The barrio of Tumaga in Zamboanga City, Philippines is where I was born. A river ran through our 1.7 hectare property in TumagaPorCentro. It was and still is the Tumaga river. The land was fertile, flora and fauna was wild. Growing up as a Tumaga boy was a blessing from God.
This will be my attempt at writing down whatever comes to memory.
The bay window:
I must have been 4 years old. I was left alone in the second floor of our house. There were two bedrooms upstairs. Joined with only a curtain as a divider. There was only one main door into those two rooms. I don’t remember why I was locked upstairs alone. Must have been for a nap time. All I know is that I can’t get out and I heard laughter and busy people on the west side of the house. I peeked outside through a tiny hole on the wall. The wall was made out of sawali (bamboo). There were kids running around, while the adults had a fire going and were butchering a pig. I wanted to see more. I specifically remember climbing up into the west bay window. The window had wooden grills on all sides to prevent anyone from climbing in or out. At that time, to me that window was huge. It was actually only a 5×5 bay window. I stood there with hands clinging unto the grills not even reaching the top and I shouted for anyone to hear me. They heard me but nobody came. I remembered crying.
Kidnapped by a mora:
My mother took me shopping downtown. We rode the bus. It was a long ride for me. Ñor “Ko” was the driver. He lived on the hilly area close to us. One of his children was a good friend of mine.
Mama and I went to this clothing store. It had 4 pillars in front. While my mother was inside, I went outside and played around the pillars. People looked at me and thought I was strange. I didn’t know that I looked different than most zamboangueños. I was white with very light brown hair (almost blonde) and freckly face that stays really red when I am active. A lady came out of the store, caught me and told me that my mother was worried and that she was looking for me. Once united with Mama, she scolded me. I was about 5 years old.
We proceeded to the wet market (magay). Mama bought fish and while she was still looking around, I wondered out towards the street were the buses were parked. Incidentally right across from the police station. While I was roaming around by the buses, an older lady called me and said that my mother wanted me to get in the bus and that she was waiting for me. I believed her. She held me by the hand and helped me up into the bus. This bus had benches and a rail for the conductor to move from front to back. I sat in the bus by the window side. The woman told me that my mother is coming. Being a curious boy, I had to stick my head out the window of the bus so I can look around.
I heard a voice call my name, “Ri” (my nickname) where is “Lianing” (my mother’s nickname). I replied that I didn’t know. The engine of the bus was running. She loudly asked, “Who are you with?”. I stood and pointed to the woman next to me. Peñang, screamed and jumped on the bus. There was a struggle. Mind you, Peñang was only about 4’7″ and weighed about 90 lbs soaking wet. She pushed that woman and called her all kinds of names. What I remember and it stuck in my mind was “MORA”. Peñang took me down from the bus. Of course my mother heard all that raucous and figured that it had something to do with me. Because she was already worried and looking all over the place for me. When I saw my mother dashing towards me I knew I was in deep trouble again. People got out of the way of my mother. She was a formidable figure when worried and angry. She was not a small woman. She was at least 5’8″ and very strong. It was a quiet ride home to Tumaga for awhile, then Mama gave me some candy.
The pajagat journey to Putik:
Bessie was busy getting the banga filled with water. We had a deep well with a hand pump. Bessie had to pump the water into a bucket then pour the water into the banga which was already on the pajagat. Of course, I did my best to help pump that water. I had to hang on the handle just to pump the water. I suppose I irritated Bessie more than anything. All I remember is that we are taking a trip to Putik and supply Papa with water. My father had a small house that he built in Putik. He had a beautiful garden there. I always heard from people talking about how well kept his garden was. It was full of different kinds of vegetables and flowers. I remember the pond which was always full and there was a big Sampaloc tree on the side of it. And during the rainy season it was full of frogs.
I was told to get Pito (our carabao). I don’t remember which one of my older sisters had Pito hitched to the pajagat. The trip was an adventure for me. There was no regular roads to follow. We had to traverse private properties (belonging to our cousins – the Ramillanos). There was this area where it was dark even during the middle of the day. The place was full of lanzones trees. To me it was so dense. As we come out of that thick Lanzones orchard, it was clear again. Pito was strong. Bessie was on Pito driving him. I was riding the pajagat. Putik was at a higher elevation than TumagaporCentro. I noticed that in some areas the soil was so clayish. It must have rained the day before, because the path was muddy and sticky.
There was only one house that was near my father’s place. Because of the bushes, shrubs and trees in between the neighbor and my father’s house, that neighbor’s house to me was so far away. Bessie knew the neighbor. They waved and hollered out some friendly words and proceeded.
We made it to papa’s house. Papa was not a jovial man. I remembered greeting him, he smiled but I did not get a hug. I do not remember the process of unloading the water or the transfer from one container to the other. All I remember was taking Pito to a tie-out area. Papa’s house was on the hilly side. I had so much fun running from one side of the hill to the other side and sometimes stopping by the pond to disturb the frogs. From the one side of the hill I could see the Banuang tree in Tumaga. The tallest tree in Zamboanga at that time. It must have been over 200 feet tall.