Barefoot Chronicles: Third Time’s a Charm

 

IMG_3060

Without hesitation, I claim that the mountains of BC are love at first sight and experience for me. Simply because I am reminded of home with the painfully familiar coniferous bounty that British Columbia’s forests boast of.

I lived below the century-old pine trees of Tangeb back in Sagada so I got to smell the pungent sweetness of sap and pine needles that waft through the breeze all day long. I yearn for that most times hence every chance I get, I indulge in getting lost amongst the pines, oaks and redwoods of this province’s bounteous forests.

IMG_2929

Like a runner’s high, I experience that euphoria once I succumb to getting lost in a mossy paradise. I feel most tranquil as I slowly start to lose my grip of time, gawking at the overgrowth of life around me while swatting away mosquitoes or wasps.

IMG_2915

Elk Mountain has entranced me the first time Dalifer and I climbed it back in 2015. Almost fifteen hundred meters  (1,432 m) high and a medium-difficulty hike I believe for non-hard core hikers like me, it is a haven frequented by paragliders and occasional hikers who’d do the connection trail from Elk to Thurston to Cheam. I love it for the fact that not a lot of people come here. Unlike other highly-advertised trails in BC where most times you have to pace yourself with the person before or after you, you only get to meet a lone climber every 30 minutes or so. In a way, you own the trail.IMG_2973

Which is why we’ve made our Elk Mountain trek a yearly must. And each time, I would keep on thinking how a lot more awesome it would be if I was hitting this trail with a dog.

 

 

This year would be our third trip to Elk’s peak. It is very special since my wishful thinking of having a dog to egg me on towards the top came to fruition. Not only do I have a scout, I also have a sweeper. And so like a little pack, we trudged onwards on a drizzly weekday.

IMG_2927

IMG_2963

We make an interesting team. We have this dude who kept on complaining about his Vibrams that were apparently killing his feet and who was panting more than my double-coated boy. Tireless Kaidu who whines with impatience everytime we do a water break. And Kokujin, staunch and indefatigable Kojin who personifies will and determination even with his short, stubby legs.

IMG_2924

Back when it was just a duo between Dalifer and me, hiking in bear territory was not such a big deal as the unspoken truce was that we push each other as the token quarry if a black bear comes traipsing through. This time though, besides doubling the water bottles and carrying a dozen poop bags, we seriously considered getting a fog horn as we considered the wiener dog an effortless prey for a hungry carnivore. But of course that’s overdoing it. We settled for a whistle.

IMG_2969-Edit

To the untrained eye, the topography and flora may appear repetitive. But if you love forests as much as I do, you’d see how interestingly diverse the forest life is although it would seem to be just thick, lush green all over.

IMG_2939

I can keep coming back to this place as its magic will never dull. A couple of years ago, I wished for dogs to hike with. It happened. Is it pushing it when I’ll endeavor for little tots to run ahead of me in these same trails in the next year or so? I whispered to the forest gods and demi-gods. 😉

IMG_3057

Photo Credits: DBG

Home is where?

1525399324681.jpg
Pensive dusks that happen quite often.

 

A friend once told me it took her three years to finally come to terms with the fact that she has a different country from what she has known to call home. I held on to this, thinking my time would come. That give or take a few years, I would gradually have a sense or a semblance at least of attachment to this foreign land. It’s three years now–I’ve never felt farther from home.

That’s sad. And ungrateful I might add when others would attempt anything to cross borders and oceans to be here. But I guess if for others it takes three years to acclimatize, for the luckier others, less, for the unfortunate others, more.

I tried. God knows I did. It’s something that ought to happen without a hitch. But doing so has proven to be a struggle.

Maybe my definition of the word itself is fuzzy. Because for me home is where you most become yourself. At ease, carefree, fulfilled, happy. But this is probably why the feeling of belongingness in this land is challenging because my depiction is just so abstract.

I’ve moved quite a bit; settled in different towns and cities. Readapting was quite easy for some reason. Maybe because I always knew that these were temporary. Like four years in a campus dormitory sped by because I knew once I was done, I can waltz back to my mountains. Three years alone in a house by the outskirts of a city was a breeze, or another three years shuffling among flats in the deserts went by as swiftly. True there were challenges in every move, numerous ones, but I somehow glided with the changes.

