Spirits of a childhood past
(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Oct. 23, 2011.)
Long before Ferdinand Marcos (and all the rest) came into power at the time he was just a bachelor-congressman representing his home province of Ilocos Norte, just when the last half of the 20th century was just starting, barangays were spoken of only in the history pages during the age of Sikatuna, and all neighborhoods were identified by particular names like Aurora Hill, City Camp, Campo Sioco, Pacdal, or Campo Filipino, to mention only a few.
As for those who live in Lucban Valley, they were either residents of old Lucban, Trancoville, or New Lucban,
The entire terrain was mostly owned by my grandma Kinsha, who inherited the land from her husband Quidno, who had moved residence from Session Road to his last remaining fortress, having sold, gambled, or donated all his other landholdings that included the Country Club, the southern part of Session Road, a fraction of John Hay, Luneta Hill, and the old Saint Louis University campus near the Baguio Cathedral.
Boundaries were defined and divided by the Lucban River, where every kid in the valley went swimming during summer, or when playing truant from school.
And so it was that a turf war erupted between the Trancoville boys and us New Lucban kids, an issue that was either settled by a fight or a slingshot battle.
In one memorable scuffle, my cousin Robert won that one without landing a single blow. His opponent, a toughie named Malvan, taken by surprise with Robert’s whirlwind, free swinging style, was forced to backpedal, until he lost his footing at the edge of the hill, and fell headlong into the river.
But on slingshot skirmishes, the Trancoville boys always had us on the run only because they had adults masquerading as kids, whom we derisively called “ormotans.”
I write this only because, other than a handful, all the boys of those childhood years are no longer around.
Except for Albert and his sister Annie, the other Della siblings have moved on to the next world. The Bucaycay brothers have all been wiped out to the last man, victims of the good life. I think it is the same thing with the Abats, but the last I heard, Rudy, the eldest, had migrated to the States. I know that Jimmy Gallardo now lives in Bauang, but I know not of the fates of his brothers Johnny and Dick.
On the New Lucban side, my cousins Robert, Pilo, Bebot, Dick, and my brother “Doc” have all flown to the big river in the sky, with its cascading waterfalls of beer, gin, and scotch. Gone too are the Ogay boys, Eddie, Naldo, and Belyo, later joined by Eyo Genove and Alex Padilla.
Two of the Guiebs, Belong and Boying, are still here though, as are some of the large Villalon brood.
And the Lucban River? Once a stretch of near crystal water that meandered from lower Brookside to the Slaughterhouse area, it has since gone to filth, like most city folk today, none of whom were here during those peaceful Baguio years.
I have never seen a ghost, but I once read in a book that ghosts are of two kinds – those who linger and still roam the face of the earth, not realizing they are already dead, and those who come back to attend to some unfinished business, or to properly say goodbye to loved ones left behind.
When my father died sometime after I became a lawyer, one night during his wake, at a very late hour when all the neighbors’ lights were out, I went to his garden to ask him to please show me proof that there is life after death.
Suddenly the air went freezing cold, and an unusual fragrance assailed by nostrils. I ran back to the house, trying to convince myself that it was just my imagination playing tricks on me.
During troubled moments of my life, when I feel like jumping over the next bridge, a beautiful butterfly would mysteriously appear from nowhere. It is my mom coming to comfort me, telling me not to do anything foolish, and that times will get better.
When one of my nephews got himself into a bad fix, a small butterfly fluttered overhead as soon as I stepped out of my Lepanto office. It was my sister Marichu, pleading with me to please do something about her son’s plight.
Each time I play tong-its with friends or neighbors in good old New Lucban, I can sense the presence of my brother “Doc” and cousins Robert and Pilo, gently chiding, taunting me that I had discarded the wrong card.