Publisher's Note

  • Publisher’s Note

    Dear Kababayans, I hope you are all doing well this April and are keeping safe and healthy during this trying time. Last month we saw businesses closing down and workers getting laid off because of the economic shutdown that was created by the Coronavirus Pandemic. This puts a lot of stress on people as bills just [...]

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Page added on October 23, 2019

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Life in the Barrio


By: Tigs Tidalgo

The chapel bell rang ferociously. It was Sunday morning and a beautiful day. The barrio folks were summoned to the church. This mass was special. They had a priest this time. They usually had their local ‘kagawad’ leading the service in lieu of a priest. Father Nene was already in the chapel. He arrived early from the main parish church. He had many barrios to serve. His presence in the barrio was scarcely scheduled. He was the only priest in his parish.

It didn’t take long to fill up the kapilya. The crowd overflowed into the main road. Parishioners standing outside were occasionally distracted from their prayers when pedicabs squeezed its way through them. The choir sang excellently well. I was informed before the mass that most hymnal pieces were composed locally. This was evident as it did not only illustrated heavenly devotion, but also on their local lifestyle and livelihood. I was impressed.

The mass ended and people conveyed in an area fronting the church. There were vendors selling home-cooked delicacies. The solemn event a minute ago became an organized chaos. This was where they greeted each other. It was gleeful interaction where friends met friends and gossip had its glory.

The center of talks were on the twin sisters. They were daughters of once poor farmer who recently climbed up to affluence. The twins left the barrio in pursuit for good fortune and found it in the land of the rising sun. They became japayukys in Tokyo. They came back when one of the sisters gave birth to a fatherless Japanese baby. As old rural folks still harboured with unforgiving hatred against Japanese because of the war, they condemned the woman who brought them a little enemy boy.

I looked around and perceived how the barrio changed. I was born and raised there and got out during my early youth upon knowing that my life  was going nowhere. I was also searching for excitement and good life. Had I got the right gender; I would have become a japayuky too.

There were people in the chapel that still knew me. They shoke my hand and though their names mostly eluded my recollection, I returned their politeness with warm gesture in courtesy. However, I met a man that I did not forget. Although his appearance was altered by grey hair and wrinkles, I still recognized him as Melencio. How could I forget? I was one of his twelve disciples before.

Melencio once locked himself alone in the room and read the Holy Bible continuously. After a week of intensely perusing the Holy Scripture, he went out the room tossing in the air his trouser belt and tried hard converting it into a snake. Melencio’s sanity was distorted. He thought that he was Jesus. His mother asked us to play along. Maybe he would just go back to being normal. So we did. It was school summer vacation anyway and there was nothing much to do in the barrio. We may as well have fun.

It was at the corner store one afternoon when Melencio chose his disciples. I was Judas. I complained about it because I wanted to be Peter. But his younger brother already took the position and won’t let go the role of the fisherman. I finally agreed with an understanding that I would not hang myself as Judas did.

Melencio had this habit of performing miracles. He attempted to walk on water by jumping off our barrio river bridge. He missed the water and landed on a pile of mud. His disciples pulled him out as he was stuck in the mud. We feared that a number of carabao cooling off in the river would do him harm. Melencio did some crazy things that it was kind of miracle itself that he was not hurt. But not until he tried on what he called the miracle of the bees.

The disciples were drinking at the corner store late afternoon when Melencio proposed to do it. With his size and temper, we surmised that it would physically compromise our well being to go against. Besides, the amount of alcohol we consumed could have prevented our logic to discourage him. His disciples were drunk. We just obliged him on what he wanted.

He brought us to an area near the river. There was a coconut tree where about thirty feet up from the ground was a big bee hive on the trunk. The miracle planned was for Melencio to climb up, swipe the hive with his hand and climb back down unhurt.

Kaning, the village drunk was also a disciple. He sang the national anthem and accompanied by his ukulele as Melencio gradually gained height up the coconut. We were entertained watching our leader climbing up the tree.

When he was about half-way to the hive, pandemonium suddenly broke loose. Swarm of bees fiercely attacked him. We heard him shouting, “Go away, Satan!” Jesus was in trouble.

He was indeed in big trouble. But his predicament was not his alone.  Bees also swooped down and went berserked on his disciples below. We ran for our lives .Our Jesus dropped. We left him flat on the ground. The bees stung us savagely as we fled. We jumped into the river and held our breath under water as long as we could. We sobered up quickly. It was not fun anymore.

It was big news in the barrio. The disciples again were gathered at the corner store the next afternoon. We were talking and laughing about our experience with the bees when Melencio’s mother came in and angrily confronted us. She was hysterical in accusing us of trying to kill her son. Melencio did not show up. His brother informed us that he was okay, but decided to wander in the forest to become a hermit.

We searched for Melencio, but failed to find him. Maybe, divine intervention prevailed after all. He was accidentally caught in the wild pig trap of his father. He was treated at the hospital and was back to normal. He went home and from then on lives a normal life.

I was awakened at dawn by crowing of roosters. I wondered how roosters with chicken brain knew the exact time of the night to make their call. Their crowing made me realized that I was finally home. I traveled far and wide ever searching for better living. It was indeed ironic that I found it in a place where it all began.

Then everything was quiet. The concert of roosters was over. I listened to the silence of the night. Through my window, I saw the marvel of nature’s untarnished creation. The half-crescent moon and myriad of stars hazily brightened the field and outline of distant mountains.

After seeing old familiar faces in the chapel, I sensed that my existence has gone a complete cycle. I felt that I was a victim of my own freedom. I wanted to stay and to share again the joviality of simple village living. But the barrio was no longer my world. It changed and so did I.

It was not for me anymore.


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