Growing up in Siuton was a peaceful, convivial, and very memorable phase in my early years. A community of closely-knit families during the thirties, almost everybody was related by consanguinity or affinity to everyone else. I childishly feared then that I would never get married as everybody was a relative, ha ha ha!
Ours was a community of caring, sharing and loving people. In the morning, when someone had to build a fire and had no more matches, he could ask for some embers in a nut shell or a burning piece of firewood from a neighbor to start a fire with; when we ran out of salt we did the same thing. We had to fetch our drinking water from a spring called Lahong in Calpi, a sitio of Siuton, where my cousin, Manoy Bando and family lived. As Lahong was some distance from the barrio we often ran short of the precious liquid. Again we could borrow some from neighbors.
I knew we were not rich but I did not feel poor, either. There was always food for the table, a regular supply of rice, corn, bananas, root crops fruit, vegetables and meat as my parents were farm owners. Although we had not much money my folks were able to provide all our simple needs.
The people of Siuton were industrious and persevering; hence, they may not all be wealthy yet all of the families lived comfortably.
While the men were usually busy in their farms, their abaca concerns, or in whatever endeavor, the women had a thriving home industry at the time – weaving ‘tacop’ – rolls of woven coarse sinamay from abaca fibers which was made into ‘sarap ’ (enormous fishnets by the enterprising fishermen used in catching bolinao that was then very abundant in our sea).
she was at home she was always busy. Aside from the usual household chores and weaving, she made assorted linanggang [finger foods] like sinapot, ampaw, biko or doughnuts on Saturdays and Sundays which I hawked around the barrio. My goodies would inevitably be sold out because my relatives didn’t want me to be scolded by Mamay for being unable to sell everything away.
One Sunday I was selling (sinapot) banana fritters to some people who were playing cards – entre quatro – in the yard of our teacher, Mr. Genova. Child that I was, I left the [nigo] winnower-full of sinapot on a bench when I saw some playmates and forgot my wares as I chattered with them. After a while, we were startled by dogs fighting and only then did I see my sinapot scattered all over the place and the dogs having a feast of them. I couldn’t move from where I was and just started bawling.
And you know what? The gamblers paid for all my sinapot! They knew that I would be punished severely for my negligence.
I felt that all the people in our barrio loved me, especially my older cousins, although they plagued me with their constant teasing each time they saw me. They called me pango, negrita and laughed at my extra large feet, trying to make me cry. I wouldn’t cry but I developed a very low self-esteem. I respected and was truly fond of those cousins and knew that they were only making fun of me, but I believed that I was really so ugly – until a fine-looking man fell in love and eventually married me, assuring me that I was beautiful even with my monstrous feet!!!
But that’s another story.
And I had no doubts that my old folks loved me very much even if Mamay often used a tumagiktik to discipline me. My mother believed in the adage, ‘Spare the rod and spoil the child.” She did not want her only child to grow up spoiled. (that’s in my “THANK YOU, MAMAY).
The Siutonians were cooperative even in their means of living. The farmers had a sort of mutual agreement wherein all the farmers would be there to help when one would be clearing, planting, weeding or harvesting, which they called ‘horonglonan.’
Even children would run to a field to help plant rice when we would hear the clap-clap-clapping sound of the bacod, a sharpened metal attached to a piece of hardwood, topped with a two meter length of bamboo, its upper end split and decorated with different colors of papel de hapon; that gave forth a clapping sound as the ‘parabacod’ rhythmically bored holes on the ground. We would be running after the ‘parabacod’, dropping a few palay seeds into each hole and someone else would be following us brushing back soil over the palay seeds with a leafy twig.
We had great fun harvesting rice, corn or peanuts; especially peanuts. As we uproot each plant with so many nuts hanging from its roots, we could not help but bite a nut to open it and taste the crispy sweetness of fresh seeds, notwithstanding the mud that goes with the nut painting our lips and teeth; some even ingested; pwah!!!
The people were fun-loving. They loved picnics, parties, dancing and socializing. The couples had an organization which they called, the Round Table that gathered to celebrate birthdays and holidays all dressed up; the women in Filipina dresses and the men in coat and tie, barong, or morona – a collarless derivative of the barong. They always danced a special number called Rigodon de honor; small wonder as they had their own barrio orchestra led by my cousin, the late composer, Lutgardo Carillo Antiado.
Even in those days, fiestas were truly days of worship, thanksgiving, feasting and jubilation. Every house was open and prepared to receive guests as they still are to these day. Our family always had visitors from Bulan who stayed on with us for days, even months, after the fiesta. I wish I could see them again as they were close relatives. But they were adults at the time and I was still a child. I wonder if they are still around.
I never heard of a crime committed in our barrio in those days. Anybody may pick up a fallen coconut or fruits along the way as they were so abundant, anyway.
The author, is Clarita Antiado Abraham. She is 86 years old of Magallanes, Sorsogon. At 86 years old, she is pursuing her passion in writing and maintains regularly her Facebook account.