Friday, June 3, 2011

San Biag Ko: Dusk til Dawn

©2010 Johnny Domawa 
All Rights Reserved

“Sino nan nagan din amam?”
I looked at him through half open eyes. The acrid smell of tobacco was strong in his breath and I could discern a hint of gin and half cooked meat mixed with the smell. I wondered what compelled me to undertake this journey in the first place knowing that there was actually no point to it.
I blinked, feigning ignorance that I heard him. A hint of a smiled crossed his features as he stared at me. I wonder what he found funny. I gingerly roused myself from my robbed sleep stretching my cramped body though the narrow space.
“Ay sik-a kad san apon din Apo ay Lumamen?”
I remember the name, though the face of that ancestor could not be recalled from memory. I got up from my makeshift bed and smiled at him.
“Ay essa ak baw.” I took the time to study his features. His face was weatherbeaten, bronzed by continous exposure to the elements. He seemed to be in his late twenties or late thirties: the stage where age often cannot be discerned for men like him. Grounded by manual labor and cursed by San Miguel, he is atypical of a young Applai man caught in the throes of life. I scanned his face for something that would name him but my mind drew blanks.
He laughed, a throaty laugh. His open mouth showed reddish teeth and yellowed gums. Like many men now, he is hooked to ‘memma’, once only the vice of ifugaos. He had rabbit teeth, which indicated that we were related, though one was chipped and rough on the edges. I scanned my memory for his face but once more nothing came up. Which did not surprise me. I rarely go out and thus am unfamiliar with many of my relatives. But I am always amazed by the fact that they know me.
I smiled.
“Ay ad labi ka pay lang?” I asked. Applai customs do not have official greeting words. Although the word ‘kumusta’ is often adopted as Applai, in reality, it is an adopted word. Applais greet each other indirectly. “Into nan umayam?” “Ay wada ka obpay?” “Entako kadya ad baba.” These and other mundane sentences are our greetings.
“Owen, kadwak din angkel mo ay inmali nagapu ad asdi, deey da manet ay nabutebutenget.” He laughed again nudging my attention to the group of men huddled near the fire, most teetering under the obvious influence of alcohol. I recognized one of my uncles, ingloriously sprawled bowlegged over a sack of pig feeds, his mouth open to the world.
“Ay sik-a kad din atorni?” he asked again, this time with a hint of sheepishness. He was trying to make small talk, something he would not probably do if he was sober.
I sat beside him and chuckled. “Bakenak pay, mistolo ak laeng.”
I felt him relax. One of the problems with applais is the fact that they take too much stock with education. There are the educated and there are those that are not. Social stocks depend upon human perceptions and the so called premier professions such as medicine, engineering and law make one automatic ‘kadangyans or nakaadals’ which are often held at high esteem by others. Though, it is rather interesting to note that teachers are relegated as ‘safe’. They are educated, true but they are not as high as the other professions.
“Aye pay di dinmakkelam” he observed. It was a common conversation line with me, considering that I lie with the heavy people, a by-product of my lifestyle. I chuckled.
“Into nan menisolsoluam?” he asked again.
“Ad baguio” I didn’t answer specifics. If I told him that I taught in college, he would probably retreat to his shell and consider me one of the kadangyans, which I am not. And more than anything, I don’t want to be deferred to.
A shadow fell over us. We looked up to see one of the ‘kadangyans’ enter. He was almost my age, a city bred applai. He looked around, a little lost. Most of the men who were not sleeping looked at him curiously. His eye caught mine and for a moment, he faltered then without a word, he turned around and trooped out.
My companion chuckled.
“Sitodi kad din inaunan din nurse, enya?” one of the men by the hearth croaked to no one in particular.
“Wen, ay tollo pay datodi ay sinagi.” A man extricated himself from one of the corners and dawdled to the center of the room. “Ay sino nan inapen todi?”
“Waay nauwat.” A man piped in. the joke elicited guffaws from all around.
“Anina!” one of the younger men went to the door and peeked out. “Ay naayet od iman ay nakag-aw.”
He returned and started kicking the sleeping men he came across. “Ibangon yot, ta pasgedan tako nan maoto.”
Me and my companion laughed.

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