Sunday, August 24, 2008

CHILDREN OF THE CORN

“THAT SHOULD DO,” said Piso as he shoved a bundle of old newspapers inside the tattered army backpack. Inside is a freshly honed jungle bolo and a match box wrapped in a well-used plastic bag. They will scoop bubons along the dacquel nga carayan’s bank for their water and pick the firewood along the way.


They made their way single file across the pisong through a bridge of piled dried water lilies --- Piso with the army backpack slung on his shoulders led the way, followed by Pakupak’s Son, Ninoy, then Abet --- and across the freshly plowed bangkag heavy with the musky smell of fertile earth. Pakupak’s Son made mental notes of the banana groves they passed; there might be mushrooms to harvest there on the way back as well as some balang nga parya.


A pool of stagnant rainwater shadowed by a tree with broad leaves announced the approach to the cornfields. On the left is the fenced-in kasitrusan of a former vice-governor that is protected from river erosion by a spur dike where a line of bangkok santol trees are beginning to bear fruit. That land of the kasitrusan was once Amang Lakay’s bangkag before the Vice-governor came to own it and built the spur dike. This Abet would learn later.


They harvested the young small white-grained corns from the stunted corn stems, only 3 pieces for each of them. That’s the rule. Anybody from Almaguer can take from the bangkags along the river without permission but only enough for pangramanan. Taking more than that would be considered stealing. But they were young and growing and hungry so Piso went into the middle of the cornfield to harvest 2 more for each of them while Ninoy searched the sandy loam fields for tanubongs. Pakupak’s Son started peeling the outer husks of the corn as Abet walked to the riverbank to dig the bubons.


Soon, the air is filled with the sweet aroma of roasting corn and tanubongs. They sat around the fire munching on the burnt corn and wild camote, and a huge ripe papaya that Ninoy found while searching for the tanubongs. Piso took a swig of water from a bamboo canister then started retelling Apong Ino’s tale of the cornfields in Amerika that stretches to eternity…







IT’S BEEN SCARY crossing the river but Insan Lando’s muscular arms managed the boat well. They reached the kalapaw just before the gathering rain trickled in. Abet knew that his efforts in charming the two barrio beauties failed miserably. He grimaced as he recalled their misuots that became more pronounced with every minute until he finally pulled Insan Lando out. That’s how they came to the cornfield, to somehow escape from that embarrassment. They would not be returning to Kiling until dark.


“This is impossible, there can’t be corn this big!” muttered Insan Lando as they started roasting the corns. He is reading from the remnants of a glossy magazine whose pages were used to start the fire earlier. Abet moved close to him to take a look. He saw a big American in an overall with his aproned wife and pigtailed daughter holding on to yellow corns as big as sabunganays. Part of the title said that it was from a state fair in Iowa





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