When Danao was my kind of sleepy small town

Sun, July 7, 2002  11:29 pm

[Note: Originally posted on Kaming Danawanon, Vol VII No. 3 Jul-Aug 2001.]

A day in the life . . . at Grade III, Section 1

We dreaded the day we enter third grade. Third graders had that nasty habit of scaring second graders, like “You will have a hard time in Grade III, and worse, if you go to Section 1.

“Mrs. Ypil is many times meaner compared to any teacher in the entire Danao Central School.”

“Everything would be in English, reading, writing and even talking, they said. Long multiplications and kilometric division could break your head.”

There was, we were warned, a speak-English-only rule in Mrs. Ypil’s classroom and she would beat to a pulp anyone who speak in dialect.

These wild talks seemed to torture us when summer break was nearing and we were Grade III bound.

I was eventually enrolled in Grade III Section I, on the first Monday of June, 1959.

I had no choice but to enlist in Mrs. Ypil’s class because my elder sisters said so.

Besides, most of my classmates in Grade II, also as mandated by parents, enrolled in Section 1. Those whose grade were below 80 could not be in Section 1.

Not long after, we found out Grade III was not really that scary and difficult.

Ms. Ypil, was not ‘maldita’ after all. Just the opposite, she was motherly and kind to us. English was fun and we just laughed at each other’s struggle learning how to read.

Because class started rather early, I had to get off from bed not later than 6:00 in the morning. Actually, not from bed, but from a banig (mat made of buri) spread on the floor that I shared with four sisters.

I hated untying and folding the mosquito net, but that was a task I got to do.

How I wished we always had katol, Lion-Tiger mosquito killer, so there would be no mosquitero to untie and fold.

Besides, with so many holes in our mosquitero, mosquitos still got in, sucked blood and buzzing in our ears all night.

There was no need for an alarm clock to wake up people of Danao early each day.

Each morning at dawn, 7 days a week, Isming Ki-ang, the church campanero, would toll the gigantic church bells, the sound of which could be heard as far as Guinacot.

Isming would bling. . . blaang the church bells at 4:00 in the morning.

I would wake up at the sound of the bells, but easily go right back to sleep.

The loud sound bells from the campanaryo was never annoying to anyone, not even to the Protestantes.

It was some form of heavenly music regardless of belief.

Moments later after the bling. . . blaang stopped, I would hear the whistling of Untoy Taghoy passing by our house each morning going to the river. One day, out of curiousity, I followed Untoy, just to find out what he was up to.

I kept a safe distance, some- what scared walking early in the morning alone through the Kamanggahan, said to be taw-an (inhabited by bad spirits).

Walking past katubhan, kamaisan and kasagingan, there was my old neighbor Untoy squating close to a bamboo tree at the river bank, comfortably relieving himself — under the clear blue sky.

I stood behind a cocounit tree and watched Untoy doing his thing. I waited for a snake to wiggle into Untoy’s behind and see how he could run with his pants down. Unfortunely, it didn’t happen.

Untoy was a helper in the household of Mameng-Gil Lleva. He lived alone in a small payag at the back of the big house of the Llevas

Untoy looked more like an aborigine, so he could not be a relative of his adoptive family.

The old man was either claustrophobic or just could not stand the foul smell of an antipolo toilet because he always went to the river each morning. More likely he had no access to the toilet at the big house.

I learned much later that he died of old age. God bless the soul of my old friend Unoty.

Another early morning alarm was the St. Joseph Bus. At exactly 6:30 the St. Joseph would stop by the house of my uncle, Mano Angi, a copra buyer. He had a copra buying station in Cebu City and had to commute everyday

Mano Angi must have been a successful businessman because he took the bus everyday and was well groomed, white polo shirt and black leather shoes.

My ambition then was to be a copra trader like Mano Angi.

During some mornings Mano Angi was still in the banyo when the St. Joseph came to pick him up right on time.

Although there were many other passengers, Mano Angi would shout to the driver to wait as he still had to eat breakfast, unmindful of the mumbling of other passengers who were possibly in a hurry to get to Cebu City.

The bus driver wouldn’t mind waiting for an extra 15 minutes if the passenger was a suki.

Only the rich or people engaged in business would commute to Cebu City on a daily basis.

It was too costly to make the daily commute. The bus fare in 1959 was 20 centavos from Danao to Cebu or 40 centavos round trip.

It was quite a burden to most people. A public school teacher’s monthly take home pay at this time was less than a P100 pesos.

With that salary, however, a teacher who knew how to budget, could have their children study medicine and engineering, just like Mrs. Ypil’s kids.

In Lapulapu Street only a few household had water connection. The rest either bathed and did laundry in an artesian well (puso) or in the river.

In 1959 Danao River flowed from the mountains down to the sea all year round. Even in the driest months shrimps and fish thrived in the nearby river.

The water in the river was clear and clean, although at times while bathing in the river, one could get smeared of carabao manure or bumped your head on a dead cat.

The artesian well (puso) was right beside our house, so I didn’t go to the river to bathe.

On Saturdays I would go with my mother and sisters washing clothes not to help but play and swim in the river.

There was an existing ordinance making it a misdemeanor to bathe or do laundry in the perimeter of the puso, carrying a penalty of 2 days in jail or a fine of 10 pesos.

However, it was rarely enforced. In fact, I remember only one incident that a police came to arrest a man taking a bath in the puso.

The arresting officer was a neighbor — Nene Paring, said to be the toughest, meanest cop in the entire Danao Police Dept., a force of no more than ten policemen, headed by Chief of Police Romagos.

Judging from their pot bellies, the town police spent 99% of their duty-time sitting down playing dama as there were no criminals to go after.

The cops kept themselves busy, keeping the peace in barrio fiestas making sure they have some putos on their way back home.

At times I would see these town cops chasing kids caught playing hantak, but they could not catch them because of their big tummies.

Probably, Nene Paring had a quarrel with his wife the night before, or simply disliked the face of the person bathing in the puso one early morning, that he remembered to enforce the no-bathing-in-the-puso-ordinance.

Patrolman Paring dragged poor Goring Alquisalas to jail, still wet in his carsonsillo and soap suds all over his body, despite pleas to give him few minutes to dress up.

The last wake up call, obviously the most awaited, was the poot..poot…poot sound of a bicycle horn. It was Victor, the bread peddler of Anoy’s Bakery, whose bike was loaded with a big basket of assorted bread. Anoy’s pan-desal at 10 pieces for 20 centavos was so good with sikwate. ]

It was only on special occasion we had pan de sal and sikwate-ispiso for breakfast.

Although Mama only had the barest minimum of education, she must have known much about healthy diet.

I could not recall having bacon and sausage for breakfast.

My mother must have known these had high cholesterol and no good for our health.

So a typical breakfast consisted of lugaw-binlod mais, dehydrated or dried pot-pot and kaling-bolinaw, cooked in charcoal.

At rare times, mother could have these cooked in pork manteca, especially on days after the fiesta when she did not give away all the manteca to visiting relatives who would not go home until they get a bottle of manteca and some adobo.

Before leaving for school, Mama made sure we drank our daily dose of energy drink which Mama said was a very good “sustansiya”.

It wasn’t milk but a coctail consisting of tuba, egg and light hot sikwate. We called it kinutil.

After a big gulp of kinutil, my cheeks would turn reddish and I was ready for school.

(to be continued next issue.)


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