Sunday, January 30, 2011

Concocting Beer-Brand Down the Jal-o

My cousins treated me yesterday to a strange mix they called Beer-Brand. Yes, Beer-Brand as in beer mixed in brandy and not Bear Brand Full Cream milk. The concoction was made of a couple of chilled bottle of San Miguel Beer Pilsen emptied on a pitcher with a long necked Emperador Brandy Light (about 750ml). The taste is passable especially if your tongue have just feasted on fresh oysters (talaba, taeaba) and steamed angel wings (diwal, diwae). The oyster is grown down the Jal-o but the angel wings are long gone when people started felling and destroying the mangroves. My cousins were just resourceful in having angel wings and oysters for bar chow (pulutan, sumsuman).

I seldom pay my parents' ancestral home a visit these days. I was prompted to trace my path there yesterday to pay my homage to my aunt who passed away at the age of 85 last January 25 in Hermosa, Bataan. Her remains was airlifted the other day and is set to be buried at the Calug-a Cemetery on Saturday, just about 13 kilometers from my place. Most of my cousins are based in Manila and Bataan but a few remained in Pinamunitan and Hulaton.

Historically speaking, Pinamunitan and Hulaton are parts of Balete. By 1888, Balete had an area of 15,525 hectares as reported in the Memoria dela Provincia de Capiz (May 9, 1888). There where 11 barrios, of which one named Rivera was being headed by my mother's grandparent, D. Mariano Perez as its Teniente around 1893. I'm not yet through going over the manuscript, Elecciones de Gobernadorcillos de Capiz, but initially, I discovered that the names of barrios in Balete by that time where not as they are today. For instance, Barrios Pulahan and Bulun-agan are now named Barangays Arcangel and Cortes while Barrio Tigbao and Barrio Sidman are presently named Barangay Aranas and Barangay Feliciano respectively. By initial analysis basing on the fact the heirs of Don Mariano Perez inherited a modest real property in Pinamunitan and Hulaton, I assume that they were once part of the Barrio Rivera that once existed as part of Balete around 1890's. Again, the manuscripts Memorias and Erecciones de Pueblos de Capiz, are rich with reports of boundary disputes during those times and even mentioned of some involving Balete and its neighboring pueblos like Batang and Banga. We could assume thus that in later part, Barrio Rivera was won by Batang or that it was reverted back to it when it preceded Balete in winning back its status as a municipality during the American period. That, however, needs to be verified.

Today, Balete has only a total land area of 11,760 hectares or almost 4,000 hectares short of its original territory when it was first established in 1804 by the Spanish Governador General. No one remembers Don Mariano Perez and his Barrio Rivera. My cousins are even without a memory to call their own of the rich heritage that was once prided by their forefathers. For sure, they still savor those fresh oysters down the Jal-o, but unlike their great grandparents, they are robbed of the possibility of harvesting those tasty angel wings to match their unique mixture of Beer-Brand. The Aklan Rivers Development Council made a profiling of the river some years ago. Up to now however, we are still in the dark as to what intervention they will be proposing to save our beloved Jal-o.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sketches in an Old Journal

My camera retires. And I don't have extra cash to buy me another. But I do have in my old journal some of my studies in pen and ink when I was still in the seminary. I suppose they would do to bring in variety into my blog. So I scanned some of them in my All-in-One HP Deskjet F4185 printer (which I just learned to be no longer available in the market) and edited their set up on Adobe Photoshop CS3. Of course, I learned the ropes through's tutorials and trainings for adobe photoshop.

Those sketches, I did while having a retreat at Villa Consuelo somewhere in Novaliches sometime in April of 1992. The retreat house was being ran by Augustinian Nuns (Order of St. Augustine) and our Retreat Master was the former Rector of the University of Sto. Tomas, the Rev. Fr. Norberto M. Castillo, OP, Ph.D.

One of the "mantra" (if that word is acceptable to my mentor) he gave us during the two-day retreat was this: A man who bears no hope has condemned himself as hopeless man. And a hopeless man is no man at all.

To him, the meaning of HOPE is not a luxury. It is the gift of seeing the unseeing. It is the resolve of loving the unlovable and the risk of believing the impossible. Through hope, we nurse the future by making it present.