Which gives me reason to believe that I’ve always associated home with a sense of permanence. And that is why getting to accept that being here for a long-term, if not permanent status, is arduous and demonstrating itself to be such a formidable undertaking.

I’m writing this obviously for my sake. Like a self-help missive to prod myself that there’s nothing and no one to make it better for me other than me.

Perhaps I should begin by redefining my perception of home. That it ought not to be singular, not necessarily physical–a more versatile, more encompassing definition. That I should not only associate it to where my family and loved ones are, or that it’s only home when I pay for the upkeep of the roof above my head. After all, I was able to make a home for myself at the top bunk of a rowdy, co-ed dorm room. Or at a grandpa’s pint-sized cabin near a river. And even at a flat shared with eight other people with varying personalities.

Home can be where you will it to be and not necessarily where you want it to be. Hence I should be able to create it, anywhere–so long as I put my heart to it. I was just too stubborn to start doing so.

After all, I live in a beautiful city. Topography’s just like that back in my town with its coniferous mountains. Weather here’s bipolar and so unpredictable but we have the best summers too. People are friendly, transit’s reliable most days, there’s plenty of jobs when you know where to look, and tons of adventures to do if you’re the outdoors type like me. Most importantly, this country has welcomed me with open arms and offered me an array of opportunities.

FB_IMG_1525316012356.jpg
Picturesque City of Van.

It should have been so easy for me to call this place home. But I stuck to my sentiments. I keep on yearning for people who are not here. I was missing the different kind of freedom that I indulged in elsewhere. And that a huge part of me was in denial, subconsciously thinking that I’m here on a quite lengthy vacation. These all need to change. It won’t be overnight for sure but I believe accepting the reality that my fate might be tied to this city is a big first step.

1525316739328.jpg
Home is where your story begins.

 

 

 

I will find my reasons to be ‘at home’, plenty of them. Both pragmatic and sentimental ones. It might take another three years, or three months, but I’ll get there eventually.

– G

Sagada Folk Tales: “An-ananga”

A long time ago in a quaint town by the mountains, lived a young couple named An-ananga and his wife whom he called his Princess. Such was the beauty of the woman that An-ananga was lovesick and could not bear to leave her for even just a second. 

He would gaze at her all day long. He would marvel at every detail of her face. He was so infatuated with his radiant wife that he chooses to just sit by her side and feed on her looks.

The wife, being more pragmatic than the lovesick An-ananga implored, “My love, I welcome your affection but what will happen if we both stay at home all day long? Our pantry will not refill itself with rice and crops if you just sit beside me idly through the long summer days and rainy ones too.”

With hesitation, An-ananga agreed to go back to the fields to work. Heavy-hearted, he plowed the fields and was barely done with ten meters when he decided to go right back home to his Princess wife.

Surprised but very patient, the wife said, “Dear husband, maybe you can try again tomorrow. This time, bring my photo with you. Two of them. Nail one to one post and one to the opposite post. That way when you plow the fields back and forth, you will see my face and perhaps you will miss me less.” Seeing how the idea might possibly work, An-ananga agreed and thus he set forth the next morning with the two photos in hand.

True enough, he was more energized. He felt stronger and he was fast as he repeatedly made the back and forth trip from one end of the field to the other. The smiling face of his Princess on both sides of the field encouraged him.

Lo! The strong winds of the north came and tore a photo of the Princess from one post and blew it across the hills. It flew and fluttered until it reached the camp of weary but formidable soldiers and settled on the feet of no other than their fierce captain. He picked the photo and was instantly lovestruck.

He summoned his guards and commanded them to search for the face on the photo with the order to bring her and make her his bride.

Far and wide, the soldiers sought. They turned all the villages upside down till they reached the small town where An-ananga and his Princess lived. When they found the woman on the photo and learned she already belonged to another man, they were aghast. They believed it was not right to take a married woman to have her wed another man but at the same time they were scared of their fiery captain.

They bargained and reasoned with An-ananga until he at last agreed with the condition that he go with them, at least to join his Princess on her trip to see the Captain.

