In a small cantina along Halsema National Highway last Wednesday, three unassuming persons sat down before a table and quietly chomped on banana cue sold there, while washing it down their throats with barako (native coffee).
The banana cues displayed for selling in the cantina’s front were advertised by a cardboard piece and written on it were the words: “Banana cue with saging flavor. Gumatang kayo!”
Oslo Patolin, 46, a lowlander, Rhea Lubang, from highland Cordillera and Ah Kong, from the land of never-never, have earlier consulted with a throng of rural families along Halsema, on their desire for a collective indoor-income-generation project particularly suitable for them during rainy season when they aren’t able to till their vegetable plots.
The three were at that Halsema cantina, taking a break.
Ah, convenor of the Rural Indigenous People’s Echo, community-based organization, had encouraged the families on their prospect, saying, “Kung kayo melon livelihood ploject, kayo melon doble kita, kayo maging autonomous. Ibig sabihin, hini kayo palagi sasandal sa ibang pagkuhanan ng pela. Gaya gawa iba, hini naman sa linalahat, na sandal lang sila sa Pantawid Pamilya Ploglan o 4Ps ng ating gobyelno. E, nakalimut yata sila na pwede naman sila maktipon-tipon pala mag-isip ng tamang ploject na magbigay asenso sa bawat isa sa kanila, gaya ng gawa nyo ngayon.”
“Kayat mo ibaga, nu adda home income project mi, mas mamanehar mi tu husto ti pagsayaatan ti pamilya mi ket agbalin kami nga autonomous nga saan masapul agsandag iti braso ti sabali, ngamin adda kadakami ti panakabagi a mangitakder ti pannagbiag mi, kasdiay ba, Ah Kong?”
“Kolek, my plens, you are vely kolek, as dey Englis say! Gamit ang inyong pinaghirapan at pinagyaman, mapahusay ninyo ang inyong pamilya, tumutugon sa inyong pamilya na ang bagsak ay plogleso sa lahat ng miyemblo ng pamilya.”
“Ganyan din ang autonomiya na palagi kong binabanggit sa inyo pala sa ating Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), tuwing melon tayo pulong.”
“O, eto isa explanasyon tungkol autonomiya pala sa CAR. Melon ka 100 pesos dahil sa sipag mong naktanim ng highland vegetable. Dahil inyo yong 100 pesos, inisip mo maktanim ka pa ng mas malami dahil tutubo ka, sigulado matulungan mo pa pamilya mo kasama ang inyong mismong pinagtubuan. Yan, and spiritu ng autonomiya.”
“Eto pa isa ehemplo: Punta gobielno nacional sa inyo at sabi: Este, highlander na maksasaka, eto, ako bigay 100 pesos sa yo. Tulong ko to. Pelo maktanim ka lowland vegetable sa highland garden mo gamit tong 100 pesos. Gagawin mo kasi utos gobielno nacional. Pelo ang sabi ng Ilokano sa ganyang sitwasyon, e, tungpal-bilin, kaso hini na autonomiya yan, kasi nawala na ang gusto mong ituloy maktanim ng highland vegetable na tugma sa lupang pinagtatanman mo. Elementali, my deal plens.”
The group voiced: “Caramba! Nu kuma kasta ka-simple explanasyon kadakami nga illiterate a padam, Ah Kong, di nalaklaka mi maawatan ti autonomiya. Bayam Ah, suportaan mi ti ipukpukkaw mo nga autonomiya para rehion tayo a CAR!”
So Oslo, Rhea and Ah sat there at the Halsema cantina, wishing their preaching about autonomy or self-determination in hard-to-reach highland dwellers will bear fruit.
Then out of the blues, Oslo, holding his cup tightly, like he was holding tight to his dear old Missus, suddenly blurted to Rhea: “Sometimes, I come to wondering whether our present age is a blank.” Then he sipped coffee some more.
Rhea didn’t listen to Oslo’s remark, instead raised her cup in salute to Oslo, sipped her coffee and thought instead, “Sometimes a cup of warm kape is be better companion, compared to a nagging friend, Oslo, who is like a nagging husband. No?”
Aaah! Coffee, Ah thought, as he watched Oslo and Rhea staring at each other. Ah sipped his coffee and suddenly remembered that coffee is a very evil substance and drinking it can make somebody dangerous, particularly for the women.
