"No!" was Ponyo’s distressed squeak once she saw the multitude of chickens milling around the village. There was nobody in sight; everybody was presumably inside their houses having merienda. Curious little children stood with their backs glued to the doorways, saying hi, hello, and kendi.
“Teletubby!” one of them said. Maybe she had been talking about Ponyo’s brighter-than-the-sun backpack
Kuya Charlie’s house was closed when we first got there, and i was itching to take a shower because a.) we had been on the road for nearly an entire day b.) maarte ako eh c.) i had my period and i had so recklessly gone into the river fully clothed, so d.) i was kind of a dripping mess and felt embarassed to catch up with our hosts as i was.
"Cat?" The smoke hut, previously built on stilts with a silong, was now one storey higher, held up by hollow blocks, with Kuya Charlie hammering away somewhere within.
"Kuya Charlie!" i squealed, breathless, and introduced my exhausted companions before asking permission to take a shower. We were ready to pass out on the floor upstairs where we had been led to put down our things and rest, and i made a beeline toward the CR for a shower.
view from the cr door. when encountering pigs, let them pass first (they are locals too, after all), but if they are becoming a hindrance, a polite nudge is just as good as an excuse me.
Faucets are always running in Buscalan, and very rarely are they seen idle. Kuya ruel had told me, on my first visit, and very matter-of-factly like it was the most obvious thing in the world, that they should never be turned off lest the pipes burst. (note: the things that Kuya ruel says should always be taken in either of these two ways: seriously, or with caution. Ever the personification of mischief, you would never really know if he were taking you seriously or having a little too much fun with messing with you. i had taken to believing him like a child would an uncle or an older brother, so any inconsistencies in his statements would give me a good enough excuse to whack him with a slipper).
while in the bath as i washed my clothes i worried that my companions had not asked for water from our host. hurrying upstairs i found that Kuya Charlie had already given them coffee, and that they had not refused. it was said that one had to partake of food or drink from your host so that you would be under his protection as long as that food/drink remains in your system. it means also, i read somewhere, that if you accept their offers of food/drink is that you trust them, and that to reject those offers would be offensive. Last february, my previous visit, Apo whang-od had two visitors from QC in her home, who had declined offers of breakfast. Her entire household became tense. Apo Maria could not contain herself, she was constantly standing up from tattooing (ako yun, at the time :<) to tell her guests to eat. “They were so worried.” Kuya Ruel, ever the liaison, relayed after miraculously getting the guests to eat and calming down the old lady tattooing the nervous me, “Here, when you are asked to eat, you eat. They take it upon themselves to be responsible for you. you refuse to eat, they freak out, think something is wrong.”
“It must be a tagalog thing,” i offered, “with tagalogs, when you are offered food, you have to decline a certain number of times.” Tagalog culture aka pakipot culture :/
“Labo nyo rin.”
and then i think, and want to say, that the tagalogs are not as abundant, or as lucky.
And this was why i worried constantly, that kuya ruel was not with us. who was going to translate or explain to us so specifically, these kinds of things? i knew we could not force detailed explanations from kuya charlie or ate tessie, as they found it difficult to explain nuances of their traditions to oblivious visitors in plain language. If only the dialect could be learned, so that everybody would not have such a hard time trying to understand each other, and be understood!
that little harang (fence?) across the doorway is to keep the animals out, and the small children, in.
as such, i could not explain completely to Ponyo why she should not use the very large kitchen knife to peel the baby potatoes, how i could not explain to her that no i was not undermining her learned skill of peeling potatoes with an oversized and very sharp knife, but that if she just as much nicks herself and she would bleed, it would have been a very big deal for the hosts, and since she had partaken of the coffee and was under their protection, they would be responsible for her when she bleeds, and it was forbidden for anybody to draw blood in those times of peace. “Only whang-od is allowed to draw blood,” was all i could muster. had Ponyo cut herself and bled, our hosts would have had to butcher a pig, or a chicken. blood in exchange for blood. and pigs and chickens were not butchered so lightly, for they were expensive.
the four of us set to cooking in the kitchen, adobo and pinakbet. Dinner was held on the floor, comfortably close to each other, guests and hosts alike. we played some games outside right after, attracting the attention of some children who we tried to drag along to join us, but were too shy to participate and were content to just watch us and mutter among themselves, pointing and giggling.
later, Kuya Charlie invited us to the Smoke hut for some drinks. aka gin. and cough cough some cough basil coughjootscough. deathly afraid of both, i stuck to the tiny shots of gin.
with us were Kraven, Kuya Charlie’s seventeen year old nephew, the rockstar Hat, and Ate Tessie’s brother-in-law, Texas. Drinking sessions in Buscalan were quiet and subdued, because hard drinks were prohibited. Drinking sessions were then excuses to get together and chat, to relax after a hard day’s work. I was deathly afraid of getting high, though. The last time, i had been taught how to use a bong and became severely paranoid, thinking of moving shadows as murderous cockroaches. In that same hut.
Kuya Charlie and his magical musical car. “It has its own sound system!”
photo c/o Ponyo
it was, however, a time for firsts, as Heroine took her first hit of the cough cough—pardon me—basil.
Just another night for the smoke hut.
we were to sleep there too, because Hat had complained of insect bites, and had to go sleep at Kuya Charlie’s (to be correct though, both the Smoke Hut and the house were both Ate Tessie’s pamana, so we were told.) So the four of us were nice and cozy up in the smoke hut, lights out and then,
"Cat?" Kuya Charlie calls out in the night.
"I took away the ladder."
he had said it so casually, but the four of us were dumbfounded. without the ladder we were cut off. it would be too dark to leap down, although we assumed that this was for our own safety.
was it? (yes, presumably to keep four girls away from anybody who would want to try anything, take away the ladder. Smoke hut becomes hut of isolation)
"I’ll probably be up and about by the time you girls wake," Kuya Charlie followed up, "The ladder would be back by then."
"Yudaman, kuya charlie. good night."
We fell asleep only after turns of candy crush, threats of horror stories and freaking out over popping lightbulbs. it was a good night.