Little Travels & Roadside Sketches


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Life is like a road trip where anyone can stay calm, peaceful in thoughts, like almost all in highland Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and lowland Region 1 who have had their little travels and roadside narratives   as typhoon Fabian and the Southwest monsoon brutally savaged the lands for the past weeks.

We have gone about our works the past two weeks and felt the   strength of typhoon Fabian and the Southwest monsoon. And much as we hate these two, your columnist Ah Kong, who can’t distinguish simple science from ‘rithmetic, can’t help it but wonder how mysterious and mighty are Mother Nature’s works.

That puts Ah Kong takes to wondering further, even when sleeping: “When the air is calm, where do the stormy winds take repose? In what chambers are they asleep, or in what dungeons confined?”

But when the Maker, who holds the rains in his fist, throw open the rains prison doors, with irresistible impetuosity, the rains push at each other, scattering dread, destruction and menace on Cordillera and lowlander lands, fields, hills and mountains.

And the atmosphere is hurled   into its most tumultuous confusion. All things feel the dreadful shock. All things tremble before the furious blast. The sons and daughters of the mountains – the trees, plants – are strained to the very root while the wild animals scamper to take shelter.

In CAR, for example, the aerial torrents burst over the   boondocks where the aged Cordillera legends holds true that “there’s gold en dem dar hills” and sweep across the imposing highland mountain fortress.

Such that the public-at-large feel the scorn of the Fabian and the Southwest monsoon. All things, animate and non-living, cower before the rains blast.  Yet in times like this, you find the indomitable spirit of the highlanders bubbling forth, some comparing the present unceasing rain situation to “forty days and forty nights.”

If you are to remember your Genesis 7:12, of the Bible, it says there, “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.”

“And the rains fell upon the earth for forty days and forty nights.”

“On that very day, Noah entered the Ark, along with his sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, and his wife, and the three wives of his sons…”

Now, some Cordillerans, recalling what was said in Genesis, say slantingly, of the unceasing rains: “Aga tako pay laeng nadanon di forty days ya forty nights.” (We haven’t reached forty and forty nights, yet).

Junrile Bilaw-as, a Cordilleran farmer whose highland vegetable plant have already been “nalusaw” (rotten) by the rains and having lost financial gain, has the smiling spirit to humor us, saying, “Peteg ay peteg nan udan ay nay. Kaman ad-adu din basul tako ay Cordilleran ay ma-uwasan. Dey et umey ay duwa ay domingo et kayet ay udan.”

(Terrible, terrible the rains. Like there’s so much sins among Cordillerans that that the rains need to wash. It’s already two weeks past and the rains continue to persist).

Luis Cabyasen, a Cordilleran, said simply about his travels with the monsoon, “The atmosphere is hurled into the most tumultuous confusion, The aerial torrents burst their way into mountains, hills. Mountains totter on their basis   and we tremble before the furious blast.”

Rosendo Balian, formerly employed as agricultural sales rep but has turned to full-time gardening instead, and using wild sunflowers as additional fertilizer said, upon observing the sturdy wild sunflowers withstand the monsoon’s onslaught: “They (the sunflowers) reel to and fro, and stagger like drunken men.”

Carla Magpila, a renter somewhere at a house in Cogcoga, Pico, La Trinidad, and maintains a little store alongside the road to add to her salary working as online merchandise supplier, said, “Dagiti kaban-bantayan tayo, na-distorbo ken napigis, ag-unnoy ti dagsen ti todo, dagiti bulong da napigis iti sanga.  Ti daga a kinali da, in-sagad ti todo a gapu kadagiti nagkali ditoy ayan mi nga Cogcoga.”

(Our forests, vexed and torn, groan under the rain scourge, their leaves torn from their branches. roots strained to the very root. The soils they dug have been swept away, helped by those who have dug our place here at Cogcoga.)

Apparently, Magpila’s last sentence explanation was an apparent swipe to those who did earth-moving activities at Cogcoga that caused flashfloods and mudflows along Kms. 3 to 4 during typhoon Fabian’s wrath   and in the process, vexed La Trinidad mayor Romeo Salda who wants the culprit/s to answer for their misdeeds.

News reports have it that it was a private hospital incorporated that was solely responsible in the illegal digging, sans permit, as uncovered by a joint inspection led by the municipality and the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources EMB, DENR -CAR) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD-CAR).

Observation of Magpila jives with that of Ah Kong. The Benguet pine trees, for instance, that disdains to bend have been bashed headlong to the ground, as evidence by felled trees around the region, and, with shattered branches, with prostrate trunks, blocked national roads and other entry and exit points.

On the other hand, Ms. Arlene Kinondeng, a Cordilleran lass presently staying nearby Benguet State University (BSU) sees the grassy side of these rainy days, she said, last Monday while standing on their house’s wet “bangsal” or “balcon” (balcony): “Boyaem dagidiay nalapnut nga karootan, bumawing da ti pigsa ti a-ngin, naanus da, kasla da di maka-unget iti daytoy a didigra, uray nasugat da, iw-iwasan da daytoy nep-nep ta ag-biag da daytoy nga dadael.”

(Look at the grass on lands, yielding to the gusts. As the meek and pliant temper to injuries, or the resigned and patient spirit to misfortune; they elude the force of the storm, to survive amidst the widespread havoc.)

For more than two weeks, all travelled the little road of the storm that for pausing moments, the turbulent and outrageous sky seem assuaged and rains halt momentarily. Then the sky pours water again with increased strength.

All have experienced the resounding squadrons of the air return to the attack, and renew their ravages of CAR and Region 1 lands with redoubled fury.

Elsewhere,  like in Kennon National Road, the rock carved into a stately lion head trembles at its foundation as parts of the road get blocked by mud and falling, ragged rocks rent to pieces.

Amidst the wheeling clouds, city passers, like Marlina Tabeja, 37, after finished buying their needs at the city wet market and waiting for a ride for home, whispered to Ah Kong last week: “Where, now, is the place of safety when our Baguio City reels from the ruthless rains and houses are soggy? Sleep at night flies affrighted.”

Down in the lowlands, Wilmer Abila Saldino sent a long   message to Ah Kong, parts of which said, “The seas here swell with tremendous commotion, the ponderous waves are heaved from their capacious beds and almost lay bare the unfathomable deep.”

Mildred   Pontera, another observer of the seas who lets her eyes be her traveler, and whose house abuts near Poro Point, in La Union wrote also to say, “Flung into the most rapid agitation, the waves sweep over rocks, lash at the sands and toss themselves into the clouds. They seem to skim the sky.”

Despair often accompanies the little travels of everyone. But when the Mightiest up above commands, the storms are hushed to silence; the lightnings lay aside their fiery bolts, the sky opens up and the waves cease to roll.

And when the Mightiest  does, our little travels turn to the forests that are starting to bloom and smile   as the blushing flowers open their leaves to the morning sun and our little travels loom bright.