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas and Thomasians are celebrating the quadricentennial foundation of UST as being the first university in Asia in grandiose way. I could not come. But in spirit and in truth, I break bread with my brethren.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Those Elusive Executive Orders of Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison

When I was researching about local history at the National Library of the Philippines and the Thomas Jefferson Cultural Center in Makati, I was particularly ferreting for those bundles of Executive Orders issued by then Gov. Gen. Francis Burton Harrison. That search led me to the National Historical Institute and the National Archives of the Philippines to no avail. It is a known fact that Balete was reverted back into a mere arabal of the newly created Municipality of New Washington in 1904 and was supposedly reestablished as a full municipality in 1920. Textual analyses will prove this assumption even without the support of documents factually stating the organization of my town. Nonetheless, I am intrigued of having a copy of such executive order to serve as reference point in coming up with executive proclamation marking the foundation of Balete as a municipality during the American period.

Now, all of a sudden, by just tinkering on my laptop and by just "goggling" about it on the web, I am presented with such materials, almost too great for me to apprehend:
  1. Annual Reports/United States. War Dept, Volume 3, 1920. Page 40 mentioned Balete, Capiz as one of those municipalities organized effective January 1, 1920. The Executive Order was signed by Gov. Gen. Harrison on December 31, 1919. By that time, the Philippines has 881 municipalities and 279 municipal districts. Sadly, this publication is not available in the Philippines.
  2. Annual Report of the United States Philippine Commission (1900-1916), Volume 6, 1906. Page 204 thereon states that the Jimeno (Altavas)-Balete-Banga road was not yet done and that the best means of transportation from Capiz to Calivo was by water through Lagatik
  3. Report of the Governor General of the Philippine Islands. 1931. Finally, it is reported in this documents that the Banga-Balete-Jimeno road is now complete. It is being regarded as a second class road approximately 60.9 kms and is now open to vehicular traffic.
  4. Curas de Almas, Volume 1, 2, 3 and 4 by Regalado Trota Jose. The UST Publishing House released it in 2008 as part of the 400 year anniversary of its foundation. It accounts the rich local history of the parishes in the archipelago during the Spanish period. Herein, it affirms that Fr. Diego Albao was parish priest of Balete from 1857-1860.
Indeed, our town is so rich with stories of the here and then, But somehow, we lack storytellers to leave the next generation with traces to follow. Why then not start your own blog to documents those events coming out every now and then?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Kind of Sunday Morning

This morning is unique on its own: a cloudless bright blue sky, silent surroundings and a ceremony of black birds busy on the yellow berries growing beside the spring. On my own, I went about inspecting the orchard and notice a couple of overripe magnolia jackfruit rotting underneath their respective trunks. I took them one after the other as presents to Maurine and Presidia, my wife's pet swine. They were so excited gobbling them that they failed to thank me for my kindness.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Conjectures of a Restless Researcher

Consider it a revolutionary perspective. It dawned on me that the data--the books, manuscripts, studies, etc. that I have been consulting vis-a-vis the reconstruction of local history are one sided, if not, ignorant of the real issue why there were sporadic revolts during the Spanish and American periods. For indeed, they are works of collaborators and sympathizers of the foreign occupants. They failed to see the sides of what they called "insurrectos", "bandidos", "tulisanes", "babaylanes", etc.

There could have been some skirmishes that took place in some hills of Balete. But definitely not against the guardia civiles or casadores. But rather against the Americans. The Pulahanes could have been the ones responsible--the so called "Remontados" who chose the hills rather than the lowlands. Maybe Gallardo and Maraingan as well as Bernaldo were part of those...maybe not.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Waiting for the Birds to Come

A few moment ago, the solitary Kingfisher I always watch within the orchard area of my place was perching on the bench where I sit now. It flew away when it noticed my entrance. Perhaps it was afraid that I am out to do it harm. But no. I didn't and never will desire inflicting harm on such mystifying creature. Such speaks to me of meaning, of dream, of God. Besides, baka may pipit na umiyak.

Ah, there it again on the pylon wire passing across my place.