When they reached the camp, the Captain was in a hurry to get rid of An-ananga. But An-ananga was cunning. “If you want to take my wife, at least give me something in return.”

The captain, undisturbed said,”Anything you want, just say it so you can be on your way.”

An-ananga said,” Give me a bag of gold.” The captain laughed and willingly made the arrangements for wads of money and gold to be bagged.

“Take off your uniform and your medals. Give them to me.” Though puzzled, the captain did.

“Now with his uniform comes his title, I command you obedient soldiers to shoot this captain who is so vile as to take a woman who is already wed to another man, ” goes on An-ananga. Unhesitatingly, the soldiers obliged. They know their captain was in the wrong.

So with a bag of money and gold, a captain’s uniform and a woman of unparalleled beauty on his arms, An-ananga started his trek back home to his small town. With the bounty he unwittingly earned, An-ananga could afford not to work and he could just spend his days gazing at his wife’s beauty.

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. 🙂

Of Stories to be Retold…

20171126_142618.png
“So tell me more Lola.” (KNN)

It’s been a year since my favorite local historian left to join her forefathers after a century of a life well-celebrated. I remember her not with grief but with continued awe of how she graciously led a life with purpose. Though I cannot help but be unpleasantly reminded of one unjustifiable failure that I should have managed to complete while she still breathed the gusts of the highlands.

When my pen was more cooperative and my mind thirsted for knowledge and preservation, I once vowed to myself to put into paper the rich local folktales that my grandmother kept vaulted in her retentive mind but willingly and gladly shared without much prodding. I started with a sentence or two of the lovelorn yet reckless An-ananga and his princess of unparalleled beauty then stopped for reasons unknown. I don’t even recall where I kept that lazy draft.

Alas! Now my foolproof source is no longer here and I definitely cannot rely on this 30-year old, withered mind to recollect and revive the colorful lives led by those vibrant characters. It is tragic that I failed to immortalize them while she was still alive but it will be more of a misfortune if I do not attempt to do so.

The plights of the gutsy An-ananga, the exploits of the brave Sadsadyokana, and the wit of Pal-pal-ama against the sneaky Oto-ot deserve to be retold. These tales are great reminders of our local culture’s richness and it would be such a shame to let them be drowned in the advent of modernization and technology.

Where to start? I have no idea.20171126_142711.png

I need to go back to those years when this once young mind savored the evening story-telling with the grandma. With the imaginary warmth of the dying embers of the ‘dapwan’, I go back and start with, ‘A long, long time ago…

 

…to be continued.

Be Kind, Be Inspired

There was, or there were junctures in the past when just about anything can inspire me to pen a jumble of either nonsensical, profound or passably read-worthy thoughts. Riding a cramped bus, the feel of gritty sand cascading through my fingers, the sunset, or even just a broken pencil–a lot of things used to switch on for that tap of words to spew forth.

But when you’ve ridden too many cramped buses, witnessed so many sunsets and broken a lot of pencils, you get jaded. Everything becomes unimpressive that you seem to blend with the dull. I still tried to write by resorting to refer myself in the third person. I got my dog to do it. Imaginative–not.

With the monotony that I managed to accept as life, hours can be killed by drowning into my secret abyss. Tuning out literally and figuratively from everything alive that’s happening around. People in buses stopped being interesting and sunsets became monochromatic.

20171026_100523.jpg
@ Renfrew & Hastings

 But some things just happen to awaken the dormant mind. A stimulating conversation, waking up on the right side of the bed, that encouraging prod from someone close to you. Suddenly what seemed normal becomes engaging. Like this sign that I’ve mindlessly passed every morning to work for the past 202 or so days, it spoke to me for the first time. It had meaning again. I just had to see.  It reminded me that next time I get on the bus, I would offer my seat with extra kindness. Not that I begrudged before but this time, do it wholeheartedly. I can start with that.

Maybe if I knew music, I’d create. Or if I knew art, I’d Cezanne myself my own “Boy in the Red Vest”. But no. So I must write. I must revive the appetite for searching things which are beautiful and be compelled to imprint them in words. To remind myself that humanity is interesting and thus I ought to be kinder. And that every sunset is different from the one yesterday and that I ought to be inspired.

