Saturday, March 17, 2007

THE SUGARCANE CHRONICLES


The traveling family of Kid Buntal and Precy spent a year in Paniqui, Tarlac after 2 years in Pangasinan. They stayed in the upper half of a house behind the school and beside the church in a compound surrounded by sugarcane fields. Just beside lives a fat lady with a divine healing power. The people who come to her brought lots of eggs which the fat lady will break then place the contents in glasses of water beside a white life-size statue of the Virgin Mary. The healer will look at the eggs and write on a piece of paper words that only she can understand. Then she will wipe holy water on the sick. And they got healed. The landlord said the fat lady is guided by angels.

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Kid Buntal is always sullen but it was one particularly day when he was that so much that he looked more like in grief.

Ano problema mo?”, asked Precy.

Kid Buntal said nothing, took off his barong and sat in their splinted kawayan bed. He was like that for a long time.

That day, Abet later learned, was the day Kid Buntal’s friend died. And it was no ordinary friend.

There was an old beggar in the Paniqui market. She lived on alms and sleep on the stalls. Whenever he passes by, Kid Buntal would always take her to one of the turo-turos in the market then leave her with a 10 or 20 peso bill. But one day, the old beggar was not in her usual place. Kid Buntal asked around and one of the stall owners told him, “Patay na ang kaibigan mo”.

That was his friend. When Abet asked him in between munches of sugarcane why he cared so much, sullenness again came to his eyes when he said, “Kamukhang-kamukha siya ni Lola Inay mo.”

It was the bunso in him. And the canned Swift frankfurters, the pabaon from the sale of Lolo Itay’s Balita, the beloved mother, and the missed funeral.

Abet became generous to the namamalimos after that. People think it’s absurd for him to distribute 5 peso coins to street children and give limos to all the mendicants lined up in the simbahans he went to even if he was not asked to. He simply told them, “It makes me feel good.”

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Kulot salot!

That has been said about Kid Buntal. He tried to be the Sabadista that Precy wants him to become to but sometimes, he just snaps. He will go home drunk which is a scandal for a literature evangelist like him, missionary teachers like Precy, and the saints that be in the Sabadista compound. There are moments too when Kid Buntal will beat his sons with sugarcane until this looks like it just came out of the dadapilan.

But it’s is not like that always. Most of the time, Abet and Eric are accomplices. Kid Buntal would take them to Tarlac where they will gorge themselves with Sabadista forbidden pleasures: a lunch of longganisa and adobong baboy, copies of komiks that would be hidden in their carton boxes where they keep their clothes, and a fitting finale of a double picture in the sinehan. Of course, Kid Buntal will have his beer and a few smokes too.

Kulot salot!

Abet heard that in Almaguer and it was intended for him. It was the glory days of the Samahang Dilim. Nowadays, he keeps his hair short so the kulot would not show. Para kasing bulbol ang buhok niya pag humaba. But he lets his hair grow and curl once in a while.


PHOTOS (top to bottom):

1) Twenty-three years later in Carino, Paniqui, Tarlac. The building on the left is the church. The school has been moved behind it. The house where Kid Buntal and Precy’s family stayed is in the right side. In front is the house of the healer.

2) TARLAC’S CHURCH OF SAN SEBASTIAN. The Augustinians established the ecclesiastical mission of what would be Tarlac in 1686. Fr. Agustin Barriocanal (OSA) probably built the first parochial buildings in 1740. Fr. Baltasar Gamarra (OSA), Fr. Fr. Tomas Fito (OSA), and Fr. Fermin Sardon (OSA) successively helped built a wood and stone church between 1872 and 1890 where the Philippine Revolutionary Congress held its sessions. This was totally destroyed in 1945 during the second world war and was subsequently rebuilt.

3) The Spanish colonial era church of CAMILING TARLAC has been razed by fire and is currently undertaking a painfully slow process of rebuilding. Camiling is the hometown of Leonora Rivera who was immortalized by her ex-boyfriend Dr. Jose P. Rizal as the archetype Mari Clara. During the Philippine-Spanish War, Gen. Francisco Makabulos presided over the execution of Gen. Pedro Pedroche and some of his men within the church compound. They have been charged with rebellion by Gen. Antonio Luna who also ordered the execution. Later, General Luna himself will be assassinated by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s Kawit Company within the vicinity of the Cabanatuan church in Nueva Ecija.

Before the war, Apong Puyot fled Camiling to Almaguer where he became a long time kapitan del barrio. Also hailing from Camiling is Uncle Nonong.

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