Tatay and Bocawe

I could not remember the real name of the old man we called Tatay in Bocawe (we used aliases and tried to forget our real identities for security reasons). I stayed in that place for several years and usually slept in Tatay’s house, which was bigger than the ones surrounding it, he being the patriarch.

The house, which was made of wood, bamboo and cogon) had a galingan (two circular stone plates with a hole where corn grains to be milled in between pass). Because I had asthma (triggered by house dust), I would sleep outside, near that galingan, where the air was not trapped by walls. It prevented further bouts with that illness.

I could not remember now if Tatay was Ingko Isyong. He most probably is dead now because he was already around 60 (or was it 70) when we frequented the place. But I reckon he was known in the place considering his age and of his being a patriarch of a big brood.

I actually visited the place again a couple of years or so ago. Tatay’s house and the others around it were no longer around (I heard the structures were burned by anti-communist vigilantes). I was with old acquaintances who had been to the place and had fond memories of the area.

Funny how things looked different without people. The clumps of bamboos were still there, even the old mango trees (manggang karaan). I told my companions that I could not forget the landscape because I used to watch goats frolic on the portion of the mountainside left after the land was flattened (called pan-pan) to allow the building of the house.

It was in this place where I ate my first cat, the one that attacked chickens while they were roosting at night. One of Tatay’s son had set up a trap and I told him that I would eat whatever the trap would catch. The cat was a domestic one but went back to the wild for one reason or another. The meat was white and I had a hard time forcing myself to swallow it even if it was cooked.

Tatay’s enclave was separated from the house of a landlord some 500 meters away by a bamboo fence. That fence had a passage, though, where it blocked the footpath going to Sitio Lupa. We passed that place often though we never were able to set foot even on the landlord’s yard.

At the top of the mountain in Bocawe was a Japanese vintage tunnel, with one opening facing the city and the other having a good view of the Cebu hinterlands. The tunnel was already filled with soil but we dug portions of it then stayed inside. We brought in a mimeo machine but evacuated it after only a few days when a stranger attempted to enter the tunnel. Had not somebody stopped him we would have been discovered.

I often went up the mountaintop at night to watch the city lights spread like colored pearls on the vast plains from afar (the plains of Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-Lapu cities). The city lights contrasted with the lights of the stars and moon in cloudless blue skies. These transformed the usually black nights in the mountains to gray, so much so that one could walk the footpath even without flashlights.

Those times were, as Ernest Hemingway would say, my moveable feast.

3 Responses to Tatay and Bocawe

  1. Tagabukid says:

    Diha gayod ko magdako sa Bocawe. Kon ang giingon nimong tatay mao si Ingko Isyong nakaseguro ko nga aduna siyay anak nga gihinganlan og Amay bana ni Dolores nga nagpuyo ubos og gamay sa balay ni Ingko Isyong. Si Amay og si Dolores adunay mga anak nga aktibo sa NPA movement. Atbang sa ilang balay mao ang gabihan og tamatisan sa akong tatay. Dunay gamay’ng payag sa uma ni tatay nga usahay adto mi matulog kauban ang akong mama og pag-umangkon. Mao nga adunay mga pagkaon sa payag nga huong-huongon sa mga NPA group ilabi na ang bulad kon kami wala sa payag. Usa ka higayon namupo kog tamatis, ang mga NPA didto sa ubos sa maong uma. Mga hamis kaayog mga panit nga nagpaila lang nga sila nagdako sa syudad. Seguro usa ka niadtong mga tawhana Bong. Some of them were not NPA’s but recruiters. My cousin left her college to join them. They were doing good in school but decided to join the CPP/NPA group with the hope of a better future. They were lost for how many years that we thought one of them was dead named Mona Labitad, sister of Isyang. But Mona came back with 2 kids and no husband. They destroy their future with a wrong decision and belief. Anyway, those were the days…

  2. Tagabukid says:

    Hi Bong,

    I know the family of Ingko Isyong well. They were my close friends. Mga buotan kaayo sila og dili gayod ko makahunong og katawa kon naa si Amay. Si Crispin nauyab sa akong Manang pero wa magkadayon kay naminyo man si Manang og lain.

    Before the CPP/NPA stayed in Bocawe, the residents of the area were close friends. They played basketball, volleyball, tubig-tubig kon hayag ang buwan and even sayawan. I was happy back then. Ang among mga tatay og mga mama, mga malipayon sad. Sa sayawan magtinabangay mig luto og benignit para painit. Unya kalit na lang nangahilum. Unya may mga hungihong mahitungod sa mga tawong manaka sa kabalayan panahon sa gabii. Ang tanan nangahadlok gawas sa mga seryosong membro sa CPP. Ang amo sigurong pamilya ang pinakaulahi nga gisaka. SA dihang niuyon-uyon mi, nokompiyansa sila og ang akong Manang gihimo nilang kusinera sa panahon sa ilang training. Ang among mga tatay wala na magtingugay. Ayahay na lang og duda kinsa ang namembro pero walay naklaro kinsa ang seryoso. Nagpadayon kog iskuyla, pero bisan sa iskoylahan may mag rally, may mga patay. I was in Southwestern University when that muslim activist was killed. The family of that muslim came to the university and they scared me. I thought that they would take a revenge. I finished my college and got a job at Cebu Doctor’s Hospital for a year. And I transfered to other hospital in Baguio City. When I was in Baguio City, I was informed that the ALSA MASA was tough and they killed the confirmed members of CPP. All of the Bocawenians moved away. MOst of my close relatives stayed in our house in the City. It was very sad because they could not earn for a living. They sold their carabaos, cows, etc in order for them to live. My sister went back there with her kids to harvest their mango even there was an instruction to stay away from the area. When they saw a large group of people around, they run away leaving the mango beside the trail. Well taas na man kaayo ni. Maong muhunong na lang ko.

  3. tagabukid says:

    Hi Bong,

    So you really know Mona and Isyang. Her mother is my godmother who is now suffering of paralysis due to stroke. Maybe you also know Cressing of Patayng Yuta and Poy and Pasing of Lanipao. Pasing is mow dead as what I know yesterday. As you know I just arrived here the other day from a far away place so I am not very updated with what’s going on with my relatives. I saw Poy’s husband yesterday named Leomel. Poy and Pasing are also my close relatives. I know that Tatay Bening and Noy Iloy Labitad were blaming a lot of people with what happened to their kids joining that group. Anyway, both of them are dead. By the way who is that lady whom you had a baby with. Tell me if you don’t mind. She might also be my relative.
    Nice talking to you Bong.

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