I can restart with that.

‘Woofy Birthday, Woman!’

IMG_2345
I walk. Kojin walks. She walks.

So my hooman turned a year older today. She’s convinced herself she’s still 21 so I’m letting her indulge in this fantasy. Just for today.

I know that for some reason, she was dreading the advent of this day. Who does that? I love birthdays! Most people love birthdays! But I guess she’s not most people.

I delight in birthdays because it means a cake, presents, and I’m treated like a boss. They give me a pass for chewing the couch or they hand me an extra rasher. For my mom though, she claims birthdays somehow make her wistful. These remind her of what ifs, of missed opportunities, of sky dives that never happened, and the worst decisions she’s made. Boy, it must be tough being a grown-up.

IMG_1474
Way back when I was smaller than her.

The pact she made with herself to Angelina Jolie herself a brown-eyed, freckly baby that doesn’t drool or gurgle when she turns 28 never came to fruition. She’s seen that age come and go but she ended up having me instead and this cheeky little bugger I call my younger brother. (We fart and barf, that’s a better deal methinks.) I know too that aside from us, she has devoted herself to other fur babies. Humans are strange. They don’t know what they want.

IMG_1814
With Kojin, the humongous dachshund.

Kojin and I wanted to do something special for her today but the best we could manage was to refrain from having diarrhea and not give her another scar mark from excessive nipping and biting. We give her ‘ruff’ love.

Today she went about her daily grind. Three-hour commute back and forth to work. (She doesn’t drive. Too many fenders bent.) Nine-hour shift. Ten pages leafed through a 360-paged textbook. One lottery ticket and another scratch card that was not at all lucky. A conspicuous gray hair plucked from her black mane. One or two candles snuffed out.

She seemed chipper but she cried a little. She pondered why bliss for her age seems to be perpetually pursued. She says it’s a constant effort; that it needs to be chased. I don’t get her. I hound dragonflies and smelly butts, and these make me euphoric. It’s not that complicated. Maybe I ought to take her butt-a-chasin’ next time. Humans are weird. Especially women. Especially women her age.

She says she’ll start doing more favors for herself. Eat healthier, drink lesser. More adventures, less passiveness. More spontaneity, less routine. Be happier, and be impervious to people who make her feel otherwise.

So far she’s managed to turn herself into a flexitarian. Whatever that means. (I call it a cheating vegetarian.) She started running again and does these ridiculous squats that scrunch her face ugly. She can now sleep without having to watch those murder documentaries that she says lull her to oblivion. And she’s withdrawn from drinking soda (but she started drinking beer). She still enjoys her favorite pastime which is to have duets with herself. Cringe-worthy. I guess she’s getting there.

My brothers and I wish her the best today and all the days thereafter. I wish to see her cry lesser. It can get weird seeing her sob when she watches dogs or cats being rescued, or when she sees reruns of the Gladiator. She does say we raise her oxytocin levels when we let ourselves be cuddled. I should not begrudge her those hugs then. I hope she knows that despite constantly chastising herself for her inadequacies and falling short of expectations she’s set for herself, she’s our world. She makes us happy. Happy 21st woman!

 

T2 Reverie (15th May, ’17)

20170521_140816
One of Mab-an’s many outtakes during our little excursions.

An airport is either the happiest or loneliest place. I sit here contemplating the obvious with a half-eaten, overpriced hotdog sandwich and a lukewarm cappuccino that would have otherwise been downed in a jiffy under different, happier circumstances.

It’s not the first time I said goodbye to family and friends. Been through this heart-wrenching process a lot of times already but every single farewell seems to be a first. You succumb to this dragging drift of misery as you question yourself yet again why you had to leave in the first place.

I’ve been looking forward for the longest time to 30 days in sunny paradise. It came and went rapidly. So fast that by the time it was over, I was in complete denial. Still am. Lugging my belongings into place was a harrowing, dreary task. I went through airport queues in a trance while replaying vivid images of my teary-eyed mother and Byte cluelessly yawning as I blew him kisses through the car window.