Birds are symbol of freedom, of journey, of vision, of dream, of meaning. Their presence in this garden is a welcome treat to my curious mind. Questions? Yes, there are dozens of them stored in my head. Answers? Oh no, I doubt not a single one. Just more questions puffed up if I brave myself giving even a single answer. Opinions? That, I can assure you that I have lots of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gandalf and the Death Sentence on Gollum

The call to revive the Death Penalty is echoed on the marbled halls of congress once again. Somehow, the perceived resurgence of heinous crimes with the burning of a prominent lawyer's son being the example is made as springboard by advocates of Death Penalty.

In some point, I can repeat the words uttered by one of the relatives of Evangelista (another victim whose death is similar to that of Lozano) and call the perpetrators, "Monstrous murderers". Yet, deep in my heart, I don't have the guts to cast death on someone (Can't even disposed of a stray cat which has been stealing foods on our table, which I bet is doing great injustice to my family). While it is true that anyone can blow up on evil deeds brazenly done right in one's face and say with Frodo: "Now at any rate he is as bad as an Orc, and just an enemy. He deserves death." There are those among us whose vision is wide and far and whose wisdom deserves due consideration. Take for instance Gandalf's response to Frodo:
"Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends." (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Book Four, Chapter One)
Those who have read the end of Tolkien's Trilogy (The Lord of the Rings) will surely appreciate the wisdom of Gandalf. Those who have seen the Return of the King will gladly applaud him for voting down the proposal of Frodo of killing Gollum right away. But for us who lack the facility of seeing our road's end, we can only surmise the future. For a while, we will debate on whether we reimpose death penalty or not.

Monday, January 17, 2011

SOOTHING AS NIGHT WINDS ARE: An Interpretation of the poem by that title by Salvador B. Espinas

Love is gentle, love is quiet

Like any distant star;

In loving by which we approximate the nature of love, we do not coerce those we love—as much as possible we give room for freedom to grow and respect each other’s independence, i.e., each other’s time of searching.

In loving, the lover is like the distant star, manifesting his presence and yet quietly, not trying to obstruct or block the path of the beloved. He stands besides quietly assuring her of his gentle presence and constant attention.

Love is beauty, love is music

Soothing as night winds are.

Lovers are enchanted by the wonders of creation. One who is in loved would often quips that everything seems beautiful and that “ life has music, rhythm and rhyme” –which actually is. Somehow, love enables man and woman to see reality as God sees it. As even in times of trouble, loves comes like night winds, soothing our weary mind and aching heart.

Love is patient and unselfish,

Divine, true, neutral, fair—

A lover waits forever. He seeks for reason to understand the shortcomings of his beloved. In this way, he is becoming fair and neutral. His loving her pushes him to open up himself and encourages him to focus not on himself but on his beloved. In this way, he becomes truer to himself, to his nature as Son of God—son of a God whose nature is Love.

Love is ageless and immortal,

Lost love is just somewhere…

True love endures forever and survives all the trials and tests of time. No wonder why many a lover sings, “I’ll be loving you forever…” One who truly love could never say, “I’m falling out of love…” The truth of the matter is, he has just lost his love somewhere…but that maybe someday, somehow, somewhere he’ll find it behind “those close doors” of his life.

And the heart that love abandons

Nurses a tender scar

Softly stabbing, and yet sweetly

Soothing as night winds are.

It hurts to have loved and to see your beloved departs from you. Separation, break up, divorce, death—these are painful processes by which a loving heart is being “softly stabbed.” Yet despite this stabbing, a loving heart will likewise be “sweetly soothed” as time goes by. As a famed adage goes, time heals all wounds. It is not time really. It is the love we bear in our hearts that heals our wound.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meeting an Elfin Lady along the Highway of Life

There was a time when I was wishing Middle Earth is true. I dreamed a number of times that my place in that dimension is in a dale frequented by elves singing songs and dancing merrily one midsummer night when the moon was full. Wild flowers grow and in the stead of the highway cutting across it, a river flows. The dews on the leaves and the crystal water flowing on the rapids are reflected by the moonshine proclaiming a festive celebration of life intertwined with Mother Nature.

