Our Swampy Place

n  wilderness of our swamps everyday lies a secret nook  where me and my friends then use to perch  when hunting. A setback of an old fish pond. My  All Saints Day itineraries swayed from different scheduled time. Visiting that again after 25 years, a place to behold and still takes my breath away . Nonetheless I manage to throw in 2 hours and immerse my feet in that swampy pit,  I was mesmerized by the place, indeed looks like a  tiny Everglades.


I watched Leonilo for a couple of rack from a billiard pool nearby . Leonilo was one  of the buddies that frolic in that murky water and we used to play  jumping to and pro on a dilapidated sluice gate of that old fish pen. When his done with his game I told him, ” ‘ Want to reminisce the days when we’re setting trap on that rail bird and that pesky monitor lizard?”. I went back to my house to get my things.

I sling my DLSR again and took a telephoto and wide lens and put it on both side of my cargo pants’ knee pockets. . Oops I forgot to bring in my tripod, Forgetful now a days, I left it in the city.   Never mind, I will rely on clipping elbows and try to be still.We passed by an easement shared by shanties and Arieta’s pigpens and a small wood paths with thick spattered of rice husks(to hardened the soft soil) thru the swamp. This area belongs to continuous wayside area of  Calimpac and extended to Brgy Manlayo only cut off by the public road. It’s just one of the narrow paths among the many. We were hoping that’s the easiest way to get to  that meandering small labyrinth thru the swamp where we used to hang out  every weekend.

Pack 4 bottles of light beer and snacks Leonilo and I set to  a vantage point where we use to rest after setting the trap for tikling heron. This time no traps, because. I don’t know how to set it  anymore. The one who was expert with these was my friend Romano, he is now living and working in Japan. We missed him this time, readying my lens and setting my starting f-stop the sunny 16  to be ready. Open 2 bottles of light beer for  him and mine. We were thirsty for a long walk,  I started taking shots from our vantage point while my friend Leonilo keep on my instructions, “If you see egrets, monitor lizard , rail bird(tikling) and my favorite to bird-watch the kingfisher, once you locate it and I will take a shot”Komprende?. Continue reading

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Ang Pintor na si Mang Mundo

ekada 80, di ko yata mabilang kung ilang supot na ng pandesal ang paro’t parito kung umaga sa pundahan at bakery ni Kakang Mundo Manalo. Di ko pa abot ang mas mataas na barandilya ay pinipilit ko na lamang noon na lakasan ang boses upang marinig ng ilang tindera na sa alala koy salitan ang kaniyang mga anak, manugang at apo. Kapagdaka ay lingunan lahat ang bumibili habang tutungong nangingiti akong papansinin sa pagsigaw ko ng… “Pabiling Pandesal Php 5.00 tsaka 1/4 na mantikilya” at minsan ay may pahabol pang “Tustado daw po!!”. Minsan ay hubo at amusin, suot ang tsinelas pag hindi “kabil-an” ay nuknukan ng laki na halos pumaltik lahat ang putik sa batok ko kaka lakad.

Mayon Volcano picture edited in photoshop with brush stroke filters.

Ilan pang mga taon ay subaybay ko ang pagliit ng pandesal sa pagmahal ng bilihin. Meron linggong araw na ako’y huling bibili ng pandesal at di ko na kailangang tumingkayad at sumigaw , sapagkat ako lamang ang mamimili. Natutuwa ako pag linggo minsan ay bukas ang pinto nilang panloob tanaw ang living room at kusina nilang ang daming paskil na pinta ilang dibuho na kamangha mangha tila litrato na sa detalye. Ilang naalala ko ay Mayon Volcano, Ilang kalalakihang nagsasaka, at babaeng may pasan pasang tila bilaong puro prutas at gulay. Nagkamalay na akong bata ay embalido na si Mang Mundo, naroong minsang uungol pag tinatawag si Inang Lucia na kanyang maybahay na ubod ng bait sa aming pamilya pero ilan ay nasusungitan nya. Galit siya sa mga batang maingay na minsan ay naglalaro ng “pase” , “lise” at “tatsing” sa harap ng pundahan tuwing walang pasok.