The whole procedure of goodbyes and reassurances that we undergo takes an emotional toll during the days or even months that come after. We know the heartbreaks and chest constrictions that come with it but we willingly submit ourselves to this in exchange for fleeting escapes from routine that is our life. We let ourselves be subjects to such arduous pain because we know it is more than worth it.

This summer’s indulgence with the sun as I basked around the love of family, friends and home made me reconceive that every single moment is immensely significant. Even sleep was a costly option as every moment should be a waking one. I literally bought a day or two more by rebooking flights and cancelling reservations. Time is pricey. That’s why it is meant to be savored.

I certainly don’t anticipate dealing with jetlag that involves eating rice meals at two in the morning and bingeing on cooking shows during ungodly hours, while reminiscing all those moments that I wish I could freeze.

So with the stoutest heart I could muster, I walk the jetbridge that would literally disconnect me from the sun and all the love it has brought me during the last 30 days towards the reality of routine, bills and adulting. Till next time.

Kaidu’s Heart Breaks A Little!

c
‘Kokujin’& My Mom. MY Mom.

Earlier this week, my people brought home this funny, brown fluff that I thought was another addition to my countless teethers. I was already grinding my teeth in anticipation when the thing moved! It moved! Like its little nose snuck out for a sniff and then its tail wagged! It has a tail!

I went ballistic! I did not know what to feel. All these new emotions came at once. I’ve never felt these before and my awesome brain was struggling to process them. I know excitement, (I always have that when my mommy comes home or when I smell bacon), that I could explain. But there were these other emotions that churned my insides and made my heart cry a little. They were anxiety and jealousy. I only came to learn and put these into definition when I had to process the reality that I was no longer the lone furball in the house.

My distress came from wondering whether my people were loving me less because why would they get another dog when they already have me? Jealousy of course was obvious. I admit my selfishness. I want all the undivided attention. I want my toys to myself. The treats to myself, my mommy and daddy to myself.

b
‘Kojin’ as I call him. And the blurry blob is my butt.

His name is Kokujin. He looks like half-a-dog and half-a-hotdog. But I think he’s more on the hotdog side. He is brown all over—from the fur, to the eyes, and the nose. My hoomans think he is the cutest thing on earth. They swoon over him and get so thrilled because he gives them lots of little licks and kisses. I don’t do cuddles. I don’t do kisses. But yes, I guess you could say he’s the daintiest little thing. I have to give that to him ungrudgingly. Too cute that my paws seem dangerously humongous when I give him a little tap on his back. This scares the wits out of my parents. Relax people, if I wanted him for lunch, I would have gobbled him up the moment you brought him home.

I know they always have the best intentions for me so I will have to trust them on this one. For now though I am trying to adjust. It’s weird having another dog’s bowl next to mine. Or that another dog is playing with my toys. I’ve outgrown most of my toys so I guess he could have them.

a
Tug time.

 

Sometimes he naps on my bed. I don’t know why he does that when they got him his own. Mostly though, he sleeps on my mom’s pillow. Tucked like the little baby that he is. I mean I sleep with my mom and dad every now and then but I scamper out when the room becomes unbearable because Daddy starts to snore or my mom throws her legs all over everyone. But this little dude can stay tucked all night long! So since they brought him home, no way am I giving up my spot at the foot of the bed! I’m staying here every single hour of every night, watching him like a hawk.

But you could say I am a lot more occupied, and yes, happier now. I have a playmate! I don’t get as bored as I did before. I only got to play with other dogs when we take walks or when I was still going to school. Other than those, it’s only my people that I pester. Now Kojin is here. He is not as agile as me but he is surprisingly speedy even with those pudgy little legs of his.

Well so long as my mom does not give him a rasher more of the bacon than she does for me, I guess we can work things out. The thought of being an older bro is somewhat cool. And I am getting attached to him already. Till then, I have some butt-chasing to do.

Wee-wee pad training!

 

 

Kaidu Steals Mommy’s Blog!

IMG_1762
“I think zee ladies dig my cone.”

Hi, my name is Kaidu. My parents call me tons of different names that often sound gibberish like Kai, Kaiditu, Jigglybums, Kaiduchan, Kaidupootpoot and so on. But my personal favorites are Big Boy and the Boss. I just turned nine months sometime ago which is like nine years old in hooman years for my breed according to Pedigree’s dog age conversion thingy. I got to know my hoomans when I was just 10 weeks old and that was when life and my awesomeness started!

