What keeps me doing things I enjoy now? Let me take you back to the past. One day i woke up feeling empty though there are lots of load ahead of my day. A daily toil which i found unyielding for neither it served purpose nor it brings closer to my goal. ‘What I’d been doing?’ I asked myself. Work for food, shelter and other unnecessary things we invented to fill the emptiness we felt; then I felt heavy despite the emptiness. I think it was the pull of gravity that my tired body made the bed half sunken from the night’s sleep. My body was wearisome though I slept well that night. Then why i felt heavy? No, it wasn’t the pull of gravity. It was something else which pulled me down. My dynamics is getting low. It was my soul! I felt dejected for having no definite direction. Or was there any reason for my feeling morose?
Then across the window, I saw wedding picture of my grandparents. That picture of him tongue out was forever frozen as he received his first holy Eucharist. He was converted to Christianity on his wedding day. You see, they married old but they were happy. What kept them happy? then I looked back into their lives. As a six year old, memories of my grandparent was as vivid as if it was yesterday.
I remember every early morning, my grandmother went to collect woods and coconut husks for there scattered aplenty in the forest, while my grandfather in tow with his gardening tools tended his wide backyard garden of vegetables. Few hours later, he would come back with bountiful harvest and fetch my grandmother and together they would drag those dried coconut palm leaves and woods to the house just in time to prepare our meal from the harvest and cook with the woods she collected. I swear, we seldom used our gas stove (the one powered by kerosene gas and you pump- I’m not sure if people still use it today) unless woods were wet. That means the barnyard was always cloudy with smoke. Then my grandfather would be off to work as the secretary of the city mayor while my grandmother was off to sell the rest of the harvest. It was a routine but there would be big days when trucks of coconut seedlings , sometimes gemelina tree seedling were delivered to us and my grandfather would replant them in black plastic and soon replanted to the forest he inherited from his mother. I’ve heard them telling there were falls, sanctuary, mangrove in the forest. For me it seemed magical but i had never been there. It was dangerous for me , they would say there were NPA (New People’s Army) -rebellious group.
I never thought he was that dynamic. I mean juggling his life between public office and his passion for the environment was such a feat.
All those time I was left at home rummaging through his books in the library and read though without comprehension. I didn’t get much sense but I came across the word article, section, rights and people for they were mention several times. Yes, he was practicing law until he came to know i was reading. So, one day he would ask me to read aloud while he was in the pond he made where a confluence of river run through all the way to the wide backyard garden as irrigation. Then the reading session in the garden, pond and sometimes accompanied by animals in the poultry took place which was a tedious task just like when I was pulling his grey hair. But what kept me reading was the reward. Yes, poor me I was motivated by money at such a young age. Lol
Those were days when every morning I was tasked to collect eggs from nests; be it chicken or duck and learned gulping it down straight from the shell (washed of course) or break it over hot rice, sprinkled with salt and mixed which then constitute my breakfast.
I still have breakfast like that when pressed for time and whoever saw me eat like that wanted to vomit and some even thought I am lazy but I do understand them, it was a different time. I mean, the barn I grew up with raised only free range poultry; that means shits are everywhere. You cannot potty train bird brain, which are great concern for sanitation and diseases borne from it. At least those are free from growth hormone that we commonly have now.
Pigs and poultry were fed by restaurant’s left over my uncle would collect at night and my grandfather then cooked it with chopped banana stalks or chopped taro leaves/stalks and sometimes kangkong from the man-made pond where they grew abundantly that would soon laden by red eggs clinging to its leaves and would hatched to be golden kuhol (snail). The cycle hinted the change in poultry’s diet as they will be served golden kuhol. So you see, we never rely on commercial feeds. We even have our own compost pit for our fertilizer. Everything is in our backyard. Those days were gone when we are not in a hurry.
It was a treat when tenants would bring to us harvests of various fruits which had grown ripe at their own pace as they would in the forest. Nothing beats organic. My grandparents would usually asked for bamboo shoots and have it thinly sliced and cooked with corn,shrimp and saluyot. Yummy treat indeed.
Years later, my uncle had to move out and build house for his family. So, my grandparents asked for a fleet of bamboo that would build a house. Our tenants then sailed long stretch of Panay River from Maayon,Capiz to Roxas City. I realized as a kid how Nature blessed us from bamboo shoots as food to bamboo which provides shelter.