In my pad, vines hang about forming a natural decoration among its corners and spaces. Even then, the green seems monotonous until the day you come along with your aura of freshness. Your eyes are stars and your lips are red roses. Your ethereal presence brings light into the shadowy corners of my life beckoning me to come out and dance with the glory of all creations.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hala Bira, Balete

The frenzy is on the streets of Kalibo again. And Balete is invited to join the revelry. The organizers have decided that for this year's Higante Parade, the theme delves on the fantastic and the mythical. Now, such theme is definitive of my town.

We have long wanted to portray it as the Enchanting Balete and not as some dreadful, creepy town people feared about. Patrick (SB Patrick Lachica) has constructed a gargantuan elfin lady to symbolize the reinvention. She's not a white lady (the one often associated with Balete Drive and some other place where bad spirits reside). She's a Taglugar, an elemental who serves as guardian of our forest (much like Maria Makiling). Thus, the loggers and those who chose to exploit our environment for selfish motives are forewarned:"Pagpanabi-tabi, basi hipamaskan ka." Our standard would be, "Enchanting Balete" for henceforth even as we continue to rally our town, "Hala Bira, Balete!"

And may I offer this poem to her who has enchanted this restless heart:

Ro Gugma hay Kau-i

Nagapakahangawa sa tawong umaeagi;
Naga panabi-tabi ro tawong umaeagi;
Ikaw hay Engkantadang haeandon
Ro imong gugma hay Kau-i
Sieilungan ku matalinhagang kamatuoran,
Guinapamantaw sa maeayo,
Haeandumon nga maadtunan,
Panamgo ku tawong umaeagi;
Balaan para sa tawong umaeagi,
Ro Kau-i nga gugma,
Ro Gugma nga kau-i.
On Thursday, January 13, 2011, we will flood the streets of Kalibo with magical water from the Jal-o and those lasses covered with soot, we will enchant with our merriment, "Hala Bira, Balete!"

Vamos, sadsad 'ta!!!

(You can have your apple green tees printed with the "Hala Bira, Balete" logo at the Basura Garden)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Ballad of the Mamumugon

I was once asked--no, was forced actually, to sing one of our songs in an international gathering (in the sense that with the group were a couple of Hispanic nationals, a Tanzanian and several Filipinos from all over the country-Bisaya, Bicolanos, Karay-as, Warays, Ilocanos, Tagalogs). The agreement was that each "race" was to sing a song that best describe his culture. Alas, I was the only Aklanon in the group and was compelled to raise the banner of Aklan high among those "kings and nobles". So when my slot came about, I stood up grabbed the microphone and touched their hearts (even if it irritated their ears) with the Ballad of the Mamumugon:
Mamugon ako, mamugon
Sa baeay it manggaranon
Alas Dos ako pakan-on ay, ay
Orasyon ako pauli-on.

Pag-abot ko man sa baeay
Dayon pangayu it humay
Ginturo ako ni Tatay ay, ay
Sa eusong una rong paeay.

Alinon mo rong paeay
Eawas ko karon ginabudlay
Kon buhi kunta si Nanay ay, ay
Makaon ako mapahuway.
Done with my recital, an Ibanag friend approached me with a question, "Was that a dirge of an orphan?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Jal-o River

(The following was originally written for the Jal-O Agrarian Reform Community Development Plan which was issued on December 2003 although I wrote the article on May 30, 2003. I have it updated in view of the recent development on local history)

One cannot step on the same river twice.

The Municipality of Balete was approximately established in the year 1804 when it was ceded out of the Pueblo of Batang (now Batan). Earlier, it was part of the visitas of the Curate of Batang. By that time, historians referred to it not as Balete but as Jalo or the village near the river Jal-o.

