. It was celebratory because my Tio Dading’s university referee made it that day, and he was serving as referee! His famous pitcher son was going to pitch for the team he’d been chosen into. The game kind of officially started as soon as the

referee declared it open. The declaration came as soon as the teams were formed. Of course, the team players were not obvious about it except for a few that could not resist the teasing. Tio Minggoy was always the last to be chosen. I did not see him minding this then but I am not sure anymore now whether he did mind at least from time to time. Adult facial expressions are sometimes hard to read. Once again, Tio Minggoy was the last chosen and his team claimed him with handshakes. His team had Tio Dading so everyone thought that a big plus. But the other team had Baldoro who was an equal spar to Tio Dading on the diamond. The other team also had the son of the referee. The thought of it was scarier than how he pitched. Before opening the game, the referee appointed team leaders to draw the lot as to who would be first on the bases and who would be first to hit balls. The referee appointed Tio Minggoy! There was a wallop of screams from the audience. Some babies were startled and also started screaming. I could hear some of the elderly folks cursing so I went over to where the curses were echoing and told the old folks to be nice, the children are learning the words too early! I already recognized the words myself! My Lolo Insong taught me well to know but not say the words.

For the other team, the referee appointed Baldoro! More wallops of screams and curses, my walks and shushing increased to calm down the cursing elderlies. Mothers nursing their babies were also screaming so I was so sure that the babies were suckling the atmosphere’s excitement through their mothers’ milk. I do not need to describe the consequences but just try thinking about the lack of disposable diapers then! Anyway, the games began. Tio Minggoy’s team was first to man the diamond. Baldoro was swinging bats. He was first, for certain batting, second, and last.

Tio Minggoy was at second base. Tio

Dading was pitching. He knew how to maneuver the ball into L’s and C’s. I watched the game more for the maneuvers, the speed, and the ball’s flights. The rest was just ordinary entertainment. But when Tio Minggoy and Tio Dading were batting, I would watch unblinking. My eyes would go so dry that blinking again was laborious. I also watched Baldoro because I studied his moves, like how he would hit the ball, how he ran, and how he maneuvered himself from base to base. I thought all the time that his tricks could be learned by anyone, even by Tio Minggoy. Baldoro’s team was ahead one point in the first inning. The curses grew louder again and I had to keep busy with the shushing. Eliordo took the can of reject flour and ran into the faded bases to remark them. Running zigzag we both mastered, or, all sorts of mishaps

on the diamond endangered our lives. The second inning was a tie. I did not see how my Tio Dading winced against the sun when he ran to the home base and officially cut the scores even. I knew that the teams were playing four innings that afternoon because the sun would go down quickly after three o’clock. Break time was set for 20 minutes. Some needed to use the restrooms, get a drink, and buy some snacks or just some peanuts. Mothers needed to change the flour cloth diapers of their babies. Elderly folks needed help to get them to the creative restrooms and back to their seats.

Then the referee hollered for the 3rd

inning. Still Tio Minggoy was not sent to bat. I could see him walking back and forth, and then running in place, fisting his glove. He was out in the field. He had really great eyesight but the sun was against him by this time. I was sure of one thing though, that Tio Minggoy was an excellent ball catcher. If he was not the fastest runner in the team, he could catch a ball while facing the sun. I knew this for sure because I have watched Tio Minggoy building houses facing the sun. Of course, catching a ball still needed running. At three o’clock, this was his challenge. Baldoro was the second batter again. Baldoro looked out into the field where Tio Minggoy was prancing and glovefisting with squinted eyes. Baldoro smiled and touched the bat on the ground, swung up and sideways to pose for the coming ball. Tio Dading slowly turned around, gave his signal to his team, faced Tio Minggoy and swung to give the ball to Baldoro. Baldoro had no choice

but to hit the ball a-flying into the field but he smiled. Tio Minggoy was a little far from where the ball was on flight. Tio Minggoy ran with squinted eyes and flat-footedness all, and faced the sun’s glare waiting for the ball to come down to his glove. He outstretched his glove and caught the ball that almost fell, but with one more step, and a sliding grip, he got the ball. Baldoro was running for the 3rd base. The screams were unbearably loudest. Baldoro was out for the first time that afternoon. He hollered a curse to conclude his fate. But the look he shot at Tio Minggoy’s direction was that of a friend that felt pride for an unbelievable achievement. Tio Minggoy threw the ball with a kick to his right, to balance himself from the stretch, and aimed at Tio Dading’s direction. Tio Dading was poised ready. The ball got into his glove like it was made for it, and then he threw it to the catcher who ceremonially threw it back to Tio Dading. The game continued. The 3rd inning was

another tie! The sun was down and was turning reddish. Against the still blue sky, there was enough light for the last inning. The referee called for a break of ten minutes. No one moved from their spots, not the nursing mothers, not the elderly folks, and not any one of the players. Ten minutes became almost unbearable but for Eliordo and me, it was great for re-marking the bases. We used up the rest of the reject flour.

Tio Minggoy’s team was taking the batting turn. Tio Dading was batting first. It was a unanimous decision from the team that to put the team’s powerhouse first on the batting spot would put fear into the other team’s status. This was both a good and a bad decision. When Tio Dading stands on the batting ground, the silence is like the kind that accompanied an organ playing in church during prayer time. One can hear the wind passing by and hairs standing on ends. Even the babies kept quiet. This was good. I cannot describe the effect on the other team. It was hard to read their feelings from their facial expressions alone. So this was the bad thing about it, just not knowing. Tio Dading swung the bat twice to position himself. Then he was ready. The referee’s son was pitching. This was tough because first, the referee and his son were both great on the diamond. Secondly, there was a cultural reason as well and that was respect for guests! I prayed hard that the second reason died that very second I thought about it. The first reason was tough enough. The pitcher jittered around his spot and then swung his left arm to pitch the ball. The flight of the ball was a little skewed. From a left-handed pitcher to a right-handed hitter, I decided to stop thinking. I did snort to release some stress. I also decided to stop worrying because my grandfather told me many times to be careful what I thought or worried about, that God might take them as wishes! Tio Dading was not blinking and he was not moving. He posed like a

statue. Once again if only there were cameras like we do these days…enough wishing but this is a good one. Just when the ball was skewing to Tio Dading’s left side, he hit it gently to land not too far away from the batting spot. Then he skittered as fast as he could to first and second base. That was a big surprise. No one expected the shortness of that hit. As a university scholar due to his star-playing marks on the diamond, Tio Dading was known for losing the ball when he hit it. He would either hit it so hard to go to the grandstand, knowing it will not be returned to the field 90+ percent of the time, or he would hit it to go beyond the fielder’s already difficult reach. Tio Dading was known to make a baseball fly. I often heard people say that he should sign the ball before he hit it and that should take care of all that needed to be done. The pitcher hollered a curse word that meant satan, the evil one. The referee hollered the same word, “Yawa”. Whether they were referring to Tio Dading or the ball, or to something else; it could have been someone else, it did not matter. The crowd hollered a mixture of satan and God words such as “Ginoo ko!” or “pesteng yawaa”. The babies started crying, the mothers shoved their milky breasts into the babies mouths to quiet them and kept hollering. My shushing was useless. My loose tooth was already bleeding from all the shushing.

Tio Minggoy was assigned the last bat. He was patient and he was not rubbing his chin and nose. I knew he was focusing on Tio Dading’s moves. I started to suspect that they had a plan. Tio Dading progressed onto the third base. He could have run easily home but he was edging slowly, taking his time. The rest of the team earned one point, the rest were struck out. Then it was Tio Minggoy’s turn to hit. Eliordo and I were frozen where we were perched on top of the market’s building roof. Eliordo was the eldest son of Tio Minggoy. I had already examined Eliordo’s feet and they were sort of flat, but not too flat. Eliordo got his father’s feet! The next thing I needed to do was to run a lap with him and see how he’d go. I was an unofficial sprinter, sort of a branded family potential , you know. Tio Minggoy poised himself on the batting spot, faced the pitcher, looked at the guy with his sharp Pinero-Trasmonte eyes, and positioned the bat’s head onto the ground with a swing that reminded me of how he swung his ropes to build Lolo and Lola’s second house. Then Eliordo and I saw what he did clearly to (maybe) demoralize the pitcher. He made a big sound in his mouth, and spat a big ball of saliva in between him and the pitcher! Tio Dading seconded his spitting operandi without a gap in between the act, making the sensurround effect.

Tio Minggoy swung the bat in position getting ready for the ball. The pitcher’s head was down as if he was meditating. The silence was deafening. Tio Minggoy had enough time to learn the pitcher’s moves. His brother, Tio Dading must have chosen to stay on the third base to offer distraction as well as moral support. To me, the whole scene offered thrill and suspense. It was really hard to breathe. I looked around to make sure no one was getting ready for a heart attack, true or false. The pitcher’s head came up and then he suddenly swung his arm. If Tio Minggoy blinked then he would have missed the abrupt move. He did not. The ball came fast and before it skewed to his left, he hit it. It was a flying ball that went over the head of the outfielder, landed on the galvanized roof of the rich Baldoros’ house, and then bounced onto the open kiln fire beyond. The ball was not just a lost ball; it would be ash in a matter of minutes. The open kiln that was cooking clay pieces was 15 feet high and 20 feet wide. Tio Minggoy ran as fast as he could although he really did not need to. Tio Dading ran home and waited for Tio Minggoy on the wayside. Tio Minggoy made his home run amidst the crazy hollers of curses and God words. Eliordo and I kept jumping up and down the market roof until the vendors complained. We got down to join our team. Eliordo and I ran around our uncles and grandparents, and around the babies and their mothers, and the rest of the crowd until we

dropped down as breathless blobs. The day was too much, the game was too much, and we were simply so very happy. Eliordo woke me up back into my sensible self again reminding me to remind the crowd to pick up before leaving. What a solo Tio Minggoy showed that day for everyone to see that he was a flat-footed star.

Eliordo’s Heart Through the glass door from a distance, I could see the wellcombed white hair. I thought that was a mirage because I knew that Papa Eneg would never ever travel without Mama Tina along. The kids and I were waiting for the series “The Little House on the Prairie” to come up. It was not going to be a long wait with munchies ready, the rug ready on the floor for a good position and distance from the black and white Toshiba TV screen. Aloha and Chris sat down on the carpet with the bowl of munchies in between them. I stood up just to check the mirage. Papa Eneg was panting from the hurried walk from the road. I could be wrong though that he might have walked from farther out, if he missed the stop. If he stopped at the town proper then he walked at least 3 kilometers. That distance wouldn’t have been too bad for a good exercise. But when rushing, under stress and worried if getting lost then that was a different story altogether. I did not have the time to ask him when he said, “Eliordo passed away. His interment is tomorrow.”