Pag-uwi koy naitanong ko tuloy sa aking ina ang tungkol sa matandang Mang Mundo. Pintor daw siya noon, nagupo lang maari ng kahirapan ng nagdaang panahon kaya di napagpatuloy ang kamangha manghang kakayahan. Fine Arts daw ang kurso kung gusto kong maging ganon. Di ko mapagkakaila na nagkahilig ako sa drawing dahil sa mga dibuho nya. Minsan ay wariy hulog ng swerte ay nakapasok ako sa balkonahe nilang habang nanonood ng “Kaluskos Musmos“, Oo parang Going Bulilit ngayon. Kahit na hilig ko ang palabas sa TV na black ang white ay sa paintings ako nakatingin. Marami pala, hindi lang ang aking natatanaw mula sa tindahan. Hayun hangang sa “masahan” ng tinapay ay meron. Medyo may kalayuan ang masahan mula sa aking kinauupuan di ko mawari ang mga dibuho.

Nang sumunod na araw ay nakatanghod ako sa masahan malapit sa rolling pin na de motor. Nakadukhaw sa rehas na pinto tanaw ko ang paggawa ng mamon at ensaymada kakatwa kay liliit malayo sa laki ng kinakain ko sa tuwing recess na mamon. Tubong lugaw pala ang panaderya ikako. Hindi na kailangan ni Mang Mundo magpinta. Di ko na maalala ang mga dibuho nakasabit na agiwin na sa mga “banhay” ng bubungan ng masahang yaon. Kapag daka ay babalik ako sa aming bahay at mistulang iniisip paano magpinta, naroong kupitin ko ang “water color” ng aking kapatid. Lumaon pa’y tila nakita ko na kung saan nagmula ang ilang hilig at galing sa “arts” ng kanyang mga apo, mana mana pala iyon. Sina Eloisa, Emelda at Ilang pang di ko maalalang mga kaanak nya na laging naka “exhibit” sa school ang mga dibuho.

Ngayon, pag ginagamit ko ang “Adobe Photoshop”, “Illustrator”, at Corel Draw, wala akong maalalang araw na di nasagi sakin ang pagkamulat ko sa art na tulad nito. Maari kung naabutan ni Mang Mundo ay malamang mag excel din dito. Panahon ay lumipas, ang ilan ay naiwan sa isip ko, minsan sa pagtanda ay kasama ng makakalimutin, buti may “blogging” sa gayon ay di ko malibanan ang pagkasagi sa isip ko ni Mang Mundo ay isikhay agad sa “draft” ko at kung may mabubuong libreng araw ay malimbag ko sa “blog” na ito.

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A Maid’s Wit Saved That Day

Uncommon valor , stories of valiant Filipinos and their unwavering love to help others are always stories “to tell” of post World War II era. Manlayo and other side of Guinayangan when days were slow and old folks mingled with much younger people, there will be no other topic but the World War II.  A nub of stories to tell must never been heard , if I sensed spinning-yarn, young people like me then became a start-off to flee away from a dreary tale . Some war survival stories told had transcended to present day, but some are left to few family circles worn out by the time of their generations and some wanted it to share, so others could hear it before time flies. Like the Tolentino clan’s evasions from captivity and death during the several Japanese military liquidation of some places like Guinayangan. This story was a part of Mr. Jim Tolentino’s memoir. A miracle saved Tolentino family when this event happened –NCenizal

fter their escaped from the Japanese sentry in Tagkawayan Quezon, in summer of 1944, the whole family stayed in a small house about 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) from the town of Guinayangan, in a watershed place called Maulawin. Due to unsettling conditions of Japanese presence, they opted not to return to their house in town, in fear of they may be found out that they were back in their place considering their family were politically known to whole town. That day, there was a rumor from the townsfolk that the Japanese soldiers had abandoned the town and only scout for reconnaissance to check presence of guerrilla groups where his father and much older brothers belonged.

