In Almaguer, I learned to kill hangovers with the bungar. That is, if you feel queasy early the next morning after last night’s to-death drinking session, the best way to get rid of the web of spiders is to have a quick shot of rawnpos or gulp a shivering bottle of Red Horse all the way down. Bungar (or sundot to the Tagalogs) may seem odd but I swear on the many hangovers cured that it works.
Sinadag, on the other hand, is a small feast before next day’s big one. I was introduced to it in Bacal II and it is, as I understand it, preparing parts of the animal butchered for tomorrow’s fiesta/wedding/birthday lunch usually for guests who checked-in early and those who are helping prepare the handa. It is supposed to be just a dinner but plenty of leftovers always justify a bottle of Emperador.
I just turned 38 and as always for the last 4 years, I blew my imaginary candles on the road. I don’t really care because birthdays don’t matter much as far as I’m concerned. I become older by a year and this for somebody like me who wishes to be 30 forever is no reason to celebrate. My friends believe it’s the Ilocano in me (and therefore kuripot) so they take the initiative to prepare something for my behalf. The most memorable would be my first birthday cake when I turned 35 during a conference in Tagaytay City. I got two when I turned 36 and last year, I have former Senator Bobby Tanada presenting me my cake. Not bad for non-birthday celebrating me.
The day before my 38th year found me in Kiangan as a training facilitator. Former colleagues from PRRM’s Ifugao Branch would not let this pass so an impromptu birthday bash was held on the 3rd deck of Manang Peda’s house (our former Ifugao Branch Manager and a dear friend) who laid down a feast of thick slabbed Ifugao barbecue and 2 cases of San Mig Lights. I shared a rawnpos and two-by-two with former mayor Albert Indunan and quietly drank my hinyebra while listening to an animated debate on why the DILG should be abolished. The cold Ifugao air collected into dews on the empty and half-full beer bottles as my sinadag went through the night.
I was off early the next morning after texting my training buddy to fill in for me. It was not planned. It was more for the Lagalag notebook I have with me. I should find a suitable background for documenting its Ifugao trip. And since I would be passing by my hometown, I dropped by Almaguer, paid my respects at the tomb of my departed parents, and introduced the notebook to the church on a hill where my journey to the past and back evolved.
It was 2 pm when I hit Nueva Ecija. Well, a birthday drink would not hurt so I texted those who I think can come on short notice to meet me at the kambingan. The kabagises were represented, so are my PRRM family who came in full force. Pugad Baboy missed one due to the side effect of a facial. The Hanks, my drinking middle class buddies from Bacal II, came in later with 3 big balloons and a cake that was inscribed with “Happy Birthday Mr. True Man”. “Totoong tao ka kasi,” they explained when I asked what is with the “True Man” tag. I was so touched.
Since I made painom to The Hanks, I must have another one the next day for the Kamatsile Gang --- my “friends in low places where the whiskey drowns and the beer chases…”. They would drink anything but I indulged them with Fundador and Tres Cepas. They will remember this birthday for a long time and I will always be grateful for the pinangat na hito and tiim na itik. By 10 pm, we moved our bungar to The Boundary to wash the brandy with beer and flirt with painted ladies who smelled like hospitals.
On my 38th birthday, Almaguer’s bungar connected with the sinadag of Bacal II.
PHOTOS (top to bottom): (1) Sinadag in Kiangan; (2) Lagalag among the Bulols of Ifuago and (3) meeting the church on top of a hill in Almaguer. (4) My birthday cake from The Hanks and (5) my birthday pulutan (clockwise from left lower corner: kalderetang kambing, kilawing kambing, adobong bibe, tapang kabayo). (6) From Kamatsile Gang came a gift of pinangat na hito and (7) a total performance from Estong.