Sagada Folk Tales: Si Sal-salak-en

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It’s that dreaded time of the year when the sun will never take a peep out from the ominous dark skies and you have to wet-proof yourself from the non-stop downpours. Such weather dampened an already gruesome Monday morning as I find myself stuck at the bus stop for a ride that will seemingly never come. I had no one but these crows to keep me company. Foreboding.

In one of Lola’s many stories, there was this character, Sal-salak-en. Not much is known about her other than the fact that she was kind and hardworking. A certain bird then brought a life-changing fortune to her one day. Leading to the moral that if you are good, you will be rewarded. Well I always envisioned that bird in the story as a crow. And seeing all these crows cawing noisily without a care for this weather made me remember this exasperating little bird that meant nothing but good though. Now I will attempt to re-tell the story in our native Kankana-ey so as not to lose its novelty.

Id kasin wada nan kangadan si Sal-salak-en. Nagaget ya naanus ay ipogaw. Inagew ay umey lumukso ta wada ipakana sinan ad-ado ay anan-ak na.

Madanagan sha esa’y agew usto ay tukabana nan bagasan tay maid sinkagemgem si nabay-an. Danat kanan en ta umey mangubi ta ilaok na sinan ati-atik ay bagas ta wada umanayana si kanen da.

Magedwa et nan um-a ay kaykaykayen Sal-salak-en dapay maid makubkubana si ubi. Ngem ipapati na kayet ta bareng wada’y ulay tulo si sa makidkidan. Madama sisha’y mangubkubkob dat wada nan dedengena ay menkalkali sinan igid di um-a.

Sal-salak-en, depapem saken. Sal-salak-en, depapem sak-en.”

Ikakamon Sal-salak-en ay umey mang-anap nu sino menkalkali danat maila nan te-e-te-en ay kuyat. “Ineh dakan dumungaw. Ala man lang ta depapek sika ta isaak sika ta wada balbalay san kimmot ko.”

Isunga danat depapen san kuyat et ippey na sinan atubang na. Maid lima’y minutos dat kasin manakali san kuyat. “Sal-salak-en, aka ta utowem sak-en. Sal-salak-en, aka ta utowem sak-en.”

Kanan Sal-salak-en en tutuwengena ngem adi sumalsaldeng ay menpukpuka-at san kuyat. Isunga danat isaldeng nan ik-ikkana danat umey et utowena ta guminekana. Danat taynan san banga ay nautowana et umey na kasin ituloy ay mangubi. Maawni pay ya sana kasin di menkalkali. “Sal-salak-en, aka ta kanem sak-en. Salsalak-en, aka ta kanem sak-en.”

Nakibtot si Salsalak-en tay dan nauto lang garuden nan kuyat ya daan ay menkalkali. Ngem danat ikakamo et menkakana bareng tay dey dadlo nakan et maid et mangdungdungaw ken sisha. Egay sha nabsug tay te-e-te-en ay kuyat nan insibo na ngem mengasing sha tay dey dadlo maid distorbo sinan mangubi-ana.

Aye di kibtot na ustoy kanakali san kuyat sinan eges na! “Sal-salak-en, itakkim sak-en. Sal-salak-en, itakkim sak-en!”

“Ayta ka pay si kuyat ay dakan nakan dakapay daan ay menkalkali!” Makaliget si Sal-salak-en ay mangwani ngem dat umey sisha sinan igid di um-a na et itakki na san kinan na. Danat kasin umey ituloy san ubla na.

Namasdem et dapay pulos nu wada nadas-ana si ubi. Madanagan sisha nu ngan di sana ipakan sinan anan-ak na. Dat bigla wada manakali sinan igid di um-a. “Sal-salak-en, ilam pud sak-en!” Menligos pay si Sal-salak-en dat deey di batang di luban ay tinmubo san nangipabal-ana san kuyat. Dadakel ay ninkabubulin san begas san luban. Ado nan naum ya ado gedan nan egay.

Mengasing si Salsak-en ay mangbulas sinan luban. Inuma sisha si naum ya egay. “Naay dadlo’y sami kanen si malabi.” Kanana sinan nemnem na. Adi pay dat sumaa et sisha. Mid ubi ay kalgan san laba na ngem wada nan kaluba-luban.

