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Rural life in the Philippines (Part 2)

Rural life fascinates me although I would miss a different kind of fun and activities in the city.

I must quantify and qualify, though, that rural life for me is staying in the barrio—the rustic apart from the provincial town like Lopez in Quezon Province. Town isn’t too rural for me despite the geographical definitions although there are things and events in a town which indeed make up for a rural setting like a house surrounded by big trees and various types of shrubs and flowers; cooking delicacies such as suman (rice particularly sticky or ground banana of any sort or mashed cassava wrapped in banana leaves or other natural wrappers like tender and newly sprouted coconut leaves etc.); speaking native dialect; patches of land grown with grasses and other bushes etc.

Most towns in the Philippines, I notice, would want to approximate an urban landscape so that it could be qualified as progress but looking closely, it’s not all that. But that calls for another story.

That’s why I still consider Banabahin Ibaba Banabahin (from the word banaba—a kind of tree which from the botanical table would classify as Lagerstroemia speciosa, also known as Crape Myrtle) Ibaba (directional south) and Buenavista or Tigas (hard) the real image and physical reality of a rural place. The alternative name of Buenavista—Tigas—makes it amazingly rural as it sounds.

I am happy Banabahin Ibaba, which is now called Barangay Banabahin Ibaba, hasn’t at all changed its panorama although it’s quite sad that some parts are already burned out, bald hills because of erosion if not quarrying, dried rivers and streams and other environmental depletion.

I am happy convenience stores are not yet erected in the whole barrio although it’s just natural to put up a sari-sari store here and there for neighbor’s referrals. I certainly believe that in the near future—if its population increases and its buying market more than sustained a small-scale 24/7 store as Mini-Stop or 711—convenience stores would spring up especially along the major road where the barangay is officially situated.

Would it be a sign of progress?

Yes and no. 

And it merits another discourse in the near future.

Although there are some parts of the boondocks that houses are far and between, there are spots where houses are closely knitted if not congested.

In the 1960s, our house by the rice fields was seated alone and the next hut was one kilometer away.

I remember when I was on a weekend stay in the barrio and my parents were in the town for other concerns, I would play alone in the yard. There was a wooden swing which my grandpa built under the mango tree and I would sway it off my feet back and forth. Or I would attend to the vegetable patch of my grandma and just looked at the healthy eggplants and hovering young and big upo (gourds) in the trellis. It would fascinate me to see ripe cacao fruit which my grandmother would harvest. We would open up the cacao bean, took out each seed from its pod, lick on its white pulp without cutting or cracking it, leaving it intact, spitting it and spreading the seeds on a piece of cloth or bilao (a native rounded woven tray made of smoothened bamboo slits) to dry up for days for cocoa production.

What was amusing was our sewage system in the barrio at that time toilet porcelain bowls were not yet known to barrio folks or if there were already available they’re not affordable. Or they’re not used to sit on it except on a traditionally dug out in the soil with two slabs of coconut trees set apart parallel with each other enough to squat and release a call of nature. This improvised toilet was set few meters away from the house.

We just had to bring in coconut husks or leaves of the friendly variety to wipe off the disposal.

Until now, remote barrios—in Quezon Province at that—still don’t have toilet porcelain bowls except for a wide range of comfort rooms in the seaside or riverbanks or fields or valleys. 

I learned this when SFX Productions of former UP professor Joyce Cruz and the late TV man Perry Pimentel conducted a research project among country sides in the Philippines which still don’t have “proper” sewerage disposals. Many in the Bondoc Peninsula areas especially the idyllic ones of Quezon still lack the porcelain bowls. So, together with non-government organizations or NGOs and the USAID, many were built with porcelain bowls.

I don’t know if this is really progress or not. Let’s tackle it some other time.

What is indeed commendable about it is the idea of sanitation and hygiene to mitigate the spread of epidemics.

The other memorable experience I had with Banabahin Ibaba was the rise of flash floods during rainy seasons. Remember this was the 60s and climate change wasn’t a worldwide issue yet. Or perhaps the indiscriminate cutting of trees somewhere or land erosion of any cause was the source of the floods. 

One weekend night, I was caught by heavy rains and when I woke up and saw the rice fields across the house, they were covered with high waters. We called it dunlok (a flood in the fields). It was a huge sea in the middle of a forest.

What came after was the exciting fishing of various types of aqua stream inhabitants when the waters subsided like puyo (krobia, a genus of the cichlid fish, according to Google), hito (catfish), dalag (mudfish), gurami (which Google says is gouramis or gouramies which is a group of freshwater anabantiform fishes that comprise the family of Osphronemidae), igat (type of eel) etc.

It was like gold mining when I could catch a mudfish or the elusive eel.

It was God forbid wet season and planting rice was not yet time so it was a saving grace for the crops to sow and to bloom.       

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