PagdadapilanBy Imelda Castro-Rivero Fuller

Pagdadapilan – where barrio folks united sweetly in Vigan

Pagdadapilan? Another pagdadapilan? Yes, my radio program at DZNS Vigan aired at 5-6 AM Monday to Saturday is “Dap-ayan Pagdadapilan.” “Dap-ayan” was the choice of Fr Abbot Santos Rabang, our station manager-director then, when the program was created in August 2016.

Dap-ayan is a place where people gather to share with one another their experiences, knowledge, stories. This was shared to me by an Ilocano grandmother who also noted that barrio folks also sang and played music at the “dap-ayan.”

I added “pagdadapilan” because it was one of the happy places of my childhood in Vigan. The “pagdadapilan” in Barangay Cabalangegan in Vigan City in mid 60s to 70s taught me practical ways how to cope with life. Patience, cooperation, kindness, endurance, determination, creativity, and sweet camaraderie of barrio or barangay folks. Perhaps this was one of the things that my mother Altagracia Acena Pilotin Castro was so proud of that she always insisted that my siblings and I must spend summer in this quiet place.

I don’t remember what my age was when I began to understand what was happening at the pagdadapilan. At earlier age I remember that in some months of the year older children follow their parents and grandparents to this pagdadapilan. This was a wide area about 90 meters east of our family house.

Trees which name I didn’t care to know then, and bamboo trees shaded the area where I saw this cheerful center of action – two wooden wheels rolling on each other’s side while two to three sugarcane stalks was pushed by a farmer between them. Juice flowed into a can which was once a biscuit or oil container. This sat on a hole in the ground just below the flowing juice.

When the can was almost filled with juice a farmer would carry it silently in careful but determined steps to fill the burnay jars standing near the trees away from the action area. I looked at the jars as if each of them was thirsty of the juice, becoming satisfied only when the juice reached its neck, and its mouth was covered with clean cotton cloth secured by cotton yarns, so carefully by a farmer.

I loved getting a closer look at the process of panagdapil so I always stood next to the wooden wheels while my grandfather Lilong Asiong, Ignacio Alcain, fed the wheels with fresh sugarcane stalks after the first stalks were squeezed for numerous times until no juice dropped, and the stalks were dry.

My Lilong always shooed me away because I might be injured in my spot while the wheels are being turned through a strong huge wood attached to the body of a cow that walked around the pagdadapilan. Determined to watch the process that close, I stayed where I was.

The “Anawang”

Soon I heard older children laughing from the west. I curiously followed the voices and there they were – eagerly waiting with their two hands holding banana stalks meters away from what the folks call “anawang.” It was a stove made of bricks and clay. On top was the gigantic vat where sugarcane juice was cooked until it turned heavy syrup and finally dry as “tagapulot.” Elderly men took turns in stirring the syrup with a long-handed laddle.

The “Pulutiput”

The pulutiput or thick syrup was also made into balikutsa aside from tagapulot. And this was the best part of the panagdapil to us, children.

When I was older I joined other children, my sister, aunties, neighbors and relatives in lining near the anawang. Each of us held our ubbak ti saba or banana stalks. Our faces showed awe, excitement, as we waited for that moment when the pulutiput slowly flowed steaming in sweet aroma to our banana stalks by the patient farmer.

We went home cheering our brownish golden treasure. After carefully placing them on a table, we washed our hands, took a glass of water and slowly lifted the pulutiput out of the banana stalk. We had to stretch it out again and again until it turned creamy and hard like candy. The golden brown went golden and golden – shiny golden – as we stretched the pulutiput. It was alive! It was turning into something beautiful and special.