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.