Sumaa pay sisha danat tukaban nan esang ay naum ay luban dat bagas nan kalga na! Tukabana nan esang ay egay kaum dat du-om abes nan mentete-e! Aye di gasing Sal-salak-en.

Manipud sidi, egay et kasin kau-uwat nan anan-ak na. Bubumgas kanayun san luban. Basta umey menbulas sisha et kaneg na mamadnge kayet nan kalin di kuyat ay kega menselsat mangmangwani en “Sal-salak-en!”

Writer’s Note: Narrative is based solely on recollections from an evening storytelling beside the dying embers of the ‘dapwan’. For any deviations that may in one way or another alter or debase the original, apologies in advance. Inputs are welcomed with gladness and enthusiasm. 🙂

As they light those fires, I reminisce…

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Calvary Hill Cross

My earliest memories of the Anglican cemetery of St. Mary the Virgin in Sagada that we fondly call “Kamusanto”  (Campo Santo) with the eloquence of the local tongue were when I was but 5 or 6 years of age. I went there with my old man for almost two weeks straight when he was constructing double tombs to lay my grandparents in the future when they pass away. Yes. We made their final resting places way ahead of time.

The place didn’t have as many graves and headstones as it does now so I have vivid memories of a lot of green and red-brown dirt and me going home with a lot of knee scrapes caused by hopping from one tomb to the other.

I’ve wondered how come we were making the burial chambers in advance when I see both my grandparents being strong and healthy. Lolo could still lead the ‘amam-a’s‘ in the dap-ay and he had this voice and aura that somehow made him seem taller than his actual six feet. Lola on the other hand could not be stopped from going to the fields to ‘manungtung‘ and ‘mangubi‘ (gather camote tops and roots). My mother said building these ahead of time actually makes the lives of people meant to be interred therein longer. That made me happy and I didn’t question that any further.

Whether the belief held or not, my grandfather succumbed to cancer five or six years after his tomb was completed. His wife, my grandma, lived on to be 103 years old. I guess that somehow proves the belief then.

For the next few years after my lolo’s demise, the ‘Kamusanto‘ has been a sanctuary for me. I find myself wandering to his place late in the afternoons simply because I enjoyed the tranquility and peace riddled within the boneyard. I’d bring my textbooks and hard bounds and spend long hours studying, reading, or napping right on top of lolo’s tomb. It may seem like a creepy way to have a me-time but the place never gave off the eerie ambience most cemeteries are expected to have. I’d often find empty booze bottles snuck inside the vacant cavern next to my grandpa’s which proved the fact that I was not alone when I say the place is not at all a scary place to chill. Heck, those punks who drank those 4 x 4’s most probably after town curfew are way more courageous to go drink their poison amongst the dead. Cemetery ‘jamming’, anyone?

These graves and  the spirits therein have probably seen so much more than we let on. Drunken confessions, lovers’ trysts, first kisses, first heartbreaks, first drag of that stick that made you cough, last embraces, last tears.

Even for non-locals, the place cannot be missed as it is strategically located as a scenic detour when going to the Echo Valley and the Underground River.

Much controversy arose before too when this gigantic network erected its tower, looming right over the tombstones and monuments.

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Much-publicized “Panag-aapoy” (Locals honor their dead by lighting redwood on every single headstone.)

The years have seen so much physical changes as expected. Imprinted in my earlier memory is this spacious hill–a lot of white but so much more grass and dirt. Today, the whites have crawled higher, lower, southward and northward. But obviously the vibe is still the same. It remains a buoyant place and so much alive, a nice irony. And this is probably why it’s always poignant to be unable to join the family when we do the yearly remembrance for departed loved ones during All Saints’ Day. Like I know I can always do my thing from wherever I am. I was brought up with the teachings of ‘atang‘ and ‘luwalo‘ (offerings and prayers) so I still light my little candle and leave a shot glass of booze and fruit on the side (and chug the remaining contents of the bottle of course). But actually being there, getting sooty and smoked with the rest of the family is something that’s really missed.

First recollections of the place were those long hours with my dad, now he’s resting there himself. I never fail to visit every chance I get whenever I’m home. I walk my dogs there often that I can guarantee they know their way around, even without me.

There’s no telling what other changes our beloved Kamusantu will witness and undergo in the coming years. But nothing can change my sentiments about it. The way the place enthralled me with its serenity and peace will always be what I’ll look forward to– living, and in the afterlife.

                                                          #inRemembrance