More dangerous than alcohol! You ask why?
Ah came to discover this phenomenon when one night, long ago when he went drinking with friends late into the night.
While at home, the Missus, all alone and talking to herself, sat drinking coffee, after cup of coffee.
T’was about 3: o’clock in the morning when Ah arrived home. You should have seen how violent the Missus became when he got home.
Ah was peaceful, silent and headed to bed, as his wife threw her cup of coffee at him, cursed him and shouted invectives at him night long – and even into the next day when he was preparing to go to work.
So please, ladies, ladies, if you can’t handle coffee, just don’t drink it. Coffee is much more dangerous than alcohol. Please avoid drinking coffee.
As Ah remembered his coffee experience, Oslo peered at Rhea and repeatedly said, “Deng-denggen nak? Kunak, it seems our present age is a blank!”
“Pooh!” Rhea answered, adding, “Don’t believe it, old boy. Time was, time is and time is past. Come now, Oslo, you never lived in a better age than the present, and never was the convenience of life more comfortable than the present moment, nah?”
So the two got to talking about the present age being blank, Rhea pointing to Oslo that easy guides abound to the knowledge of mortals to make their minds not blank pages.
“Look around you, people of talent are found everywhere in CAR and Region 1. Ingenuity and science are the inmates of every household. C’mon now, make a truce to your fastidious grumbling that your mind is a blank. Review the blessing you enjoy and be happy.” Rhea admonished Oslo.
Rhea, with that female touch of reasoning also dwelt on the point that for the mind not to be blank, well, man/woman has every invention at his/her disposal to prevent mental of bodily fatigue or being sick.
Hearing this, Ah thought her correct. For before, YAKAPsule and KISSpirin were effective for those who are “sick.” Now, it’s proven beyond reasonable doubt that PERAcetamol is proven much more effective.
Rhea’s female touch of reasoning for the mind not to be blank went well with Oslo, who added that, well, the only means of enjoying life with the mind not blank is that the whole structure of our nature and the whole condition of our being, prove that we’re not made for a life of indolence, but rather of active exertion.
So, if one feels his/her present time is a blank, said person ought to do something about it: go out, garden, run, join organizations, etc., Oslo said.
Which made Ah remember the time he joined an organization long time ago, like what you, readers, have done before.
Ah joined an organization and voted for their officers, which came out this way:
President – pasimuno; Vice-president – kunsintidor; Secretary – palsipikador; Treasurer – kubrador; Auditor – kasabwat; PRO – tsismoso; Representatives – pahamak; Spokeman – bolero; Sgt. At Arms – tirador, and, Adviser – taga sulsol.
Rhea and Oslo agreed in their argument that, indeed, for the age we live in not to be blank, all organs in the human body and faculties of the mind, are instruments of action and only by constant exercise that these powers can be retained in healthful state. “Like reading, to improve your Tagalog or English,” Rhea concluded.
Then Rhea looked at Ah and asked: “Don’t you agree?” Ah disagreed.
“Why?” Both Rhea and Oslo echoed.
Ah said, “Ayoko basa ng Englis at Tagalog, hilap intindihin.”
Rhea: Bakit naman?
Ah: “Eh paano, ang isda, pis; ang mukha, pis; ang pandikit, pis; ang kapayapaan, pis; ang kapiraso, pis. Pati sa gawa gobelment ploject, may pis I, pis 2, pis 3.”
Nonetheless, Ah agreed in the end reading was mighty good; the frequent application of the mind to study – for it to be removed from the age of the mind being blank – establishes a habit of thinking, which renders it easy and pleasing to understand things, events or anything at hand.
Leaving the cantina and waiting for a ride to Baguio, they saw a foreigner walking along Halsema Road and taking pictures of the landscapes. Apparently, his traveling bag was gaping wide open and he wasn’t conscious about it.
So Oslo said in Tagalog to Ah, “Dahil hindi blanko utak mo na gaya ko, sabihin mo nga diyan sa Amerikano, yung bag nya bukas. Baka may mahulog.”
Like an obedient pupil following instructions, Ah sauntered over to the American tourist and said, “Hey, Man, your bag is tomorrow. Cow is falling.”