There was no time to ask questions. I had to leave immediately. I kissed the kids, told them I would be back right away in two days. As always, I was lucky as I always am, that my kids are quick learners. They understood why I had to leave as quickly as possible. I knew they would take care of their grandfather as he would take care of them. The nannies, the cook and the gardener got rapid instructions. My husband was on a field trip out of town and there was no cell phone at that time. So off I went. The details of the trip were bothersome but I had to go through the usual ten hours from one island to the next. The first ride was in a taxi to the wharf. From the wharf, I boarded the ferry to cross over to the other island. The ferry ride was only two hours but it felt like another ten. Then I boarded the bus, bracing myself for the long, eight-hour bumpy ride to my main home city. Dumaguete City was where Eliordo and I grew up together. During the long trip, I tried to visualize how Eliordo would look like laid in a box. I imagined the box would have to be quite long to contain his over six-foot frame. His soul must have gone straight to heaven. There, he must have told the Lord how he died. This was an unnecessary thought because the Lord already knew. If I took a plane ride, I would have to pass by another island and then wait overnight for the connecting flight the next day. The bumpy ride was tolerable because it was many hours quicker. I could also think along the way.

I got off the roadside leading to Eliordo’s house at the Red Water Village. It was very late in the afternoon. The weather was cool and a little breezy. Empty three-wheeled cabs passed by but walking helped straighten my tired spine. The one-kilometer walk purged my mind of worries and I framed essential questions instead. How did Eliordo die? How come he had to die so young and not even thirty yet? The last thing I heard when my family and I moved to another island for my new aquaculture research job, Eliordo joined the army. He was assigned in the southern part of the archipelago where insurgency was described to be intense. Before I could ask myself all the questions, I reached my departed cousin’s house. The front yard was full of people, so was the house veranda. When Tia Carmen and Tio Minggoy saw me coming up the steps, they hugged me tightly. No words were exchanged. I went to view my cousin’s face and there he was, like sleeping tightly ready to slap the alarm clock to welcome a new day. Eliordo was a good sleeper. He was also the first to wake up when we had plans for a big event the next day. Then the frangipani flowers in a small vase above the head side of his coffin wafted nicely to welcome me. Then the sweet smell became stronger and I looked around to see that everyone also looked my way. I was standing very close to Eliordo’s coffin, holding the edge of the glass viewer. The sweet smell pervaded the whole room and by the time I turned my head again to look at Eliordo’s face, everyone in the room was already standing. The sweet smelling silence left a stamp of wonderment on everyone’s face, mine included. I took the scent as a message. There was something I

needed to know. One question was priority and that was, why and how my dear cousin died young. Collecting the details was quick from Eliordo’s circle of soldier friends at the wake. The pieces came together. Eliordo was a double hero. Whenever they were in the fighting fields and when anyone was hurt, Eliordo would do expert covering, and carry the injured to a safe spot. Then he would go back to the fields to fight and then to look after the injured. Whenever a co-soldier died in the line of duty, Eliordo would bodily carry the casualty back to camp. In tears, his co-soldiers narrated the stories about Eliordo’s heroic acts as a soldier. I waded through the details in tears myself. This was my cousin Eliordo alright. He had the courage to fight for his country but his heart remained gentle. He was a hero and deserved well the decorations he received while serving in the army, and as a departed soldier. How Eliordo died was a description sad to hear and yet I very much wanted to know. I had a few hours left before catching the bus/ferry/taxi to be back with my children for Monday morning. It was a birthday party that turned chaotic and then nasty. It started with laughter mixed with liquor. Then a few wrong words came out from someone in the group. A bit loaded after several drinks,

the exchanges evolved into a fight. The fight took out weapons. Eliordo the soft-hearted-hero, stood in the middle to stop the fight and caught the thrusts from both sides. It was too late for realization to set in. Eliordo’s middle was opened by the double thrusts of wellsharpened army knives. Eliordo held back with his hands a large portion of his digestive system that poured out from his opened middle. He was still able to go to a hospital in the nearby city. He was still able to live for over 24 hours. The saddest part of the story that I heard was that Eliordo was not taken care of properly. His injuries if attended to might have allowed him to live. But I thought, after hearing the sad part of the story, that the Lord looked down and saw that Eliordo deserved heaven early. This is how I think it was, that Eliordo was taken by the Lord to relieve him of the pain he did not deserve. Eliordo’s friends said their goodbyes by firing all their gun loads at the funeral. All of them were crying. Each tear that fell onto Eliordo’s coffin as it was lowered down was a medal of honor. After the funeral, my tears for my dear cousin Eliordo carried me home safely back to my waiting children.

The Beautiful Tia Carmen Tia Carmen is Tio Minggoy’s beautiful wife, Eliordo’s mother. I was the one that added the adjective to her name way back when I was still a little girl. I used to pay weekend visits at her place due to Eliordo’s bragging that he was allowed to drink coffee, not just a sip but as a daily beverage. I think that I learned to drink coffee at Beautiful Tia Carmen’s household. Yes, Eliordo was truthful about the coffee. But he helped me keep my coffee drinking at his place a secret. My mother promised that I could start drinking coffee only in high school. My secret coffee escapades at Beautiful Tia Carmen’s house might have caused my short stature. Well, that does not matter now. Coffee is a good antioxidant so I had my benefits early via the escapades. Tia Carmen is a neat lady. Neat does not just mean that she is clean, orderly and well groomed, which she all was and is. It means that her house is polished clean and that everything is in place while she also takes care of her family well. Tio Minggoy and Eliordo had been gone for several years now as of writing these stories. Beautiful Tia Carmen now has white hair that she still arranges the same way as always. She lives in her house surrounded by all her children who also have their own families now. I have learned a lot of things from

Beautiful Tia Carmen or that I resonate several of her ways. There may be other perceptions but this is the Beautiful Tia Carmen that I know. She has strong self-discipline and works very hard. She does not waste time and puts things in order at all times. She minds her own business and stays away from gossip. The only times that she goes out of her house is when she goes to church and the market. To this day that the Beautiful Tia Carmen is still around, I call her the same name.

Tia Celia, the Quiet One Tio Dading’s wife, Tia Celia is like one deep still body of water. Tia Celia is pretty. She matches the handsome features of my late Tio Dading. They were such a good-looking couple that I do not have to wonder why their children are so good looking. In her quiet ways, I saw Tia Celia as a great family budget manager. Tio Dading had her stay as a non-working mother, to take care of family. Tio Dading taught at a secondary school for many years. The pay of a secondary school teacher is not much. Raising kids to finish good university degrees on a tight budget was a feat that Tia Celia and Tio Dading did well as a team. With Tio Dading gone, Tia Celia the Quiet stays placid in her ways. From Tia Celia I can learn to be placid and peaceful. Tia Celia is also kind of shy. This one trait will be too hard for me to learn.

Miss Dumaguete City Aunts Tia Guiling was the eldest among three sisters and four brothers. So there were Tia Guiling, Tio Mateo, Tio Vising, Tia Masing, Tio Minggoy, Mama Tina and Tio Dading. All of these Tios and Tias are gone now. So is my Mama Tina. I would like to believe that they are traveling many more cities of heaven. Tia Guiling won the Miss Dumaguete title twice while Tia Masing got it once. While these beauty competition winners were around, I studied their movements and lifestyles so that I could see how they might have won the muchcoveted city beauty title. My curiosity focused more on their ways rather than their looks. The winning aspect I was sure did not depend on looks alone. Tia Guiling was the frank, straight to the point lady. She was executive in her ways. Her assertive, almost aggressive manners were sometimes scary to me. However, I saw that because she was decisive and at times incisive, that she got things done. As a businesswoman, she succeeded because she knew exactly what she needed to sell that others wanted or also needed. She knew how to maneuver into a busy day so that she could also have time for herself. Tia Masing was the feminine, fragile aunt. When she spoke, her voice was a soothing musical sound. Oftentimes, when Tia Masing said something, I would have to strain my ears hard to make sure I

understood all that she said in her singing sentences. Otherwise, the distraction her voice created overpowered the message. From Tia Masing I learned to be calm. She exhibited this especially when she was asked to repeat what she said, which was quite often. From Tia Masing, I learned to modulate my voice in order to be heard, and to avoid singing when talking about something important. I would say that Tia Guiling won the Dumaguete City beauty queen title twice because she was very pretty and because she might have responded well to the questions asked. Tia Masing might have won because she was simply very pretty and statuesque in her feminine gait. Her responses to the questions might have also been wise although softer. From these two beauty pageant aunts I learned that one could succeed in life through the cultivation of assertion of what is important, at certain times assertively and at other appropriate times in a soft-spoken way.

Treasure Chest 1 Lolo Insong once told the story about how a family so rich suddenly became one of the poorest in the community. The story went like this. Once upon a time, before the First World War, there was a man known to be well off in his community. His neighbors bowed to him whenever they met him. He looked very distinguished in his public appearances. He wore a tie at all times and was known to have a great wardrobe. These details came from the laundrywoman that worked in his household. According to the reports of this household worker, her master had more than a dozen suits. In her master’s wardrobe, she lined these suits up with matching ties and shirts. Undershirts were never worn again after one day out. This detail was emphasized well because the laundrywoman was ordered to take the used undershirts home for her husband to use. She said that this was an act of kindness coming her way consistently but that it was wasteful from the side of her master. She said that when she was short of cash at her house, she would sell some of the undershirts. The items sold well because they looked very new. When she mentioned this detail she would shush her audience and would say it’s confidential, otherwise she could lose her job. Everybody listened.

The cook, another of his servants, told his family that this man ate with a pair of gold spoon and fork. His wife had another pair but of almost pure silver. His children also had silverware. The cook had two assistants because there were seven meals at least to serve during the 16 hours of work that altogether they rendered to this rich family. They started cooking from 4 A.M. and finished cooking and serving by 8 P.M. Their patience was grounded upon how their families got the scraps of which there were always plenty. Their masters never checked on leftovers. In spite of their meager wages, these servants kept their jobs. And so it was that the lives of this man, his family and his household kept going day in and day out. I raised my hand to ask Lolo Insong a question that kept bothering me during his narration of this story. My cousins and I were huddled together in the living room of my Lolo Insong’s house. My cousins did not look very happy that I raised my hand. But when I asked the question all of them, declared, “Oh yeah.� I asked Lolo Insong,

“Lolo, why was this man so rich, did he have the best earning job in the community?” “This man inherited a treasure chest from his father. The treasure chest had gold coins, gold spoons, forks, sets of dinner silverware, jewelry and figurines made of the finest gold.” Lolo Insong responded quickly. Lolo continued his story. He said that this rich man did not work at all because he did not see any sense in holding a job. This man thought that what he would spend going to and from such job would be equivalent to foolishness only. He did not want to appear foolish. He only wanted to appear well groomed and rich. Then came the time when talks about the Great War or World War I started. That was around the late part of year 1913. The Great War did come in 1914 but before it did, the rich man with the gold spoon and fork made a decision that he religiously followed through until his inheritance dwindled into only his spoon and fork. There was no hope after the war and so he did not see any point in keeping his inheritance. Everyone was going to die anyway, he decided. He squandered the contents of the treasure chest efficiently scoop by scoop. He took up excessive drinking, and went from brothel to brothel until he got sick. His wife died tormented by this man’s lack of interest in his family’s welfare. The children were scattered among

relatives. Only one son stayed with this man because he thought, someone had to take care of him when he got sick. The man did get very sick. He was already so poor before the Great War even ended and before it even affected his nation. He had no means to get medical attention and so he took headache tablets and used Tiger Balm to ease his pain. One day, lying almost at the end of each short breath taken, the man uttered his last words to the only son that stayed beside him. The dying man said to his son, “Here, take my spoon and fork. These are made of solid gold, keep or sell them. Live life in a better manner than me. I am sorry that I was not a good father to you.” The son cried as he accepted the spoon and fork. His father, the once upon some time rich man, sighed his last breath. At the graveyard, alone with his freshly interred father, the son quietly stated his goodbyes. Aloud he said to the spirit of his father, “Please know that your spoon and fork will be sold today. The money exchanged with them will go into living a life that you could have chosen to live, that if only you chose the better ways you could have died happy. Goodbye. May the Lord be merciful upon your departed spirit.”