I’m still very young but I have big dreams because I am ambitious like that. One of them is to be famous like  Zayn Malik or that dog-writer, Ziggy, on Barkpost. I know I can be for a lot of reasons. For one, I have the pipes. Music is a huge thing in my household and every time my dad pulls out his guitar, I know that’s a cue for me to howl out the tunes that I composed myself. Mommy joins in every now and then but I always try to make my singing louder because she kinda sucks. I mean, I love my mom to death because there’s a lot to love about her. Like she always sneaks in slices of bacon under the table when daddy’s not looking, she spoon feeds me without complaints when I suddenly decide to be lazy, she giggles uncontrollably at my farts, but her singing is just awful! And when she decides to dance while she is singing, it’s just cringe-worthy. I go inside my crate, bum towards her.

Well I decided to start writing because I get bored sometimes and I want an outlet for my pent up energy. I want to keep on running and frolic nonstop on that white thing people call snow. I want to dig stuff and chew on wood. But I understand why these cannot be an everyday thing. My pawrents need to go to this place where dogs like me are not allowed. They work there so they could bring home treats, raw hides, and those countless fluffy stuff that don’t last very long under my teeth. I understand that so it’s okay if they say goodbye because I know they always come back when it gets dark. That’s the best part of my days–when they come home and I jump at them like I haven’t seen them in ages. In the meantime, I will write. My mom thinks she’s so smart that only she can access this blog but I figured out her password so that makes me smarter.

The past few days were not the best. IMG_1780I am wearing this cone again because I can’t stop chewing off my hair. I had to go revisit the big man who squeezed something in my butt before. It was awful and downright shameful to have someone poke my behind but Daddy said it was for my own good. Now the big guy did it again and I overheard him say that one reason why I seem to find my hair so palatable is that I have an allergy of some sort. Now that means they’re putting a stop on my little hooman food treats which are always so tasty. It also means only food that are hypo-allergenic (new food always gives me diarrhea, ugh), new shampoo, no this, no that. I don’t like visiting the big guy. Uh-uh. Not unless ladies are there to visit too. Like this Lady Bulldog, Penny, she was beautiful. We sniffed each other. And I think I am crushing on this receptionist, Lora. I think she likes me too.

I like getting into these rides with Mom and Dad but not all outings are fun. I remember before when Dad and my Uncle took me to this clinic that I used to visit a lot when I was younger. I thought it was the usual little prick they always did on my back but this time they did something much more! They took away my two thingamajigs that I used to lick till they glistened! I thought I could never forgive my people for that but I realized nothing they do will make me ever hate them.

So anyway, now I am on a strict diet with this tasteless food and no sirree!!! I am keeping my jaws shut till they give me the good stuff. Let’s see who gives in.  In the meantime, I see my mom prancing around like it’s the end of the world. She’s trying to come up with all these ludicrous ideas on how to shove these antibiotics down my gullet to stop my infatuation with my fur. Like I said, she thinks she’s smart but I am smarter.

-Kaidu, the Awesome

Calidad Humana; Living A Hundred Years and More

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 1.25.55 PM
Lola Banayan and Gayamen (Photo: Aiden Josh Wandag; great grandson)

Living a Hundred Years and More

Perhaps she didn’t like it as well. Her very long, silver-white hair had to be sheared, right above her ears. It had to be cut because she had to spend most of the hours lying down in bed, tangling those locks that once gloriously crowned her head. She wasn’t bed-ridden, not just yet, but old age has taken its toll and even sitting down wearied her already.

She used to say it was taboo to cut the hair of an old woman as all her memories are stored in those long, thinning tresses—a personal belief she insisted even among us, her grandchildren. But like all the other things she had to give up doing, this was one of the beliefs she had to renounce too.

The years have finally caught up with her. But no one really knows how old she is exactly. She has outlived all of her friends and generation-mates. There are times I can’t help but think that she’s going to live forever, in the literal sense that is. But I, among numerous others know that she will, in one way or another, she is really going to live forever. She has left in us a legacy that makes us want to make the most of what life has to offer. She, now in her silent world, old and weary but with those knowing eyes that are still very much alive. They continue to sparkle with wisdom—of told and untold knowledge she has accumulated through all those years.