The name “Jal-o” is derived from the Aklanon word, “Jae-o,” a variation of the word, “Hae-o.” Both mean “big pestle.” The river is named as such for two apparent reasons of which our forebears used to tell us. For a reason, the river is called Hae-o for the fact that viewed from a higher elevation, portion of it winding between the mouths of Panarga and Murao Creeks—tributaries of Jae-o—forms as natural dam, thus creating a semblance of a huge pestle lying across the deep crevice bounding the hills of the barangays of Oquendo on the western portion and Guanko on the eastern side. Another theory that came to us tells of the three waterfalls (from the Aeatubang Creeks and the river source) pouring volumes of waters in rhythmic intervals into the basin of the river as if there were three giants pounding their pestles in the silvery rocky mortar. An earthquake in the earlier time had altered the course of waters flowing from the Aeatubang creeks where the waterfalls would only occur during heavy rainfall. Yet, as the story goes, it was due to that fact that the river was eventually called Jae-o.

Unlike most rivers, Jae-o starts relatively on a lower ground and flow downhill, under the pull of the Earth’s gravity from its source somewhere in between the hilly portion of upper Oquendo, northwest of the Tulayon Forest of Ganzon, Jamindan, around six statute miles north of Mt. Naconlong in the Barangay of Mali-ao, Libacao. It flows through minor rapids—the Kipot, being the biggest—and is joined by several (eighteen at least) tributary creeks from Binitinan, Oquendo through the barangays of Guanko, Cortes, Morales and the Poblacion and meanders into the bends along other tributary creeks and brooks of Calizo and Aranas and the other barangays of the neighboring town of Batan where its estuaries lie meeting those waters flowing out of the Callojan and Tinago Rivers in the delta at Tinagong Dagat (Batan Bay).

Image of yesterday’s Jae-o was that of an active socio-economic highway, and yet at the same time of pristine life-giving water. Today, several legislative interventions have to be exerted to salvage what is left of the once ecologically balanced Jae-o River, the latest and so far the most prominent are the Senate Bill 2309 and House Bill 4907, proposing to make it a protected natural treasure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Pearls in Pigsties

Antonio and Joy (not their real names)just bought an amplifier as a Christmas present for themselves. They are my neighbors. Theirs is a real big family of twelve and I suppose the amplifier is necessary for them to hear each other.

Antonio operates the agricultural machineries of his landlord during planting and harvest season. In the long interval, he takes on some odd jobs in the neighborhood. He's a good and responsible father when he's sober, which is rare. His better half is an ambulant vendor. She sells fish which she takes on consignment from her fisherman brother down the Jal-o River. Those she hawks around early in the morning and hurries home around 10 to prepare lunch for her family.

When Balete was identified as one of the first three municipalities in Aklan (this was later raised to 4 with Buruanga joining Balete, Libacao and Madalag) to implement the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program--popularly known as 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyan Pilipino Program during the Arroyo administration) the household of Antonio and Joy was among those 842 "fortunate" families to have been listed as beneficiaries.(The beneficiaries surged to about 1,785 during the P-Noy administration or about 0.06% of the Baleten-on population) Last December, they were informed that the DSWD Regional Office through the Landbank will be paying over-the-counter each household the amount of Php. 10K representing the 9 nine months backlog. That was the good news. By December 31, the Balete Public Market was crowed by these beneficiaries that each stall holder therein was beaming like the Cheshire cat.

The decision of my neighbors in buying the amplifier is way beyond my comprehension. Just recently, the couple underwent a seminar on Barangay Level Training of Married Couples of Reproductive Ages on Responsible Parenting and Natural Family Planning at the Kabuhian Center. The speakers reminded them how to prioritize their needs and wants and taught them how to manage their resources. But perhaps, Antonio was distracted by the charting on Billings-Ovulation Method that he failed to grasp the meaning of being responsible. Besides, what can you effect about by just having a day seminar on people who have been through a lot all these years.

What I heard of is that having received the money, Antonio requested his wife to hand him Php. 2,500. Then he went to Kalibo to purchase the device. Upon reaching home and with the device now installed to his player, he complained to his wife of the dismal quality of his amplifier. What followed then was a typical argument among husband and wife over the use of money that sadly turned violent considering the insobriety usual of Antonio.

Today, the amplifier is kept by Joy who was nursing some bruises on her chin and shoulders. Antonio is staying at the Police station "to while the time", humming to himself the line, "Regrets, I have a few/but then again/too few to mention" from Paul Anka's My Way.