The cities of heaven have not been far away after all. Come, let’s go on and find more.

Lolo Lorenzo “Insong” and Lola Maria

Tio Minggoy [in blue T-shirt]

Papa Eneg Mama Tina

Tio Dading

Papa Eneg

Tio V

Tio Vicente

Tia Masing at head of table

Listening to heritage stories

The Song of the Everlasting

The tune that I heard

From a pleasant ride to the country From a sweeping glance over blooms Over a wide expanse of green. The combinations of marvels missed From my first dip in the ocean From my childhood’s success In some motivated tricks From my first taste of grapes. The dreams that came in color From deep solitudes of care From my first possessive daydream This masterpiece of a song.

Love: C Major Evolutions Whorls of sensations Like petals

Pushing against Sepals, deliberately Beautiful. Intensities, Blinding simultaneously, Seeing more clearly Visions of fear

Bathed in delight. Staccatos: Caressed by slumbers Of creations,

The mind sleeping In active respites Of images,

More images.

Tones, Tunes, Curling patterns Parting now,

Sooner amalgamating They tell. They sing.

Ice heat A glacial surge Of melting ice lava, Making fake thunders And daily avalanches

Of unabridged upbringing More of down, draining. They come staggeredly, Some at the crack

Of dawn dressing up, Others at the tick of

The first second hour Bringing basic bodies. Each day’s exhaustion

Outgrows itself, denied. We tread afloat within Little circles, feathers singed, More of on than off The ice heat licks. At night, ruffled feathers are pacified.

Bills Their main armors are colors Hues carrying deep intentions, At first glance, they dance. Then the colors resist

Leaving the eyes; they travel Inward to synapses, relaying Messages of confusing pleasure.

The plague is a beating embryo. Now the colors dance outside

Now inside, then all together The synapses, endings sparkling, They too, dance. Ride on,

If one desires preoccupation Stealing away the occupation, Time is paid for, gold or silver whichever. Meanwhile, the boards glow Like bioluminescent organisms. In the morning bus rush

They clash the young minds, From last night’s concentrations. Black and white definitions

Promptly displaced by the glow, Dancing, sensuous, intentional. The city continues to throb Towns around it pacing greens Both alive, synergisms in particular Mutualisms in general; who cares, The coffers are filling up now These other bills are piling

Weights one over the other pushing, Growth seemingly unstoppable? Unstoppable, that’s about all. Nights convert the glowing hues Into sequences of dangerous dormancy. Youths stop to look, they age Decades at a time, they try Sensing the messages in the beating

Of the embryo’s heart-co-mind-co-spirit,

Skin to skin now, as colors jump out The conquests begin. The embryo smiles. Post no bills!

Premature Masters: Children on Guitars You sit there On high stools, Oblivious of eyes

Around your midst. Your own eyes Focused on bars That you translate Into music

Through the eyes Of your fingers. Such tiny fingers Adept and mobile,

How could they know Where to go? Do they have

Invisible strings Linking appendage-eyes To head eyes?

Could it be that Those tiny fingers Speak, hum or sing,

With tiny babe-mouths Besides mobile eyes? Perhaps, you both have Gifts, thousands of eyes Eyes ours miss to see. You play innocence,

Pure and refreshing On tunes so old On sounds of sophistication, You make notes fly

Like newly spawned Butterflies, testing wings On brand new vigor, Freedom sings.

Five-Hour Productions For Wanna Be’s

Staging grandly early Prima Donna sits

Her bulk encompassing The lone big couch (ouch) In the false lounge. She breathes heavily From stocked cholesterols

Counting us supporting cast Coming in the main entrance Of this crowded theater. With billowing weight Matching bellowing voice Screaming crudely Items of the day Just listen and obey.

With indignation From clean upbringing Sucking unwillingly The fungied nipples Of our daily feeding bottles. Going through Planned performances Recipes cooked

Till cracks of dawn We are only beasts of burden. Our carts are full With goods of relief, Predictions and betterments, Spreading them along

The roads of innocence. We hear the whip’s Ensuing contact with one Of our burdened forms,

Anytime is anybody’s turn

Nobody flinches. The wounds are too raw

To feel the superimpositions Of new inflictions. Our wounds are open

Bleeding live in their deaths.

Theaters on Weekdays To Teachers Touching the Future

We signed for work. Auditions were brief. The tour of the place Was an added bonus

In case some unmade it We all made it. We work all weekdays Except on chosen holidays, Our energies carry along

With our civilized bodies. Our lower extremities Are steady stilts.

Our lips on continuous

Talking, coaching crusades Of cause and effects We pace on stilts

Gesturing now and then To caress some facts. Most times we feel The white dust

On our faces settling, Part and portion

Of our daily diets; Our weekday theaters. Reality and fantasy Actors, we are. Bubbling formats Of what could be,

What are, should, What will be.

Across and around us First wondering looks

Becoming knowing faces. More spotlights now, Then again theater’s over 4:00 P.M., close curtain. One day’s laurels Quench our dreams, Replenish sparks

To worn-out stilts, Streaky color patterns

Against once creamy skins. At theaters, on weekdays

We convert potential energies Of innocence, in innocence, Into potent life kits;

Invisible equipments For more incoming theaters.

From the Legends To the Legend-Makers Bottoms up

From the Strikers of Long Ago

You think that you sit there with your pen and nose in the air That you could blow the world from Atlas’ shoulder With one of your hot breaths! That with your scratches on paper bottoms depended cases Of life and deaths, in betweens and ultimatums From the line’s abyss.

The shine of your desk is more than enough to repel Rendezvous with incoming threats Eyeing your empty chair.

Yes, in your vast empire of stainless paper clips Contrasted to our ordinary rusting ones Tired, overused, recycled. Checking the results at the end of time We go out from your perfumed walls to walk home; Crisscross your cars in the lane.

PBS [Power BASE Students]

Seeing more than what’s known Looking for more than what’s shown, Finding more than what’s there, They are the seekers,

They are the finders. Freeing more than what’re chained Giving beyond what are claimed,

Granting more than what you named They are the soarers

They are the adventurers.

Running faster, flying higher Soaring yonder, crying louder Spinning better, marching farther They are the affectors, They are the effectors. Their league holds the sun

With them you too can outrun The dreams you have spun Make them all well done!

Wait Along To Hope

For the Corn Boys Wait along, for now Talk to the greens

Over here and yonder. They answer in flutter Of silence and stillness. The wind does not betray— When it hears it listens, When it listens it keeps, When it blows away You’re in another day. Smile with your heart Sans crows around your eyes

Laughter in coma is not gone Let it peek for the while Won’t be long. Wait along.

Two Virgin Jungles Two virgin jungles Of intertwining scripts Of active imaginations For everyday contests Of matter-of-factness. The journals hurt

Webs of scary words From Webster’s most select Compositions of advance Stilted, naked thoughts.

But these virgin jungles Are my obsessions

Futures afar from my circles Of marred pasts, lost relations Surely, things are better Over there, yonder. [There] They are.

Series of Slumbers Slumber 1. Deep or light, Slumber renovates Spirits of laughter, Forgiveness and spite. Take, for example That ultra cold day

When your voice rose, Mine too echoed And your spite died. That day was spent, In a tug-of-war

Cries of champions, we were Losers and winners all.

That night was early, Crawling on to cushioned floors Consciousness fled

With less reluctance Slowly, with gladness. Then slumber’s over Morning smiles triumph With Vitamin Es and Cs

Prior to another day’s race.

Slumber 2. Images, Filmstrips in a hurry, Flood the mind

Vying for attention. The head shakes, Sometimes, nods To approve Or disapprove— It’s hard to tell. People

Come into view, Their hazy faces Doubling, vaguely

Clear at quick moments; Then disappear.

Objects dance

Like cartoons, Meant to create Serious intents. Places proceed Like speeding colors; Their boundaries,

Grounds and walls Melt in mixtures. Alarm clocks ring Chasing filmstrips away, A quick trip

To the bathroom Drains the night’s dreams; Another day, another story.

Slumber 3. Storms sleep. Maybe, they get tired too. In their lulls,

Windows open prematurely Letting out stale air Of stored-in fears. The children stampede Out into the open.

Unmindful of puddles The street mud is welcome For now.

Adults resume Daily chores.

Some sit on stairs A hierarchy of heads And hands scratching heads. Unmindful of this gaiety

Storms awake, then strike. The hinges swing, then slam, Stale air and fear again.

Slumber 4. This state of enigma Numb in its nobility Of spine and axillaries,

Epidermal coverings arterioled With perimetered chemistry Still allowing occasions

Of conventional charming stupidities. Meanwhile deviances in kinetic control Of single or combined motions

And notions to and fro traversing In order to gain some rest Resting so to traverse. These vice versas of purposes Fleeing plattered offerings Smorgasbords for free

Choice cuts, come we pay. Shiny desks and softwares,

Conglomerated rustproof hardwares

Nothing but lines of appliances And no definitive roads No later tenses No few wishes Spine and axillaries

In full conscious motions, notions, A state of enigma.

Th e Soul of Your Peace Stay put, stay still

Be an image unmoving Letting be that everything Revolves around your frame. So be it that movements Mill around the circumference, Not to measure altitude

Nor to define rumors of oblivion, Be listening instead. Be instead listening To what are not said, It would be in there

The message be clear, When stillness speaks out Be loud, the soul of your peace.

If a Seed

If I reduce myself into a small seed That promises a rain check to keep, Not to, in my right season, germinate

But to simply stay dormant and wait So in your safe pocket I can sit; If all these I do in my need

Would you keep me safe as I bid?

Whatever the Moon Dusts

Whatever the moon dusts said to you You missed what they meant Because what they meant was the pure Untarnished love that only The cherubims can define That even the gods Of ancient times

Denied themselves Not in ignorance But in reality

Of how ideals mean.

May You To the Living, the Living Dead And the Departed Alike

See the colors of white light In cold bare tree days In hot summer parkways

In just-right spring sprites In fallen leaves, In their autumn flights. May you.

Children of War The Dying of Seeds in War-Torn Places From off the springs of War, came the brave. They have slept with

Death and have seen The true colors of sunset. They make us see the Fortitude we have,

The wishes swinging Around our fingertips. We could wish to

Live long enough To see who they become And what purposes they might find

(Or that might find them, if there’ll be time) For now we can touch their tears See with them the blurs

Of visions for what may not become.

Poem for the Rose

In this path there might be No time to pick the rose

That once was seen in haste While passing without rest. You thought that deed could wait So you fixed a backward look

In a tranquil mood of resolute Before the season’s wilting bait.

I shall come to pick you and rest. I shall sit then to look, Touch, feel your thorns,

Maybe enjoy your gentler stings Maybe afford back a dream.

The Answer

Would you sit again tonight On the window sill of this

Yet unfinished monument of care? Would you look with me

Together, to see through where Stars sit reposed, for eternal peace? Where thunders caress their fires And laugh while out-of-season Fruits come out abundantly From their bright spouts, While you help me form The rest of this mold

You dared to let begin?

Wellington Winds Unfinished Poem for Island Bay

Here Where the wind cries Louder than the sea gulls Come and stoop To be strong. Here where parkas work And gum boots chew Your frozen days

For the blazing sun That you so long. Here‌  

Simile Poem

Like sudden butterflies on skin = Awe

Like many strings plucked together = Music Like floating melodies into dreams = Fantasy Like dreams evolving into songs = Composition

Like rounding lips calling the Lord’s name = Prayer Like hand gestures into the wind = Wave Like night welcoming sunshine = New Day

Like grasping wind in the presence of nothing = Sadness Like knowing the Lord is around = Faith Like lyrics into music and clouds into songs = Poem

Songs of the Everlasting II Come let us make a song That copes with all tunes It may be short or long

It doesn’t matter, we keep on It doesn’t matter, it’s your own. Some write about yesterday, Some sing of the same Let them sing of tomorrow Or write of its sorrow But we, we shall nay To despair or dismay For the life we live

Of those things we give The gifts we keep Or those we reap

Or which cause us to weep, If there’s such as fate, It’s still in debate

When we choose to pray And sing the song Of things everlasting.

Fantod of Pampered Secrets

This sonnet of neither abstracts nor expectations Daring not the tractable breeze to explain How this expatriate of myself came to be; But already with the competence of understanding, I learn quiet walks, quiet turns, and quiet lessons Not measuring any fuss, paradox nor benevolences, I learn to quiet fears, doubts through simple prayers I watch my steps and hurdles over high and low fences.

The Wait for the Child’s Promise Definite as the ripples of a silent stream Upon its breakage by a stone Or the breakage of a stone By a newborn spring,

As the warning of the rapids before The beauty and danger of waterfalls As the falling of excised brown leaves

Due to the heat of a happy summer sun, On to the silent brook whereon The equally quiet ant could ride; Punctual as the falling down Of a kite that gained height Only as there was a soaring wind But that it suddenly died;

As the spawning of mama stickleback With the smacking sound of just such clam As the sad tirade of previous happy faces

Alongside a full coffin on a deserted road Punctual as the cry of an infant Questing for its twelve o’clock feed

Here, now, I wait. The definite punctuality as of the child’s promise In the words both spoken and unspoken.

Overdue Mangrove Visit

Whence the balding mountains of Negros Nude, gashed, ruptured but not barren, Should get parched, extremely thirsty Through the brownish meanders of aged Untiring rivers still flow homing to the sea. Still thousands of these motored vehicles Leave black soot like mobile dirty kitchens Still, the heads turn to see these patchworks Of paling green, sickly brown; beautifully anemic Mountainsides looking like Christian Dior skirts? Whence the bridges shall break To the pressures of brown liquids In their sporadic overflows, beating Man’s awareness and self-control, Causing the innocent spontaneity In temperaments and cycles; Whence the restless mangrove must visit These plastic looking heights Just via the rivers and outskirts Of Palinpinon’s hot springs to evade Angering their already bubbly gurgles

Giving out the hottest spits; Thence, the restless mangrove shall see To the balding mountain’s cures.

Between Friends. For So Much and For Nothing

For so much and nothing at all Friends hold and uphold that

Between each other and another For the other and to the other and so on.

Where most contradictions become unity Later or shortly, become paltry What culture and civility! What faith and charity! The gravity between friends For so much

And for nothing.

A Brief Titleless Song [To Gossipmongers] Standing wary of the day’s length While, I, basked in the early sun. They share boredom.

Of boredom itself now bathing In the maze of parthenogenetic

Conclusions, whose harmony could come From ciliated tongues whose dance To and fro, click the castanets of pleasure. The measure of which is my increasing

Degree of amusements in their futile efforts To count their various bone marrows, In their innocence of making a beat

That makes me create more beautiful Silhouettes of the morrow’s suns.

A Lesson, Where Understood

What if unwritten truths are moved

From where the crowded slots mingled Of verbal mixes from births unknown, Were allowed to settle crumpled.

One could refuse to see any zone Between the plain homely, and the pretty, Too, between the pretty that are homely, For this seeming redundancy is simple -Try to listen with your eyes.

Profundity in Nonsense: A Flight or Plight? [Raceways at the Wet Lab] Circling in the motion of eddies The turbulence went to allude The impression of nearness

Causing flexing then extension Of an arm to reach water. Better quickly close-open your eyes. Transparent white tubes, they Sometimes come in clear green Crisscrossing as though to no Goal at the end,

Where upwellings spurt In almost drastic synergy.

At ideal points these make love With the sunlight so you should turn Close-open, open-close eyes away From the glare of rising suns.

The wet lab races in Tigbauan.

The First Rain for Buyuan It came way past the middle of April It came taking my senses by surprise Because I did not hear it, I smelled it. For I was deeply lull-a-byed By the night wind’s song Between the two sweet-smelling Soft cuddling Melba and Alein. When the sweet exudes Tickled my membranes Displacing the hyacinths Of my progressive dreams, I gasp upright to know. That the first quiet drops Were dancing, mincing; I returned to my in-between nook. Again the lullaby of water sound And the sweet smells abound, My personal sense-surround.

Praying for the Southern Sunrise

I shall have to wait For so many moons. I shall have to hide

Watching the sun downing In its usual western hide. This inner frowning

For no one to surmise Sooner than my wish For the southern sunrise.

Grandpa’s Song The box was now lowered into the pit And I thought the song with him was dead I told myself, to remember it, was no need What had been sung was past and said. This grandpa told me before like a creed. “Do not ever be sad.” Grandpa said. To my grief, the sad lyrics came back Onto my face, on others’ no lack Of details grandpa failed to crack Like the red/green covered books Now sitting untouched in the stack. The volumes said clearly in neat prints Burdens, hardships, pains, just clench your teeth Hide your sad moments, these forefathers pinched Themselves accepted uninvited conqueror’s trench. Details of my dead grandpa’s buried song I read If only to earn what they call a good grade A degree I earned to which a diploma was made Up on the stage, I stood the song again buried.

Sticky Rice and Chocolate Syndrome Happy Poems and Stories in Childhood Chats

Steamed Sticky Rice with Pure Chocolate Mango Slices on the Side Breakfasts don’t have to be complicated. Mornings don’t have to be awakened earlier than six. But when one suffers the so-called sticky rice and chocolate syndrome, these “don’ts”

happened whether Lola Maria liked it or not. But I still think to this day that Lola Maria was proud of providing what I preferred especially because I hardly ate as a growing kid. This is not an exaggeration as I really thought as a child that

eating was a futile exercise and a waste of time. Lola Maria and Lolo Lorenzo would do anything, anything at all to make

me eat. My mother was very busy making both ends meet and so Lolo and Lola had me as a sort of welcome consignment. I should almost say, as a welcome consignment. I must [almost] have been an invisible baby as I was very thin. If I were

bundled up which is the usual thing done to many village

babies [to ward off the evil winds] and placed beside a pile of laundry, I would be forgotten. No kidding. But I did have a chance to grow and grow up I did.

Well, it’s been very obvious to me since I came to, and that

is, to understand what was going on around me; that my

grandparents, my uncles especially Tio Vicente, my aunties especially Tia Masing, most of my cousins especially Helen and late cousin Eliordo, all doted on me. Thank God I did not turn out a spoiled brat with all the special attention I was

given. It was therefore not easy to forget me just because of a pile of laundry. But I had a syndrome, which was a challenge to my Lola Maria mostly. I would not eat any breakfast

unless it was sticky rice soaked in native hot chocolate. The problem was these items were not constantly available at the

nearby market place. Whenever the aging vendor was ill, these items would be absent from the stall as well. This was not a frequent occurrence but the problem was the unpredictability of the vendor’s absences. I will not deal with the question on sanitation here, as I did not have the question then.

One early morning that Lola Maria could not find any sticky rice and hot chocolate at the market place; she decided to walk to the next village, Village Tubod. This was about two

big blocks from the house. Lola would not in any way take a horse carriage without Lolo with her. So she walked to Village

Tubod where she knew that she could buy the most coveted food items. Lola Maria got back with sticky rice and hot chocolate around 7:30 A.M. She looked exhausted but quite pleased with herself. Lola served me my breakfast. While eating, I said my thanks to the Lord and then to my Lola Maria. I know, I should have said my prayers before eating. Lola Maria was always and will remain a very special person in my life. You will want to read more about Lola Maria.

LOLA MARIA Lady first before being my “Lola”

Maria named after another mother The holy chosen one, you might know her The mother of the Lord Jesus, Maria. Lola Maria was a lovely woman even as she was already aging then when I spent more conscious time with her. Lola

was the love of my Lolo’s life. Lolo Lorenzo doted on Lola and respected her opinions and ideas. Lolo actually listened to Lola whenever she spoke and this was not too often. That’s why Lolo listened to Lola’s seldom little speeches. I did too.

Lola and Lolo held their meetings at dawn. They would sit outside the mosquito net and enjoy their thin tobacco rolls. While smoking they would discuss things of import to life. I

was supposed to be asleep throughout these sessions but there were times when I would be awakened by their husky dawn

voices. I would sit inside the mosquito net and wait until I would be called to join in. I was not allowed to smoke so I tried to learn how to roll up the tobacco inside the special leaves.

The discussions would continue and even though I was too young to participate, sitting with them was already something. My self-esteem was always fed by these occasions although my participation was limited to sitting and listening during such odd meeting hours. While I must have missed most of the

important points in the discussions, what I caught afforded me my first lessons in the philosophy of life. I remember the importance of patience, being calm and cool, and as Lolo always emphasized, being the better person.

OCCASIONAL PUNISHMENT Lola sort of punished me sometimes when I was being

“bad”. Being “bad” usually meant having skipped a meal. My worse behavior I think was always associated with food. One time that Lola was so upset that I did not eat almost the whole day, she called me back from playing “house-house” with some children in the neighborhood. I got home with my hands too grimy to be hidden from Lola. You see, we were cooking mud

inside our coconut frond playhouse. Lola told me to stand still while she soaped my hands vigorously. It was when while doing this that she interrogated me whether I had eaten

breakfast and lunch. Since I did not learn how to say white lies for myself in order to protect others from their emotions, and this was at age seven as yet; I told her I had not eaten. I added bravely that it was still early anyway. Lola got really upset. She told me to sit still in the living room. It was slightly past noon on the old clock. Lolo was not home for lunch as yet and I was not sure that he would be coming home that day for his noonday meal. I knew two prayers, one for mealtime and one for bedtime. I did not have

a prayer to get Lolo home. So I closed my eyes and imagined Jesus Christ walking with my Lolo home right that minute.

My eyes popped open as I recalled it was a Saturday and the hacienda would be on a half day in the fields. Lolo might be late but he was going to be home! Lola came back from the kitchen carrying two dry coconut frond leaflets in her hands. They were kind of too pliant. I braced myself for the worse. Lola struck me once on the left leg

and I felt a brush by the leaflets, no sting at all. But I started bawling because I felt insulted. Lola was poised to strike again but Lolo came up the steps into the living room. Lolo hoisted

me up with one arm while warding off Lola’s weaponed hand. Lola could not reach me with her five-foot frame. Lola hit Lolo instead and after a few useless blows, Lola stopped. Lolo

carried me in his arms and went into the kitchen asking Lola for lunch. Lolo had me sit on the table in the corner where he could sit and bar me from Lola. Lola served lunch. I thought she was sort of grumbling. Of course she had the right to exercise her human right to be upset.

After lunch, Lola made a short speech about why I needed to eat my meals. Lolo had me sit on his lap for the duration of the short lecture. After Lola finished her speech, Lolo took over and promised he would try to be home for a few minutes at lunch time. This way, he could help make sure I ate something by noontime. Lolo winked at me but I did not know what that was for then. Later on I understood that he wanted Lola to be careful about punishments as he might be coming home anytime. Before taking his nap that day, Lolo talked with me in a very gentle manner. He told me that my Lola loved me very

much and could not even get herself to strike me with coconut leaflets with their sticks in! I did not tell my Lolo that I knew.

MORE ABOUT LOLA MARIA Non-schooled, self-educated, the firm wife Lola Maria knew how to live God’s gift of life On a daily basis fairness was present in her ways

Lola Maria earned certificates sealed with Lolo’s kisses. Lola was almost totally free from spending days at school during her childhood days. As a young girl in her family, she

grew up with her parents’ philosophy that girls did not have to go to school. Girls during Lola’s younger days and most especially in her family did not spend learning time at school. Lola learned how to take care of a household but she did not

know how to read the alphabet. She was forbidden from going to school. She was allowed to go to school for a few days and

then something happened which stopped her from going back for another day more. It was still enrollment week and payments at the office were due that same week. Her father enrolled Lola Maria at a public school. Lola was assigned a homeroom upon enrollment. She came to know and in fact, met her homeroom teacher right

away. The homeroom teacher called the kids listed in her homeroom that were already there and asked them to follow

her. Her classroom was in the second building located at the back of the main building where the office of the principal was. Lola followed her teacher marching quietly together with the kids already there that day. It turned out that the teacher

wanted the kids to clean the classroom, sweep the surroundings and weed the flower boxes. Lola obeyed her teacher’s bidding just like the other kids. Sweating under the almost noonday sun, Lola was busy with her weeding chores when she heard her father’s voice saying,

“Maria, come on, we’re going home.” Lola was afraid to leave without telling her teacher first. She told her father that she had to ask permission from her teacher to leave earlier than the other kids. Lola’s father said,

“Don’t worry. I will talk with the teacher.” Lola continued with her chores while her father went to see her teacher. Her father’s voice was soft at first but her teacher’s voice was loud. She sounded upset. Lola overheard her teacher saying,

“”How dare you! Your child is being treated just like the other kids so what are you complaining about?” Lola’s father’s voice came booming, “AND HOW DARE YOU!! TREATING THE CHILDREN LIKE SLAVES! I AM TAKING MY CHILD HOME WHETHER YOU GRANT


At the principal’s office, Lola’s father got even more upset. Lola overheard the principal’s voice saying, “So what if the kids are cleaning their classroom, what’s wrong with that? Isn’t that important learning as well?” Lola and her father walked home. Home was only the adjoining block close to school. So Lola got enrolled but never really attended school beyond enrollment, or rather, cleanup week.

LOLA MARIA’S STORE Lola Maria grew up not knowing how to read or write.

She still grew up anyway and with impeccable manners at that. My mother, Mama Tina opened a small general

merchandise store for Lolo and Lola as they were getting into their late 50’s. Mama always said that having a small store

would take care of daily needs, that these would be covered by the small daily profit. In any shopping stall, credit purchases are a normal routine. This was a very limited occurrence, if ever, in Lolo and Lola’s store because Lola did not know how to record the charges. It was good for the store because no one dared ask for charges or credit. Everyone in the neighborhood knew that

Lola did not read or write. To ask her to do any of these would be abominable to anyone. Lolo worked at the hacienda on weekdays and half day on Saturdays, and so he could only be helpful at the store on

Saturday afternoons. This almost could not happen, that he would man the store because there were other chores that Lola asked him to do, that waited for him to be free. For example,

there was the empty firewood compartment that needed filling for the following week. There was the drinking water jar that

needed rinsing and refilling, also for the following week. There was this and that, and by around well past three in the afternoon, Lolo would already need to stretch and enjoy a pipe before helping Lola at the store. Lola allowed Lolo to enjoy his pipe, with a cup of boiled fresh coffee percolated by natural

gravity. Many afternoons after his chores, Lolo would snooze maybe from exhaustion. At around four o’clock in the afternoon, Lolo would be fresh from all the chores and would sit in the store. This was if he opted out of snoozing. There were Saturday afternoons that he did not go in the store of which Lola did not mind. She knew that Lolo would join her in there if he was not exhausted from hacienda work and from heavy house chores.

Being together in the store was a great reunion time for

Lolo and Lola. Lola would cuddle up beside Lolo. They would

sit in the store together as Lola would occasionally stand up to wipe a few shelves and such. The great thing about this reunion time in the store was that nobody dared ask for

charges for as long as Lola was around in there. She was around most of the time anyway that Lolo would sit with her. The store was therefore on cash basis only because of Lola’s constant presence. Mama Tina took this as a wonderful blessing from the Lord. Lola’s illiteracy was bliss for the store’s healthy accounting! The store thrived for as long as Lola

could see the pictures on the bills and coins that customers handed to her carefully so as not to offend her. Lola was very strict and proper about money matters and manners that went along with exchanges over the counter.

Lola’s way of “reading” the coins and bills was by semi-

Braille method. For coins, this was especially true. She would feel the embossed designs on the coins as well as look at them with her almost non-aging eyes. The bills she could only look at the pictures of the heroes to be able to tell their

denominations. Only occasional strangers that pass by the store for odd purchases would not know why Lola had to feel

the coins and look closely at the heroes on the bills. Otherwise,

everyone knew and everyone respected her ignorance. Lola’s ignorance was not only bliss to Mama. It must have been bliss for everyone in the family including me because we never

talked about why that was. We rather talked about hacienda life, about the coconuts that were soon due for felling again and so on. I am able to tell this story because I insisted on hearing it from my late Mama Tina long before she passed on. Lola’s ignorance fascinated me because I could see how much money could go to education for families both rich and poor.

Education, I decided, was and is a lifetime choice. Anyway, back to Lola and Lolo. Every two weeks, Mama Tina would visit Lolo and Lola to go over the stocks and to count the store money. Lola’s cash box was a reused paint can that Lolo smoothened for her.

Occasionally, I would be asked to help classify the coins and make really neat small hills of them on old newspaper. I learned a lot of my math during these occasions. Mama

eventually asked me to shop for stocks for the store. I was old enough to be trusted with grocery shopping. So off I would walk to the big market, with a list in my pocket and money in the other pocket. Eventually, I became Lola’s store assistant

and bubbly as I was, I attracted many customers especially young ones who did not really have their own money to spend. I knew how to play a few tunes and songs on the ukulele that

Tio Vicente bought for me. I would sing and sort of entertain while selling. But this storylet is still about Lola Maria so let’s go back to her.

TEABAGS WITHOUT LEGS Lola Maria sold many domestically needed items Without herself or other as delivery systems She was nice to you as you were nice to her Teabags you wanted? Pick them up yourself with care. Excitement in Lola Maria’s neighborhood was seldom. Copra time was one of these occasions. Sunday with Lola

coming along to church was another. It was like a new bride was going to church. Every decent woman in the neighborhood paid her respects to Lola by coming out from their abodes to see

Lola board the wooden horse carriage in her regalia. She would have her best antique jewelry on with her starched regalia. Saturday baseball or softball and race track games,

mostly organized by my Tio Vising were another source of definite excitement. One Sunday afternoon, a truck and a car that came close to the roadside of Lolo and Lola’s house stirred the neighborhood. The truck was full of household stuff. There

were beds, cabinets and so on. From the car came out a statuesque woman, tall but rather gaudy in her extremely red, tight-fitting shiny dress. The driver was faceless as he came

out to open the door for another woman to come out. This was an elderly woman and as she fully stood up, she revealed a

slightly defective half of her body, perhaps an aftermath of a stroke. She was still beautiful, still statuesque too even though she was shorter than the other quite young woman in red. The village neighborhood practically came out altogether, women with their hands holding a stick broom or something else. The men did not linger as they had the decency to obey

the curt words of dismissal from Lolo. Lolo himself had a good look and then sat down with Lola in their living room, to enjoy a smoke. After the truck was emptied and the contents had all gone inside the house across the road from Lolo and Lola, the

woman in red came over to me. I was standing apart from the neighborhood women. The woman in red asked me, “Is there a general merchandise store nearby?�

I said, “Yes.” “Where would that store be? “ She asked. “Right here where my Lolo and Lola live.” I said calmly looking at her really green-lined eyes. Without so much as a word of thanks, the woman in red

walked away and into the house across the road from us.

Towards twilight time, it was around 5:30 P.M., the older

woman came out and spoke from her house’s threshold directly to my Lola who was tending to her two goats. The new neighbor woman said, “I need two bags of tea. Come over and get the money.” She ordered my Lola to go over to her at her door. Lola said, “Hi. Oh yes, the store is around this side and you’re welcome to visit anytime we’re open. We don’t close till around six.”

The woman looked stricken and insulted, then said, “Well, how about getting those two bags of tea to me now?” Lola said succinctly, “I’m sorry but our teabags don’t have legs. They can’t walk over even though the distance is quite short between our houses. We don’t deliver goods and especially to people with good walking legs.” As if on cue, Lolo came out, asked. “How can we help you, “Ma’am?” “I need two bags of tea and here’s the money.” Lolo looked knowingly at Lola but asked her anyway, “Honey, do we have tea in the store?” Lola said, again succinctly for the woman to hear, but with coy eyes looking at Lolo,

“Oh yes, we still have tea in bags but we don’t have the kind that would walk over to houses of customers. We only have the kind that does not have legs.”

LOLA MARIA’S KITCHEN ACUMEN The kitchen was Lola Maria’s little kingdom,

Her acumen was unequaled in Piapi, where she came from She cooked without watching what she was cooking Perhaps she just commanded the fire to keep going. Lola Maria never ever really cooked. She was hardly staying in the kitchen for more than the necessary time to get

the fire going and then she would leave the kitchen, leaving the cooking to the things she was cooking. I am not kidding but because this might sound non-convincing, let me explain a bit. Let’s say Lola needed to cook rice but that she also had some laundry to do. First, Lola would prepare the rice, cleaning it of stray unpolished grains. She was always quick

about this. Then she would measure the water added into the rice in the pot. She would do this by using her hand placed vertically into the water line, letting her middle finger touch the surface of the rice and having the water touch the mid-

section double line of her middle finger. She would then settle the pot onto the clay stove. Lola would gather four to five

medium size coconut husks that still had the hard shells in them. She would scaffold the coconut husks in such a way that fire would eat them up from their bottoms going upwards.

Then Lola would put dried coconut leaves in the middle section of the coconut husks scaffold. The leaves needed to be bound in such a way that the burning would be slow. If the burning

was going too fast, the knot would release the leaves abruptly and could cause the fire to die. After Lola stood for about two minutes in front of her fire scaffold , making sure the fire was burning just right, she would then tell me to sit and watch the set up but not to touch it. She had to go out to the public faucets to wash clothes, she would simply say. She said just to sit and not touch the fire. Lola Maria said, “Just sit and watch.” Lola’s bidding I would do while taking note of such things as: 1. The pot was slightly ajar.

2. The fire was burning slowly and then vigorously going up the vertical scaffold of coconut husks.

3. The water did not boil over the pot’s rim. 4. The water dried up as the fire burnt down. Lola would come back from her laundry chore just as the embers were slowly dying out. I did not touch anything as directed and she would say that I was a very good girl, obeying her orders to just sit and watch. I did not know that I was learning how to cook rice in the process of not doing a thing while all these went on.

This way of cooking rice is creative, efficient and free from stress. It’s like having a rice cooker although in a messy way. One mid-morning, I asked Lola as bravely as I could if she would let me cook rice for lunch. She said, “Why not?! Let’s see whether you’ve learned your lessons well.”

I succeeded in cooking rice properly after a few tries. Lolo and Lola were very patient in eating however the

results were from the trials. Eventually, I cooked rice well but never have I ever learned properly how to do the scaffold-leave-it-to-cook-itself way. These days that we

use the electric rice cooker a lot, Lola’s version of the rice cooker was not too bad even back then.

IRON! COME HOME NOW! The tea bag story was a classic in the neighborhood. But there’s one story that no one should ever miss, brief it may be. It gives a staccato lesson about life that could be funny yet so real.

Believe it, there was only one clothes iron in the whole neighborhood. At least for a very very long time. Lola owned such a well-oiled and waxed iron. It was an extremely busy

iron. It was usually passed on from one household to the next, more often on the weekends. Lola’s rule was to pass the iron on only with her knowledge so that when she needed it, she could send me or a cousin of mine to fetch it from the most recent borrower. One day, Lola’s rule was broken. Whenever Lola’s rule was broken, for whichever item it was for, an unwritten rule became imposed. The one who broke the rule would lose borrowing privileges.

Lola went to visit the last household she knew that borrowed the clothes iron. She was totally aghast and insulted. The iron was not there. The homeowners did not know who borrowed next or forgot who did. No one in the household either would admit as to who passed on the iron. Lola’s day was about to be ruined but not only for her. It was Saturday morning and before Lolo would come home, she decided to call the clothes iron home. Lola positioned herself in the middle of the village and yelled, “Clothes iron of Maria Pinero Trasmonte, come home now. I need you to come home by yourself!” Of course what Lola wanted to happen was not even about to happen. A clothes iron has no legs either. But Lola’s technique was the most effective of low communication

technology. One more yell and a sweating woman came down hopping from her house’s bamboo staircase, clothes iron in

hand. She bowed to Lola apologetically explaining why the iron was still hot. Lola said, “Don’t worry. It’s good to use the iron while it’s hot. I do hope you remember what this means.” End of story for the illegitimate clothes-iron-borrower.

THE LORENZO His name was Lorenzo He was my good “Lolo” The village governor sans elections

People looked up to him for admonitions They were fearful of him His temper could be firm But it was really kind discipline. You will also need to read a few stories about my grandpa or Lolo Lorenzo. Lolo Insong, as everyone who knew him

dearly called him, was a very special person to me during my growing years. You see, Lolo stood true to what he believed in. He believed in love even for those who considered him an

enemy. He believed in justice and fairness and that was probably why he stood firm not only for himself but also for others’ rights when these were threatened.

KEEP IT CLEAN! Every time a homeless family or couple came to “Lolo” His protocol was cleanliness or mercy was no go, Homelessness was not enough license to gain Lolo’s kindness was a sure thing but then,

Only with cleanliness in surroundings, deeds and mane Did homeless people get to live in his domain. More so Lolo would say, “This is temporary

While you are looking for a job no matter the pay A decent one and without any foul play.” Lolo always said, “No foul play either on mercy.” Lolo Insong with Lola’s moral support was able to acquire a decent piece of land in a barrio called Piapi. Lola also

inherited a good portion from her family that used to live in the area. Lolo and Lola established a village there in time. In time, I sat, because impoverished or very needy people just

came and somehow got to live in the village. I should rather say that as they came to establish themselves there, they in effect helped create the village. It was amazing that about 98% of the time that this type of people came to ask for help, Lolo

knew exactly whether to accept them or not into his village. Does it now sound like my Lolo was some kind of sultan or chief?

Well, the village people actually hailed him like such. He

was hailed by everyone in the village as its governor. Here’s how the village evolved.

My Lolo Insong accepted homeless people based on his will to help the poor and needy. His faith in the Lord was so strong that he believed that he was his brothers and sisters’

keeper. There was no question about the foundation of this belief. It had to be the Holy Scriptures. When I really came to understand things better at age four as to be really aware of important events around me, my Lolo Insong accepted a

family into the village fold. There were several others before and after this one but this family would be a good example of affiliation into the Lorenzo village, a subdivision of

impoverished personas. Their true identities are not named in this chat for privacy purposes.

Pablo and Genia together with their two young children, Gina and Brad, and another relative named Alfonso; came

with a few personal belongings, mostly clothes and household wares only. One major appliance that I noticed that came along was a sewing machine. Genia was a seamstress. Pablo did not have a job as yet but soon got one as a driver of a

government outfit. Lolo practically adopted the family as he was taken by the nice disposition of the couple Pablo and Genia. Their two children soon became part of my friendship circle.

Lolo Insong’s adoption of the family of Pablo and Genia

was the best arrangement I’ve seen in my growing years. Lolo rented out the whole second floor [about 300 square meters of living space] of his house to this family for five [5] pesos per

month. At the time of the adoption, this money could buy one very good meal, which meant that for one very good meal complete with viand, rice and a drink of water, this family was able to make both ends meet because rent was virtually free.

The kids Gina and Brad were bright kids and shone in their school performances. Their scholarships helped the family out, of course.

I watched how this particular family blossomed into a

confident part of Lorenzo Village. Lolo’s discipline for dignity and success was bannered well by this family. I also watched how the attitudes of the kids changed in their growing years

until adulthood. Their road to success was definitely indebted to Lolo’s kindness. My whole family practically participated in one way or another to help the village people out. This family was no exception. One can only hope to these living days that Lolo’s kindnesses and that of his own family are

acknowledged even if secretly in the hearts of these Lorenzo’s Poor Village people. The descriptive word “Poor” has been

added in here because nowadays, the term “Village” could mean a plushy subdivision in same area or nearby. Lolo’s brand of discipline was unique. Lolo employed the following adoption steps: 1. Interview the people applying for living space in the village. 2. Ask the prospective adoptees to explain how they understand the village life rule: LIVE CLEAN.

3. Grant a trial period of one month if explanation of the LIVE CLEAN philosophy passes the test. Lolo never asked his village people to sign any documents. The people’s respect was enough show of their responsibilities

towards Lolo and Lola. What happened when applicants did not pass the trial period? They were usually given a grace period. Except for the family that got accommodated on the second floor of Lolo’s residence, the rest of the village people were

almost rent-free. They simply had to build their own huts and keep the surroundings clean. Growing up watching Lolo and Lola’s lifestyle gave me my first valuable lessons in life. Since I spent most of my waking and sleeping hours with them than anyone else in my family circle, I took a lot of things for granted. I took it for granted since my growing years that there are many neat ways of expressing charity and love.

Thanks to Lolo and Lola Many a family got to rise From lonely dire straits

Better lives at the lowest price At the freedom gates to stay wise.

MY MAMA TINA What is the most proper manner to start this chat about Mama Tina? I do not know exactly but let me try. Mama Tina was a single parent when I came to at a very young age. I remember her making days out of seemingly short nights in order to make both ends meet. I would like to dwell in the happier portions of her difficult life. Her life needs to be celebrated by this chat as she already had more often than not, sad plights in her living days. Mama Tina’s spunk for life was legendary in our neighborhood. She had the combined courage of both Lolo and Lola. Her sense of humor was quite fun to mingle with. I

knew though when not to go near her. Mama was always a multitasking person. She would be cleaning the house while cooking while minding the store while two more things are progressively also being accomplished.

MAMA TINA’S SPUNK FOR LIFE As a single parent determined to provide good meals for

her children, I realized early not to get too close to Mama when she was busy in the kitchen. Mama would NEVER allow me in the kitchen. She always reminded me how dangerous the kitchen was then. There were huge cauldrons of food and it seemed that the fires were always on. Cooking was endless. Mama cooked two viands that were mainstays in the

carenderia [fastfood shop] and NEVER RAN OUT OF HUMBA/PAKSIW AND INUN-UNAN.

HUMBA/PAKSIW is a kind of pork stew. No vegetables are mixed with the meat. Only spices which included garlic, soy sauce, red sugar, bay leaf, onion bulbs, and salt to taste. With no refrigerator for storage, the mixture kept well without vegetables in it.

If we wanted veges [which I really did not]

Mama would simply take out a few chunks of meat, drop them into a deep pan and then mix in the greens. INUN-UNAN is pickled fish. In Tagalog it is also called paksiw, which is the same name for HUMBA except

that the base is fish. This version of the dish used only salt, vinegar, and garlic. This way the dish kept well until sold out. Both the humba/paksiw and the inun-unan were popular mainstays. Other dishes were cooked in less bulk for selling each day. Mama had a different menu everyday but she always had humba and inun-unan. Pork and fish, fish and pork I grew up knowing the fork Would never be at work Without fish and pork!

BEAUTIFUL AND FAST Mama Tina was an excellent fast worker. She walked fast, worked fast, talked fast, and she made decisions fast. Well, for the latter, most times except for one thing.

I remember the night that I woke up to the sound of

stifled sobbing. Mama Tina was crying quietly. I feigned a six-year-old deep-sleep-sigh. The crying stopped but I knew Mama was still crying, inside her heart. Mama was lonely. The next night I did not turn in early. Early would mean around 9:30 P.M. I tried my best to entertain myself

when my head started nodding in agreement to the invitation of sleep. Somehow I succeeded and got to participate in helping Mama close the store for the night. I believe I was allowed by God that night to add more mentally mature years into my being. I was scared to death with the plan I was about to implement that night.

Mama said to go to bed as it was late. She said she still had a dress to finish for a lady in a hurry who’d be collecting the item early the next day. She showed me the dress in

progress and I said it was very pretty. I asked if I could sit with her for a while and she said it was alright but only for a bit.

She said I would stop growing well at six years of age and would easily remain a five-footer like her if I did not sleep at

9:30 P.M. Her voice was growing firmer by the second and so I summoned all my courage to go ahead with the plan. I said, “Mama, why don’t you get married again?” “What?” Mama was shocked, obviously. She stopped working. “You’re beautiful and I think you’re younger than Lolo

and Lola.” I was quite sure of my way of referring to the age differences.

Mama froze from working on the urgent dress. “Who taught you to say these things?” “No one Mama except the pictures on our walls.” I pointed at some family photos on the wall paper that were

actually old magazines and newspapers. These reuse items were glued onto the bamboo slats to cover the holes in between the bamboo weave. “You don’t need to tell me to do any of that sort of thing. I already got married once and it did not work.” Mama was sounding impatient. I thought that planting the idea was enough for the night.

Mama’s second marriage became my pet project until she

did get married to a former sweetheart. Papa Eneg joined our household with the warmest welcome from me. I somehow knew that life would be a bit easier for my Mama Tina.

TINA’S STORE The first store was sitting in front of a huge sugar cane plantation. This plantation was part of the hacienda that Lolo Insong managed for a rich Chinese family in the

municipality. The store was about three [3] square meters. Inside this space was a sleeping corner also made of bamboo. We slept and ate in the sleeping corner. A small ledge was

situated by the lone window on which a few jars of biscuits and bottled soft drinks sat. There was a hot water thermos seated on one end of the ledge together with a few tin cups. Outside

but close to the door of the store hut was a huge clay jar that contained the coconut juice drink. The latter was called “tuba” in the area’s dialect. Let me re-title this storylet to go and visit some long years ago.

THE BAMBOO SLAT HUT It was a nap that I woke up from. The mat was cool. The bed was hard and bumpy but then I could have not known these adjectives at almost four years of age, yet maybe I did as I do remember the feeling.

Waking up quietly started as an early-learned habit. Mama was always up early. She was always doing several

things at the same time: giving finishing touches to her sewing from last night, cooking or heating up the humba/paksiw and inun-unan and so on and so forth. I slid down the bamboo slat bed carrying part of the mat down in the maneuver. Finding my own way down to the

ground was not a quick study. But the bed being attached on each end to the walls was greatly engineered for a two-year old whose mother was too busy to come pick up a grown baby from a good nap.

My bare feet reached the ground finally, as I slid down

the side of the bed that met the wall. Then that’s when I came

to realize about a few things that never entered my young mind before. I stood on hard-packed dirt. It was cool. It was not too bumpy. It was bare ground that met my feet.

There was no way, as yet, that I’d see other people’s homes

to contrast or compare their floor or ground to/with mine. But what I felt underneath my bare feet felt good. It was my floor. Not too far away from the bed, two hen’s nests hanged on

the wall on one side of the hut. The hens did not bother me

and I would never bother them. Except one time when I was around five… But let me go on with the bamboo slat hut and the life in there.

The sun was going down by the shadows that fell all

around. I pattered around the small space, always careful not to be in my Mama’s way as she entertained her store customers. At this time [which I would find out a little later on would be around 4:00 to 5:00 P.M.] customers from the

nearby hospital would flock around our little store for their endless demands for coffee, tea, sweets, candles, bread, hot water

and some that even wanted a jug or a glass of the coconut wine which my Mama also sold in the store. That afternoon, Toottie [pronounced Too Tee] was there again. Toottie would ask for a small glass of coconut wine.

Sometimes he really would just ask for free because he wouldn’t have any money. Whether he’s paying or not, he’d stay till around 8:00 P.M. which is really late for me. Maybe it wasn’t late for my Mama.

Toottie was always quiet. He almost never talked.

Whenever he was forced to, he would struggle to finish a word. He suffered an extremely bad stutter. He would give everyone around him a good laugh whenever he said something. I did

not understand the joke then but looking back, I could see, feel and taste the joke. But there must have also been some pain. I wonder now, did Toottie feel any pain when people laughed at him or did he enjoy it? Did he celebrate himself when he made people laugh? Was it the reason why he kept coming back to

beg for a free drink so he could be part of a crowd, a crowd that accepted him with laughter. Did he come to our store because

it was the only place where he was accepted as he was? But these questions must have come a little later on then. Toottie’s stutter was a challenge on the reverse. As I learned more and more speech vocabulary, I said them as

clearly as possible even if hard for me. In this manner, Toottie was a blessing because he promoted, somehow, the opposite of his handicap. At least to me. It was not within my curious mind to ask as yet why Toottie had to sit for hours and hours for a small glass of coconut wine. If it was for free, he could have gulped it down and ask for more or go home thereafter. A small glass of

coconut wine was 150 milliliter [ml.] when for free, that was for Toottie. A paid glass was a full 200 ml. Now I wonder if

Toottie sat for hours to sip less than 200 ml. glass of coconut wine because he wanted to be with people. It must have been a socialization treat for him. No one was interested in him as a person; to the rest in the area he was a failure and a stutter.

Toottie would tilt his small glass of coconut wine as if he was gulping a lot but when he’d put down the glass, the level of

colored liquid stayed about the same. Toottie tilted the glass so

much that the liquid would touch his nostrils already inside the glass. Sometimes the people who’d be around for the drink

or items from the store, would cheer for him to finish the wine. But then their wallops of cheer would die down with a long “ohhhhhhhh” as Toottie would put down the glass of

undiminished wine. After the long “ohhhhhhhh” would die down, Toottie would smile at everyone around. Those smiles I could not figure out. Now I think that with those smiles, he communicated his successes. He succeeded in making everyone think that he would finish his wine. With his smiles of

triumph, he did not have to talk. When he smiled, he did not have to stutter. That was actually quite a cool way of socializing for Toottie.

DASHINGLY HANDSOME UNCLE VICENTE THE KING One time my Uncle Vicente came. It was around 5:00 P.M. Immediately my Mama offered my Uncle V a 400-ml. glass of coconut wine. His measurement was special even

though it was in the house [hut]. Toottie would truly finish his wine when Uncle V was around. Toottie loved-hated my Uncle V because the latter would urge him firmly to finish his

wine and then give him free refills. On these occasions, Toottie would get a fair share of free wine, compliments from Uncle V. Toottie would get drunk on the third glass and would be forced to go home, just as Uncle V wanted. I was never sure why

Toottie caused my Uncle V’s ire. Perhaps, it was his speech struggles that stressed out Uncle V. After Toottie’s departure,

Uncle V would stay on until Mama got ready to close the store for the day. Uncle V would serve as Mama’s security guard. The thick sugar cane plantation behind the small store hut

offered a safe haven for occasional bad elements in the area, like burglars. Safety was not too often endangered but the danger was on the occurrences’ unpredictability.

There were occasions when Toottie would notice Uncle V

approaching the store from a distance. Toottie would tilt his glass so much until his nostrils would be inside the glass but

this time would drain the liquid. Then he would bow to Uncle V, whether the latter is looking or not, then he’d go quickly. Toottie was either too shy to socialize with Uncle V or too afraid of him. Same thing, I guess. When Uncle V was around, those who came for the coconut wine did not pester Mama, not that anyone ever tried hard to succeed. What I mean is that these customers would

not try to get a free refill when Uncle V was around and that they did not tease Mama for free viands. It meant big trouble when something like any of these begs happened. Mama would serve glasses after glasses and the wine supply for the day

would go quickly, more quickly when Uncle V was around because the drinkers went home right after their fills. In the neighborhood or village called Piapi, uncle Vicente was treated like a king. For me he was a king alright. I would know in later years why he was treated as a king. Just as my

late Grandpa Lorenzo [Lolo Insong] was a king too – in the same village.

AIR TOSSES Before even taking a sip of the coconut wine, Uncle V came in the hut asking, “Where’s little Aling?” Uncle V found me pattering about the small space, looking at my feet as they made contact with the hard-packed

floor. The floor was ground itself. It was hard-packed dirt. I was very proud of this discovery. “Inday Aling, come to Uncle.” Uncle V was summoning me over to him in the special voice that I believed he used only for me. Knowing he could cover the distance between us in one single stride, I stayed on my spot. Instead, I pointed at the

ground and then explained in my three-year old vocabulary the fact that I just discovered. I said, “Salog yuta. Tio, salog yuta.” [“In English: Floor is soil. Uncle, floor is soil.” Soil means the same as dirt.]

Uncle V stopped where he was and started looking worried. I must have sort of known how he looked when

worried with his thick eyebrows closing in on each other. But Uncle V smiled quickly and then picked me up. His routine was to toss me up into the air at least 3x before carrying me around in one arm and drinking his tall glass of coconut wine in the other. I tried to tell him again about our ground being our floor but he would look worried

every time. So I stopped calling his attention to my discovery and instead played with the pockets of his shirt. I played pretend magic, finding treasures in his pockets that were visible only to us. He would widen his eyes in awe at the invisible

treasures I took out to show to him. Then I would put all the treasures back in for safekeeping. He said he would bring them again another day so we could play with them again. He

settled me down on the ground/floor. He went out of the hut, talked with Mama for a while and then hopped lithely on his bicycle, perhaps to go back to Piapi where he had his own

house. Some years later on, I came to know that Uncle V also had a house once with the ground soil as his floor.

EGGDROPS The hen nests above my head on the bamboo slat bed became part of my fast track education. The nests grew into three baskets in no time. The hens knew me well and did not bother me. I did not bother them. They would make quiet purr-like noises at night and I took it as their way of conversation. My mother was the only person in the house who could put her hands into the nests with the hens uncomplaining. Her hands would come out cupping an egg or two. I wondered

how her hands could do this too besides all the other things she could do. The eggs would still be warm, as my mother washed them in the makeshift sink. The extra water would be shaken off the eggs. Then she’d set the eggs aside on the bamboo sink slats. She’d put some steaming rice on two plates and then she’d break an egg on top of each plate of rice. Part of the egg coagulated, the white part would make the rice sticky. This

was the breakfast formula. I did not know whether this was

healthy or not, but there were no other points of comparison or contrast. When salt was sprayed on the mixture, I’d be able to eat some. I came to like the rice with the yolk part. I think this was how I developed a liking to soft-boiled eggs.

READING THE WALLS Lying down on the bamboo slat bed one hot lazy afternoon, I couldn’t go to sleep even though my mother’s hawk eyes were constantly darting back and forth. She would check

on me every five minutes and after coming up with a counting system, I got the rhythm. In between five minutes, I looked at our walls to discover more of what they had. Our walls were also made of bamboo slats. However, many of the slats were

covered with the same material my mother wrapped store items in. They had things on them some of which were colored. It was a wonder what they were. It took me almost a month [I think I mean a long long time] to figure out just what the

things on the paper were. The pictures made the figuring out easier. And this must have been how I started to read. One afternoon that I was trying to kick out a fever, I sat

on the bamboo slat bed where the walls met it to make a 900 nook. I sat back inclined and started forming words in my

mind, as the words on the walls seemed to make sounds because of the pictures. This was how I started to read, by reading our papered walls.

It was in that afternoon that I learned the word garden

and the letter sounds that went into the word’s sound. It was fantastic. All I had to do was look for more words that had the letters in garden and started experimenting. I read ‘g’

whenever I could find it in another word, so with the other letters. Whenever a picture accompanied the words, the task became more interesting. Reading the easy words was less frustrating. I found some really short words that contained the letters of the word ‘garden’. For example, I found ‘and’, ‘near’, ‘rag’ and ‘den’. I

did not know the meaning of den but it was a good word to say because it was easy. So I talked with the walls. I came to like walking on the slat bed a lot because I could read the walls. There were so many words to read. I was starting to feel bored with just the letters to read in most of them because I could not read other words except ‘garden’!

One sunny afternoon, it was great to be caught by my Uncle V while walking on the bamboo slat bed, experimenting

on the words, pointing at letters that were in the word ‘garden’. By this time, I wanted to mark the letters as I found them but I had no tool to do this. Uncle V stood on the soil floor close to where I stood on the bed. Then he taught me how to read the word ‘home’ by

pointing at a house with a family of four beside it. He circled his pointing finger around the whole picture, house and family. Uncle V said, “ho—umm.” I said, “ho—umm-eh.” “No”, Uncle V said, “Don’t say the ‘eh’. Just say h “Ho—umm.” “Ho—umm.” So I followed as he said the word. After learning the word ‘home’, I gained momentum. I

gained three more letters to hunt for among the words on the

walls. But there were too many other sounds that I wanted very much to learn. The sound of ‘s’ did not come until one evening that I decided to stay up later than usual. Since Mama was

particularly busy that night, she did not notice the lateness. ‘S’ came then. I asked Mama Tina what the name was of someone who did sewing of clothes like she did. Mama Tina taught me two words, seamstress and tailor. From then on I

was able to put one sound and another together. There were so many new sounds. Every time a new sound registered, I would go back to the walls and look for words there that would resemble the sound.

The walls became my best friends. The way they talked

to me was better than my [one and only] sister. They jumped out their words to me sometimes by surprise. They had long and short speeches and some of them were funny.

HAND-WASHING METHODOLOGY My mother was washing her hands in her small kitchen sink. She called me over so I could have my hands washed. The methodology of washing hands was something that I

couldn’t be trusted with – as yet. Besides, the water supply had to be rationed carefully as it had to be gathered from a neighbor’s pump one-third of a kilometer away [I thought it was not too near nor too far]. So that’s why my mother did not trust me as yet to wash my own hands.

First, a very small sprinkle of water was made on my

hands. Then the laundry soap cake was rubbed all over my hands. The rubbing stopped as soon as the bubbles developed. Then, I’d be told to rub my hands together, crossing my

fingers while rubbing. Then my mother would slowly pour water as I continued to rub. The water dipper was a reuse brake fluid can with the mouth removed. The sides were

smoothened by continuous hitting with a strong rock until the sharpness of the cuts was gone. Two dippers had to be the maximum for washing small hands. Big hands could go

double the number of the small hands. Sometimes, when we got

to save rainwater and use this instead for washing, I would still feel the slippery sensation of the soap after the two dippers

had been poured. But I never complained. I knew how hard it was to fetch water. Fetching water was done at night after all the chores were finished. A wooden cart was filled with empty cans varying in capacity from one gallon up to five gallons. Pushing the cart full of empty cans made sounds like New Year’s Eve. Since the cart was still light at this point, pushing was easy. Pushing it

back to the house one third of a kilometer from the water source always took more than an hour because then, all cans would be full. Pushing got heavier by the minute. That’s why hand

washing had to be scientific. I learned how important water was from a very early age, firstly because it was hard to gather and secondly because without it was unheard of.

FISH CHIPS IN HOT WATER A variation from the egg drop menu was chipped fish in boiled water. This was how it was prepared. Ingredients: 2 cups of hot water 1 regular size fish [200 to 300 grams] cooked over charcoal 1 medium size tomato 1 leafy green onion 1 medium size onion bulb

a dash of powdered black pepper a teaspoon of sugar 2 tbsp. of vinegar salt to taste Procedure: In a bowl, put 2 cups of hot water. With clean hands, collect fish flesh and drop in the bowl of hot water. Slice

tomatoes and drop in the bowl. Break the leafy green onion

and drop in the bowl. Add vinegar, sugar and pepper. Add salt to taste. Note: A small red chili can be added for a spicy taste. This recipe was a biweekly treat. I would know when

payments have been made by those that got store items by credit because the chipped fish in boiled water would be served. When I finally learned how to read the calendar, I was able to mark the middle and the end of each month. Those were also the times that the egg drops became more delicious.


My agile spirit soars so high in spite

Of your quick subtleties and your silence’s might. My spirit soars I fly yonder so high Free to touch the vastness of all skies. My happiness is strong inside my earthly lair You cannot touch it from where you fare. The Lord sent me into this mundane spin With happiness my companion, partner, and tireless twin.

CATCH THE SPIRIT TO THE CORN BOYS KEEPERS Catch their spirits now! It’s been their longest flight, This near for a pocket draft anytime

When skies were blue to black then back Are watching wings wet with dew In spending moistures of plights

So more than sweat they’ve fallen That rains failed to curtain Their showers urgent, the time creaks Is now to go, so catch their spirits. Falling is easy before the drop, Exhilarating, like breathless laughter Anesthetic against the upward wind

Trembling as the second hand moved For the thousandth and one something Counting the frills of fading heights Go now, catch their spirits.


Your aging body calls earlier for the night Each night, it calls earlier each spring. Bones weathering in places, towards limping, Chilling winters as confused muscles hunt New grips to keep your upper length on cane. You swear it is too late when night is young, Darkening shadows are inside your spine Not out there where the seasons move Not holding the sun back as you’ve wished The day before the next dark.

Moaning ahead the onset of days, you wish Your eager self, reaching for the peaks yonder Summits of old ballads, then classic laughter You were young Bettina, bewitched by all Always for something, but mainly for nothing Just weathering on your cane.


In your vast waters Is life only you can breed. You define independence. In your vast waters

Are loads of patience, Carrying spills and messes. You define morality. In your atmosphere

You carry the timeline Of air and weather, You define care. In your lands, You bear the wounds. You try not to bleed.

You try to heal instead. You define generosity. Look at you, Earth,

You have so much to give.



Still there are many picking The forbidden fruits With rudeness wearing The guise of curiosity. They, if left alone To become, just to be. Like the last bone, brushed, Gently clicked into place To the jubilation of A commissioned crowd Dangling licenses To unravel uncomplaining graves For the skeletons, Thoughts and silences of time. The mysteries of space, Earth, water and fires Of calcified thoughts,

Feelings of unknown desires, Stories unwritten, Should they remain unspoken? There might be pain back there Or gladness then. So what? They belonged to A time of their own A place only for Their own laughter and moans. Still so many pick on The quieted paradise To seek for answers from way back there Looking into the mists, Way farther Into the cooled dusts of Old rushed meteorites. The mystery is that Mysteries stay unbidden Because they’re meant to be hidden Because the answers are here.


There must have been an offer Of immortality To your spirit of silence

When you chose to put on still life. In its length-less waves of comings, Goings, forgotten by the synapses. Of lightness and darkness

For every twelfth hour salute.

Silence sits, but not waiting Breathing inaudibly, never dying Browning pulp in dormant journeys Still, silent, still life.

WORLD KEEPING QUERIES How do you world-keep Lord? Do you assign a Monday for this continent, A Tuesday for the other and so on Until the nth continent matches the nth time? Do you schedule the winds to dust the mountains, Wake the trees at dawn, lull nocturnals to sleep before noon? Do you command the waters fast deliveries of nuts, Wanted by some squirrels wanting in winter in the woods? Do you order fire to cause-effect changes on lands That haven’t produced reports, your directions procrastinated Of homework from last year’s storms? Do you tell Earth to be still so you could Adjust its tilt to the proper Angle to fix revolutions in our solicitude? That as we cling to our preoccupations We wake suddenly in the oddest hour Remembering your admonitions Of long ago, true now for even more. I guess that either you say A word to stop or to start, or let out a sigh And all gets done, my Lord.


How should life be watched As it bids goodbye? Should it be asked, “Where are you going next?” Should it be bid,

“Come back and stay awhile.” Should it be silently waved away? Should one look away or look it in the eye

To ask why it came When it would still go

Anyway after a while?


Why should the body be willing To respond to the calls of dawn When they are simplistic preludes

To the sunlit conclusions of twilights?

Why should the mind feel the owes Of the heart to self-respect To the doings of hands to meet

The day’s schemes for somebody else’s Credits and delights?

Why does arrogance win over Humility encouraging inner pangs Of humiliations that keep homing To the divine for insights?

Why should the soul question And miss the answers

When as it sits to watch Its body, mind and heart It sits for the one who enlights?

The cities of heaven n celebs of solitude  

Heritage stories Copyright AFDLavina 2013

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you