This little wooden house sat on edge of the woods but reachable from the town by foot trails. The house backed on the bank of a brook. Its stream is deep enough and safe for youngs to immerse. Jim, Max(his younger brother) and Gus( his older brother) swims there butt-naked every day for hours and play “catch” until their mother would yell to get them out when she notice their paled lips due to prolong immersion in cold water.

shared from flickr Photography by Amit P. Rameshwar Singh

The river and their place is a watershed for the reservoir that supplies the whole town. It was rich in tropical vegetations including wild pineapples and bananas. The pineapple bears fruit year round and they would look for vine-ripped fruit from the river banks. Upon handpicking a yellowish one, they would split a pineapple in half by smashing it on a nearby coconut tree. Once it was busted in half, they graze on this ripe fruit and enjoy their short-lived feasting in such hideout. Across the riverbank, opposite their house is a hill with its brow are high enough to obscure the presence of their house from a foot trail that leads to the main road where you could reach town. Most of the time their helper used the hillside across to do their necessity calls, where they look for a fallen tree or a clearing behind a coconut tree, where they squat behind it to defecate on the small clear spot they could find. They wipe themselves afterwards with leaves from a “Sambong” (Blumea balsamifera) a kind of flowering plant. Locals, sometimes use it as diuretics. Sambong has wider leaves, more than enough to cover the buttock and firm enough to serve as toilet wipes. Morning dew soften them and moisten it surface that makes them best for this necessity.

A morning of May 1944, several gun fires woke up the whole family.The staccato of rifle’s gunfire happened about 5:00AM and was soon followed by more distinct single shots. The sound of rifle was just barely audible because of the distance of their house to nearby town and most were fainted by high trees acting as sound barrier. They immediately huddled together in the main room, flustered by the commotion . It was early dawn and the house was still dark. “Get up”. “Everybody up”, Murmured one of the older maids who came silently running into the house, panting, but was able to whisper the dreaded word, “Japanese”, with trembling voice. These words sent fears to all of them, gathered together in the center of the dwelling. This adds more fear to them, augmented from already terrified feelings. A minute past in quietness . Shuddered by fear, they were sitting on bed mats, strewn all over the wooden floor in the middle of the house. Jim saw everyone’s eyes were scanning the room and seemed awake but no sound of utterance from the huddle. He heard everyone’s heart pounding and throbbing ,the stillness after the announcement seemed to be an eternity. His older brother and his father then scout each side of the house glides in tiptoed as they peek in each window sill they could reach. The reassuring that there was no presence of Japanese soldier took longer. Then, his father signaled that house perimeter was clear.

When the sun rises, “Everybody up”, said his father. “Pack all our belongings and let’s go”. They hastily packed they burlap bags of belongings and without breakfast, the family stealthy ascended the steep mountain on foot and hiked to the inner bowel of the green jungle of Luzon’s southern Peninsula. It took them a day to walk through the muddy and hack their way their way back to newly found hideout. With their feeling of at least out from danger, a further conversation with the older maid who warned them of the impending danger to whom they owed their lives began to explain her vigorous story how she reached their house to say the reason of their survival.

She was doing her morning necessity calls on the other side of the hill when a squad of Japanese soldiers came upon her. She was squatted on a clearing in the act of defecating. The soldiers were led by a Filipino collaborator “Makapili” looking for them. The collaborator asked the maid if she knows where was Tolentino’s house. Being quick witted, she pointed in the opposite direction she said …

“It’s where the foot trail was heading and this trail will lead you to the house”

She misled them that behind that hill , the path leads to their hideout is a jungle and inhabited. “If you are lying, we will come back and will behead you”, warned the Filipino traitor to the maid. The warning petrified the maid but stood her ground.

“Sir, the trail will take you to the Tolentino’s and you will catch them while sleeping if you go now”. If you will go a bit later and waste your time looking around in this desolate place, they will be up and you will lose your chance to capture them”.

With this convincing statement, the squad of Japanese soldiers proceeded in a huff to the other direction, away from the hill and the river bank where they can be found. Co-occurrence with such brief interrogation with their maid was the time when gunfires frighten their family and submit inside the house to huddle around. That gunfires took a lot of lives down in Poblacion, massacres were taking place. The moment the Japanese disappeared from the maid’s sight, she ran towards the grassy hill, into the field through the river bank, waded knee deep in the shallow part of the gushing stream, and came into the house and whispered to them the dreaded word, “Japanese”.

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