Thursday, January 18, 2007

37

Exactly 37 years ago, an 8-pound baby boy was born to Kid Buntal and Precy. The exact time was 9:35 of a fine Sunday morning in Auntie Angeling’s wooden house in Bambang. The baby was named after an Austrian classical music composer.

Precy was pregnant again after some months. She also started teaching at the Sabadista school in Almaguer so she agreed when Auntie Angeling volunteered to take care of her son. It was Auntie Angeling who gave Abet’s house name whom she also had christened at Bambang’s centuries old St. Catherine’s Church despite the Sabadista faith of the baby’s parents. Abet’s godparents are Jose Gudio, Gregorio Tolentino and Rose Tamayo whom Abet never met; Florencio Ranjo whose grandparents are one of the first settlers of Almaguer; and Lily Monje who owns a store across Amang Lakay’s house.

When Abet started calling Auntie Angeling as Mama and refused to come near his mother, Precy finally took home him home to Almaguer. There, Kid Buntal tried to win his son back by reciting poems for him. Abet must have liked it so much that to this day, poetry remains to be one of his passions.

Abet has no recollection of these episodes that were later narrated to him in bits. It took a while for him to put the pieces together and look back at the story of his life in a single frame. In his 37th year, Abet contemplated the memories of the days when Superman, the Star Rangers, and Flordeluna ruled; and the snatches of events that will remain with him forever.

A FLYING BLINKING DUCK
Milieu: Sta. Ana, Manila
Probable Age: 3-4 years old

“They were waiting for a train to pass by when Abet saw what looked like a duck covered with blinking lights flying across the evening sky. He saw this again while hiding in the grilled window of the house in Sta. Ana after watching a scary TV movie where a monster bit a cowboy’s face. In the same window, he will wait for Lola Inay walking home every late afternoon in her familiar brown bestida.”

GIRL SCOUTS CAN DANCE
Milieu: Sta. Ana, Manila
Probable Age: 3-4 years old

“It was a dark room full of people. Kid Buntal had a beer and ordered fried chicken for Abet. A girl in a short green dress that looked like a today’s girl scout uniform approached the jukebox. Suddenly, loud music played and she began dancing wildly. She took off her green dress and began moving around in her black tasseled two-piece underwear.”

THE FIRST MOUNTAIN CLIMB
Milieu: Kasibu, Nueva Vizcaya
Probable Age: 4-5 years old

“Kid Buntal took Abet to his work marking trees in the mountain town of Kasibu. They walked most of the time and when Abet got tired, Kid Buntal carried him on his back. There was a hanging bridge that Abet refused to cross so they waded across the stream. It was early noon when they arrived in Kid Buntal’s work place in a place called Sawmill.”

ONODA’S MUSIC BOX
Milieu: Solano, Nueva Vizcaya
Probable Age: 4-5 years old

“Kid Buntal and Precy always argue. In one such time, Kid Buntal chopped a wristwatch that he gave as a gift to Precy. Next is the black phonograph but he was stopped by the wailing protest of his 2 sons. Abet and his brother loved that music box that was named after a famous Japanese straggler. They were the first from Almaguer to own one, and Precy and Kid Buntal have to break their big Buddha alkansiya to buy it.”

21 SHOTS
Milieu: Naguillian, Isabela
Age: 7 years old

“Abet went to watch a movie in a makeshift theater that is the lower part of a house covered with tattered plastic sacks with an orange toy slide projector that flashed colored still cartoon pictures on a white blanket. The entrance is 5 centavos per viewer. Abet was bitten by a dog that was tied near the makeshift theater so Precy brought him to a mannuma who gurgled half a bottle of marka demonyo before sucking the dog bite with a hollow cow’s horn. The dog eventually died so Abet was brought to Dr. Capuchino’s clinic where he endured daily back injections for 21 straight days.”

THE FIRST ICE BOX
Location: Almaguer South, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya
Age: 8 years old

“Almaguer is not connected to the electric grid but this did not deter Precy and Kid Buntal from buying what is probably the first pridyider in the barrio. The refrigerator has a machine that produces cold when the kerosene-powered gas lamp at its bottom portion is lighted. Kid Buntal made lots of mostly violet colored and grape flavored ice candy that Abet and Eric will sell by walking to and from abagatan shouting “Ayyyyyyyyyysss kendi!”. Abet ate lots of it too until his tonsil became swollen that, according to a doctor, has developed into a rheumatic heart condition. He was confined for some time at St. Catherine’s Hospital where Kid Buntal lent him a watch. It’s too big for his wrist so Abet has to push it up to his armpit so it would fit.”

KOMIKS AND PANSIT
Milieu: Mapandan, Pangasinan
Age: 9-10 years old

“On Saturdays, Abet will escape from the church service to read comics in the market, paying the rent from his church offering money. He is particularly fund of “The Cannibals” and “Devil Car” that were serialized in the Holiday Comics, “Sendong Paa” and “Pulot Boy” of Happy Comics, and the child-friendly Funny Comics. Afterwards, he will buy a plate of pancit that comes together with a free hot goto soup. This he will pour in the pansit which will be washed down with a warm bottle of Pop Cola.”

NORMITA
Milieu: Paniqui, Tarlac
Age: 11 years old

“Normita is a chubby and cute fifth grader with long curly black hair. She lived in a bungalow some distance across the street from the school and beyond the sugarcane field. Abet liked her but she had her eyes on rich boy from another barrio. Abet is amazed on how Normita’s mother can sing the Sabbath songs without reading from the hymnals like most do. One day, Abet’s family had their picture taken in Normita’s house with a piano for a backdrop. It was their only photo of Carino.”

SWEET SMELLING NAPHTHALENE
Milieu: Almaguer South, Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya
Age: 12 years old

“It was near the end of summer vacation. The prospect of going to high school was very exciting for Abet and every night, he will open the old maleta where hand-me-downs from his cousins in Fort Magsaysay were stored --- bleached, washed, and ironed by Precy so they will look new when her son will wear them in NELA. Abet will rearrange the old clothes, the smell of naphthalene wafting from each refolding of a crease, and then close the old maleta again.”



PHOTO (top to bottom)
1) 6-month old Abet.
2) 1-year old Abet.
3) Abet and Auntie Angeling.
4) Abet in Bambang at probably 3-4 years old.
5) Abet in Solano.
6) Abet and his brother Eric in the banauang in front of Amang Lakay’s house in Almaguer.
7) The only photo of the house in sonsona (background, partly hidden at the right). The small girl on the left will later reign as Miss Bambang.
8) Abet at the Jubilee Cross in Iguig, Cagayan a day after his 35th birthday.

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