Prisca Sumedca Banayan, fondly called Lola Banayan by everyone else, is considered by those who know her as the oldest living citizen of Sagada, Mt. Province, a small tourist town nestled in the hills of the Cordillera mountain range. No official documents could prove that but we accepted it like it was a fact. We did so not only because she has been around longer than anyone else but also because up to now, her say on community issues are still revered, a rarity in a traditional community where the opinions of the male old folks are the ones taken into consideration.

She was born in the unfortunate era when women were regarded lesser as that to men. When her only brother was encouraged to go to school, she was made to stay at home and perform the daily chores despite her insistence that she attend school as well. Despite being adamant to her father that she be given the privilege to go to those classes conducted by the American missionaries, she wasn’t allowed. There were few victories which she fondly recounts to me every now and then. She managed to escape her father’s watchful eyes and was able to attend a class or two. Thus her very sparse knowledge of a few English words—grandfather, stick, green, little girl, cloud, among other words that she can mouth with that self-satisfied grin of hers.

Yes, she is illiterate, hardly the kind who can possibly do much for her society as she was never given the chance to be educated about the new ways of the world. But that’s what makes me admire her so much. I’m in such awe at her wisdom, wisdom not acquired in the academe, but one which was nourished by years of braving a life that seemed to offer so much in so little time, a life that challenged her to make whatever little thing she had into something huge.

Even as a toddler, Lola Banayan had always been a favorite of mine. I had this unquenchable thirst for stories and she had endless of those. She had this knack of telling stories that could enthrall me for hours, knowing that I had an attention span that lasted for such a short time. It was in these stories that I gleaned a lot of things, for these were not just tales designed for bedtime but these were stories that were brimming with local lore and history that are unfortunately left undocumented.

I never really got to ask her where she got these stories. But I could picture this scenario where as little kids before, she was among those toddlers who like me, were eager to get as many stories from her elders as well. I see her huddled around the dying embers of the fire while maybe her grandmother or mother recounted tales long lost to the younger generations nowadays. But in my case, I can still remember them like they were told to me yesterday.

These stories were set in the rural suburbs of villages with female protagonists who always emerged victorious in their own plights. Even in my young mind, I somehow always pictured one of those heroines as my very own grandmother. For me, she embodied the traits and characteristics that enabled those characters to be victorious in their own respective exploits.

Lola Banayan’s own glorious feat cannot be measured by the community contributions she made or by any distinctive deed that would earn her a seat in the town council. In fact, she had so little but she gave so much. As a wife of a farmer and a mother of ten children, her life revolved around rearing this huge brood while toiling everyday to be able to support the family. It was the time when paid labor was rare and to be able to survive, one has to literally work their bodies off. That was what she did. To her, there was no difference between night and day, as long as her lithe body could allow her to toil and labor. Accounts from my mother gave me a picture of a woman who worked as hard as a man to be able to provide to her family. As life was truly hard those times, it wasn’t enough depending on the resources that were available in the vicinity. They needed other commodities aside from the homegrown crops that they plant throughout the year. The idea of barter trading was also recognized by the highlanders. As it was, Lola Banayan always took it as her responsibility to trudge those mountains on foot while carrying a sack or two of her produce with hopes of exchanging it for a certain amount of the highly-valued salt from their lowlander brothers. This scenario already gives me an idea of the kind of hard labor and sacrifices that Lola Banayan had to undergo just so no one among the family members could ever go hungry.

As a mother, she never failed. She made it sure that there was not just enough food for everyone but also made it a point that what she missed before, she won’t make her children forego the opportunity of being learned. She was more than dutiful to encourage all the members of her brood to attend the public school that was being run then by American missionaries and some pioneer highlander educators. She knew that she needed all the hands she can get to help her in the fields for the family’s daily sustenance but she took it upon herself to do all the chores though some of her kids were already old and more than capable to help her out with the livelihood. For her, it was more important for the kids to go to school than to have them help her in the fields instead. She eked whatever little they had to be able to provide paper, books and school clothing for her children.

