Skip to main content

Reading Lessons

The tips of Manang Cielo's slender fingers are cracked from all the work she does growing things. Wedged into the thin cracks of her fingertips there is always earth.


Her home is surrounded by bamboo, pine trees, magnolia trees, and coffee planted by her parents and before them, her grandparents. Everything grows in wild profusion. There are always green shoots of one thing or another pushing through the perenially moist soil and, if you look closely, insects and worms of all colors and sizes bustle about everywhere. Plants and fallen leaves cover almost every inch of ground, except for in a wide circle swept daily around the old house, whose wooden floors are always shiny.

Manang Cielo no longer bothers to go downtown. "There's no reason for me to go there," she says with disdain and a dismissive wave of her hand. "There" is just a ten-minute jeepney ride from where she lives on one of Baguio's hills. She says she sees enough of what's out "there" on tv, reads about it in the newspapers that her sister brings home. She doesn't like what she sees, thinks the ways of "people nowadays" are mostly to blame for the sad state of our city. She doesn't like seeing people much either.


She prefers to stay in the forest her family made where, she tells me, she can see the clouds coming up to Baguio from the western lowlands veer towards her home, because that is where the air is cool, thanks to the trees. This family lot looks anything but cultivated but many hours are spent tending the land, clearing pathways for water, keeping the springs clean, planting more trees on slopes where the soil is coming loose. Once I asked her whether she was going to transplant the coffee seedlings springing up densely in one place and she said it was better to let things grow where they sprouted. Having plants in various stages of growth stand together in one spot helps to guide rainwater into the soil and keep it there.

Their trees harbor so many birds. I wish I were a birder so I could identify them when I spend time in Manang Cielo's place. I guess the birds stay because it's one of the few remaining places in the city for them to live. But Manang Cielo laments that there isn't enough food for them on her family's land. Sometimes she finds the dead bodies of birds on the ground and she says when she picks them up they are almost weightless.

After a particularly strong typhoon last year I went to see her and she looked distraught. Many trees and branches had cracked during the storm. "Much as it pains me, we had to cut some of them down."


I told her about how, on my way to her place in a strong downpour I noticed that the rainwater was orange-red running down Bokawkan, Session Road, sections of Trancoville and Leonard Wood Road. Manang Cielo said that was definitely a sign of erosion. It interested her that I noticed this in sections of Baguio that are overbuilt and heavily cemented. She said that when the rainwater runs down their hill it is always clear, or light brown in some places, but never darkens to red or more threatening shades of mud-brown. Ironically, further down from where she lives, the water does run red.


When disaster strikes and there are landslides or mudslides around the city and in other parts of the country she rails at the news, her voice shaking with frustration, "Why can't people learn? They should have known this could happen. The causes are right before their eyes! Can't they see?"

Manang Cielo is teaching me how to see.

Comments

Feliz Perez said…
What no like button? Hmmm... I like. :)
Kabayong Baliw said…
Cool pics! So nice, I love nature!

Popular posts from this blog

Lola of Maipon

It's all too easy to fall asleep under the blanket of everyday life and to smother dreams with the mundane things I surround myself with. But once in a while, along comes a sparkling vision that jolts me out of my daily sleep and reminds me of the existence of convictions and worlds so different from my own. "Our beloved LOLA of Guinubatan, Maipon, Albay is the last true messenger of God. So, let us follow her holy teachings so that we will gain TRUE SALVATION without sufferings and without death." In another story I, the intrepid heroine, the adventurer seduced by mysteries, the pilgrim in search of truth, would follow them back to Guinubatan from Session Road, thirsting to see and hear their Lola for myself. However, it's all too easy -- much safer! -- to fall back asleep under the blanket of everyday life, and to smother dreams with the mundane things I surround myself with. Then along comes 9 a.m., and really, it's time to down the dregs of coffee at the bott

Cordillera Folktales and Story-telling

It was cold and wet outside on the day of the launching of The Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and other Cordillera Folktales . But inside Mt. Cloud Bookshop we were warmed by stories read and performed by the Aanak di Kabiligan community theater group. Storytelling on a stormy afternoon. Paco Paco. A Benguet story from the book, published by the Cordillera Green Network. Aanak di Kabiligan means children of the mountains. The theater group was born out of the Cordillera Green Network's eleven years of conducting workshops in which children transform their grandparents' stories into theater productions. Here they perform the title story of the Golden Arrow of Mt. Makilkilang and Other Cordillera Folktales.

Birds of Baguio and Benguet

The Little Boss and I went to see the Birds of Baguio and Benguet Photo Exhibit at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary . I carried her so she could see them up close and she pointed to each and every photo demanding, "What's that? What about that? What about this one?" I dutifully read out the name of every single bird featured in the exhibit: Scale-feathered Malkoha, Luzon Sunbird, Citrine Canary Flycatcher, and so on.We discussed the colors of their feathers and the shapes of their beaks. Some of the birds were already familiar to her. The crow and the shrike are frequent visitors in our garden. Shrike in the hands of the Artist-in-Residence, with the Little Boss' first hesitant touch. Taken October 2013. Once a young shrike in flight crashed into our picture window and lay on the ground, stunned. The Little Boss and the Artist-in-Residence held it lovingly in their hands and as soon as it pushed against their palms they gently released it. That was The Littl