Happy New Year, fellas.
Happy New Year, too, to Sir Salvador Espejo, there in heaven. Sir “Buddy” was my boss here at Tawid News Magazine before he was summoned by God on January 2, 2017 to do some press job there. Although I miss Sir Buddy this much, I am at home still here in Tawid with his equally talented and brilliant son, Sir Jasper and his widow, the ever-amiable and kind Ma’am Rose. Both are now managing the publication.
And of course, Happy New Year also to pretty, long-haired Lala, Tawid’s layout artist. Lala exemplies youth, grace and beauty one would sneak in a staccato of glimpses at her back once she passes by.
Another year is gone and I remember a pretty lass long ago by the surname of Hernaez. I have forgotten her first name but she was petite with sparkling eyes and had two dimples one would easily fall in love! Her birthday is January 1. When I greeted her “Happy Birthday” on her 21st birthday, she just smiled and said she had stopped celebrating her birthday when she was 16, saying everytime she celebrated it, she would be forced to divulge her age to her visitors and friends.
“I don’t like to remember my birthday as another year added to my life because I want to remain 16 even just to myself!” she said, holding on to my arms as if we had a “mutual understanding.”
And then there was Junerie, a classmate and a playmate when we were young who bragged of his “bawang” firecrackers. Just as the clock ticked 12:00 that midnight, he lit the big firecracker and shouted, “Happy New Year, everyone!” The firecracker exploded as as he was about to throw it away and when the smoke cleared, we saw him writhing in pain. His three fingers were hanging. His face was black all over. In our last reunion, he would use his left hand for the tosses for he could hardly hold his glass. And when everybody already had a couple of toss and the conversations started to get rowdy, he narrated his story, with a smile and a lot of regrets.
Sometime in the 80s, my brothers Danny and Charlie got hold of a stout bamboo, around 8 feet long which we transformed into a “kanyubong” (bamboo cannon) fed with “karburo” which we used to counter the other bamboo cannons in the neighborhood. We did not know that a “karburo” fed bamboo cannon was a lot more powerful than a kerosene-fed one.
When Charlie lighted it, it sent forth a powerful bang as if a dynamite had exploded, scaring all the kids around. So we brought it there in the field and trained its muzzle west, towards the houses in the vicinity. We had been firing some ten rounds already when suddenly, whistle reverberated in the dark. It was our policeman uncle who came shouting that we should stop the firings for it was already disturbing them with the loud bangs.
When we fired three more shots, he came again, this time brandishing a bolo, we thought he would be hacking us to death. Instead, he got hold of our bamboo cannon and quartered it, unmindful of our pleas. He then brought us to their house where we received a lengthy sermon. He then fed us with tinubong made by our Lola Asion.
Charlie passed away just last December 11, I thought, perhaps, God also needs, too, his expertise in making first class kanyubong high up there, as another New Year is here. Happy New Year, there, big brother!
A more heartwarming New Year story was the story of Doro and his chicken. It was December 31 evening, fellas, in the 80s. All the boys in the neighborhood were with their cliques preparing some gimmicks to celebrate New Year. I was with my clique, too. We earlier planned to cook arroz caldo but our problem was not the spicy ingredients but where to get the chicken. Doro offered to donate one of his chickens. He was about to leave when Rey suddenly arrived, holding a sando bag with a fat native chicken inside saying that it would be his contribution for the evening. We had a sumptuous arroz caldo dinner with tinubong and a little drink that evening. Doro had a grand time enjoying the arroz caldo, even picking up the chicken chunks whenever he refilled his plate!
All’s well that night and the revelry lasted until 2:00 the following morning. The following evening, Doro came to our rendezvous there under the chico tree shade where the papag was still laden with arroz caldo spills.
“I am worried,” he said. “One of my chickens is missing, the one I should have been contributing for our party last night. Some mannibrong probably strangled it last night for their own New Year celebration,” he said.
We were all astounded. Who could have stolen Doro’s chicken last night?
We were all thinking of the possible suspects, the usual “chicken thieves” in the neighborhood when I noticed that Rey was smiling from ear to ear. He came to me and whisphered in my ear: “Never mind his worry. He ate most of his chicken last night!”
And so it came to pass that the mystery of Doro’s missing chicken was never solved to date.
But the most heartwarming New Year reminiscence is the story of Pacing (his real name is Pacito) and Julian (blessed be their souls). It was New Year and the rama owners there at the Cabugao River beside Barangay Quezon were busy harvesting their rama that January 1. The harvests would be a bucket of fishes called “bukto and gurami,” some eels and lots of crabs. It was picnic time!
Pacing and Julian were two members of a harvesting group assigned to cook rice under a mango tree beside the river. The area was covered with lots of dried twigs. Julian was cutting firewood with his bolo when he saw a big snake slithered from a mound hole to a cavelike hole underneath the roots of the mango tree. It was pure green, a karasaen! (Philippine cobra).
“Snake! snake!” cried Julian. Pacing rushed to the scene.
“Where? Where? It should be killed before it kills us!”
Using a little bamboo pole, Pacing poked at the hole, but the snake did not come out.
“I think we better close the hole so it can’t come out,” he said as he started to carry big stones to cover the hole.
Julian saw a meter-long green rope from among the dried twigs, probably washed ashore by the water during the last typhoon. He suddenly came out with a wild idea.
Approaching Pacing from behind, he shouted, “Ahhhh! the snake is here!!!” then wrapped the rope around Pacing’s neck!
Pacing panicked and jumped around to and fro in fear, trying to remove the “snake” off his neck. He run into the water and submerged himself. When he discovered that it was only a prank, he got hold of his bolo and chased Julian. It was Julian’s turn this time to panic in fear, and he ran home as fast as he could with Pacing behind him brandishing his bolo.
The two never returned to the picnic area.
Pacing died due to cancer of the throat (he became a chain smoker) while Julian died of diabetes complication two years ago.
Again, blessed be their souls. Happy New Year, too, Julian and Pacing!
I hope we spend more New Years ahead, fellas. Year 2018 might have brought us a lot or worries, problems and challenges but sooner, it will only become a part of the past which we must let go as British poet Alfred Tennyson said:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Meanwhile, keep on reading Tawid News Magazine as it will continue to bring you varieties of contents that will always keep you informed and entertained.
Happy New Year everyone! #