Fate tends to be kind to those who persevere as Lola Banayan was blessed with children who knew the importance of hard work and who recognized and valued the sacrifices of their parents. Their kids grew up to be industrious and diligent ones. Though far from being pampered, they fared way better relative to their mother’s experience. This however did not make them complacent at all. Values were embedded in their young minds. More than the lessons they encountered in the school, were the morals that were constantly being imparted by their parents. Lola Banayan always had adages and life lessons to share to her children. My mother often re-echoes these to me, morals that are really very familiar as I usually hear these from my grandmother as well.

When her kids were old enough to fend for themselves and have families of their own, she continued to be a doting grandmother to her grandchildren. No wonder she became a favorite of most.

Though already aged and silver, her desire for literacy was never quenched. Benevolent local educators held informal learning during night times and Lola Banayan was always a punctual attendee. Those few months she spent under the tutelage of someone a lot younger than her increased her meager vocabulary on English. She was able to create a sentence or two using the language and that was already a huge thing for her. They say that it’s never too late to get educated but this unfortunately applied to Lola Banayan. Her very flimsy grasp of the English language is all she could boast of. Time and human nature was not so kind to her. If perhaps the opportunity was given to her during her younger years, that would have spelled a huge difference.

However, whatever she missed out, she made up in the wit and knowledge that far transcends what a learned man has. Her integrity and her outlook about life, her selfless love, her huge and open heart, among other truly outstanding virtues earned respect not just from her children and grandchildren but from everyone who knew her.

She has a lot of friends, but most if not all of them, she has outlived already. That attests how old she is in years already, but her strong memory of history’s events as if they happened yesterday more than affirms the length of time she has lived already. It is amazing how someone her age can vividly remember events long gone. Her memory’s so reliable that a lot of local writers consult her for their outputs. I myself have repeatedly consulted her for my researches and studies that included local history. She continues to be my best local historian as her accounts of past events though not based on actual dates are always specific and detailed.

She led a life that is far from easygoing. She epitomizes the hardworking mother who sacrifices so much for the sake of her children as she manifests the kind of woman who can be submissive if it means sacrificing her wants for the greater good.

She led an ordinary life, no outstanding feats that could make her standout in the community, but how she was able to live it is what is extraordinary. True it was difficult but she never did once complain or be pessimistic in her outlooks. She talked about the harshness of life but recounted these with a strange fondness that is quite hard to comprehend. Life’s difficulties did not make her bitter in any way but instead made her stronger and more persevering, not just to get by but more for the sake of the people around her. That to me is a life well-spent. Not to sensationalize but I can really see Prisca Bacagan as one of the heroines in her numerous folk tales. I could repeatedly listen to her own story and not ever get tired of it.

"Indeed Lola, you have lived a hundred years and more." Photo: Ayeona Brett Wandag (great grandson)
“Indeed Lola, you have lived a hundred years and more.” Photo: Ayeona Brett Wandag (great grandson)

Author’s Note

We belong to a society where we put so much premium to one’s academic achievements. So much indeed that one’s background in the academe correlates to societal status. Perhaps it is for this reason that individuals are endlessly clamoring to have that distinct title attached to their names as they see that this could give them the edge in a highly-competitive environment.

The following essay relates the story of a woman who wanted so much to be educated like everyone else but who was unfortunately prohibited from being able to do so. Despite this, the author deems her as one who has lived a truly virtuous and purposeful life, even more so than others who were able to attain an academic diploma.

Calidad humana is to be depicted by not how worthy an individual is in terms of accomplishing his or her personal feats, but as to how many people he or she has unknowingly affected in a good way with his or her deeds. The person portrayed in the essay is far from being controversial or famous. But her simple, humble but laudable deeds and virtues make her an exemplary individual in her own right.

It is sad that we can be so hindsighted with one’s capabilities as we base these on societal statures. But there are a lot of people like the one in focus who contribute to society without even intending so or knowing it–humble and selfless individuals who are grounded on their values and who make the most of life even with life not offering much to them.

*Lola Banayan inspired my entry for this essay competition for “Calidad Humana”.

%d bloggers like this: