Wednesday, May 18, 2005

edible decor and ice-cold waterfall

A dip into the frigid waters of Taytay Falls in Majayjay was not part of the plan. We were in Quezon Province for the Pahiyas Festival, so, naturally, nobody thought of bringing swimsuits or at least, a change of undies. We didn’t think we’d end up in Majayjay. But what the heck, we were already in front of the cascade. The water was pristine; the falls was splendid! It was a veritable “paradise on earth,” except that, instead of cherubs, it had countless imps perched on boulders, doing all sorts of un-paradise-y stuff such as cooking rice, chattering, screaming, drinking, loitering, and littering.

But it was still a paradise, nevertheless. Which pissed me off all the more—why the hell didn’t I bring my trunks and goggles? Everywhere I go—yes, sometimes, even to class—I always have my black Speedo trunks and my Speedo goggles (with its snake eyes hologram) with me. Being someone who dreams of becoming a fish, I’m always ready to strip and plunge into the water anytime. But this time, I had been a tad too obedient to la Présidente Dionne, our indefatigable organizer and French class leader, who advised us to pack light or, if possible, not to bring a bag at all since we would do a lot of walking around Lucban. She, too, didn’t foresee that we would drive through the sloping, roller-coastery road to Majayjay in wobbly tricycles; trek a kilometer of man-made trail that sometimes narrowed down to allow only a single file at a time; and behold something as breathtaking as this waterfall.

So there we were, seated on mossy rocks, thinking if we should just throw all our cares to the wind, strip down to our undies, and swim. It made Weng recall what brand of panties she wore that morning. It also made me think, did I wear bacon briefs? (In case you don’t know, bacon briefs are undies which are so worn out that the garter has already curled up like bacon).

I wouldn’t want to wade in the water in my jeans. That’s way too uncomfy especially in a body of water with a strong current; there was no way I could swim freely with a pair of denims on. After dilly-dallying for a couple of minutes, I saw Bon, Marc, and Ara who were already splashing in the water with their clothes on. Their wide smiles were enough to convince me to strip down to my underwear, bacon briefs or not, and jump into the chilly waters.

So, with nothing but a black sando and my black briefs (thank goodness it was black, at least, from afar, I looked like I was wearing Speedo), I negotiated my way toward the falls, through slippery boulders and past sunbathing manangs, to enjoy an hour of communing with my element.

Water, incidentally, is also Bon’s element. No wonder she swam eagerly even if the jagged rocks underneath scathed and wounded her. By the time we got back to Lucban, her shin was already bleeding.

I, too, got bruised as my toes and legs bumped and brushed against the ruggedness of the underwater terrain. The experience was quite refreshing, nonetheless. Despite the sweat-inducing ruthlessness of the midday sun, we shivered in the water. You could actually soak a warm bottle of wine there for about thirty minutes and it would come out nice and cool, ready to be quaffed. In fact, some quivering men were drinking brandy near the falls just to survive the coldness of the water.

Within a few minutes, most of us were already soaking wet—Dax, Weng, Lu, Marc (who were all fully dressed), Dulce and her beau, Eric (so happy for you, brod!), Jera and Bianco, and the rest of the gang. Michelle, Cely, Dionne, and Joven walked back up to the parking lot to wait for us. Some of the FSI people stayed on the banks. Weng, Lu, and Dax, I believe, just wanted to dip their feet but I saw the guys splashing water on them; instinctively, I joined in the fun and they all ended up like soggy rag dolls.

I, on the other hand, enjoyed the cold water as it swallowed up my skinny frame and made my tiny bones tingle. I even tried opening my eyes underwater, something I haven’t done since I learned how to swim eons ago. During my formal swimming classes, I would only open my eyes in the water with the aid of a trusty pair of goggles. I was so afraid that my eyes would get irritated not so much because of chlorine or salt water as because my eyelashes easily got stuck in my eyes. And it was always a terrible experience. I somehow carried this childhood fear up to my adult swimming years.

But there, at Taytay Falls, without my goggles, I was forced to open my eyes underwater. Though the view was fuzzy and my freaking lashes were still bothering me, I was able to amply enjoy the sights down there. Hackneyed as this may sound, the water was crystal clear, and that helped me a lot in seeing my way through the raging waters.

We tried staying right under the falls to enjoy the sensation as the water pelted our backs and heads like frozen arrows. But I didn’t stay there long, fearing that the water might actually drill through my skull.

An hour after, our body temperature was already below normal. It was time to head back to Lucban as the jeep would be arriving around 3:00. So we crawled out of the water, and prepared to trek back to the parking lot, along the trail fringed with a pure gushing brook on one side and a verdant gorge peppered with huge rocks on the other. This well-trodden path was sometimes slushy with creamy mud and at times gory with generous splashes of fresh human blood (on our way there, we had come across a man with a bleeding foot being carried away from the falls; I was told he had been wounded by glass shards. Every drop of blood we passed by made Michelle recoil.).

With dripping clothes, we headed back to what we came there for in the first place—the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban.

Edible décor and commercialism. Bedecked in multicolored rice wafers called kipings, the houses seemed like obese bejeweled matrons in a soiree. With a confusion of stinging oranges, blushing pinks, striking blues, fiery greens, bleeding reds, and giggling yellows, the streets were oozing with old-world gaiety and rural merriment. There were tomatoes (or longanisas) strung together and made to appear like Christmas garlands; water falls with painted paper backgrounds; plastic ponds with real fish swimming about; curtains made of string beans; chandeliers made of kipings; and carabaos made of rice stalks. Some even included live chickens in the décor. Tethered on one of the trees was a real, pensive carabao with some sort of headdress. (Three or four Pahiyas festivals ago, I even saw a live monitor lizard among the fruits and vegetables here. We should have a law against the use of animals for decorative purposes.)

Big companies, however, are quick to wring dry any event of its commercial potential. Those traditional rice wafers are not enough, they must've thought. There has to be some touch of class, of élan, of elegance. So, along with kipings, fruits, and vegetables, sprang screaming posters of Globe Telecom (“Making Great Things Possible”) and San Miguel Beer (“Itaas Mo!”) displayed prominently in strategic places. Even the control numbers of each decorated house had Globe’s logo. The walking papier-mâché giants were draped with big banners of Western Union Money Transfer or McDonald’s or Aling Pacita’s Funeral Parlor (“We Embalm You While You Wait”) or whatever local enterprise sponsored them.

When Weng and I went out to look for her friend’s house, we saw a truck filled with people tossing Philam Life shirts to the excited crowd below. And on one side, there was a mascot of Eddie the Electric Bill Collector of MERALCO. I won’t be surprised if they come up with Kadyo the Kubrador ng Jueteng mascot next time. When the morning procession snaked out, I was actually expecting the town’s patron saint, San Isidro Labrador to come out wearing a T-shirt that says Lhuiller Pawnshop, Isangla Mo!

But what can we do? These companies are the reason why such festivals still survive. They provide funding in exchange for product exposure. That’s how it works these days. I’m surprised why they haven’t infiltrated the fiesta Mass yet to include casual mention of their products during the liturgy. The priest can go “This Communion is brought to you by Ginebra San Miguel, Bilog Ang Mundo.” Amen to that, Father.

I had no choice but to force myself to dismiss the crass commercialist mood of the festival as just a minor distraction, like pus on smooth skin, or like the bloody cut on Bon’s pale shin. If I fuss about it so much, I won’t get to enjoy the sights. So, forgetting this ugly dreg of our increasingly capitalistic society, we inched through the narrow, crowded streets of Lucban, taking pictures left and right, posing in front of the most colorful houses, and even going up to their second floors. The owners were gracious enough to invite us in.

In one of the houses we entered, Dax chatted with the owner who politely explained how kipings were made. It would’ve been nice to sit with her and chat for a few minutes but the house was getting crowded and we had to prepare for our photo op.

On our way out, there was this tactless guy who said, within hearing range of the polite owner, that guests entering their house should also be fed since this was a fiesta. I controlled the urge to trip him at the stairs so he could go tumbling face first all the way down to the concrete floor below. Being thick hided is one thing; being abusive is another matter altogether.

Which is not to say that we were not famished. Well, our intestines, too, were sort of grumbling already. But we weren’t that famished yet to demand that we be fed by strangers who were already kind enough to let us in their houses to be photographed. Jeez.

Feeding time came quite early. We dropped by Café San Luis, a crowded, Mediterranean-inspired alfresco restaurant managed by a tanned girl in a pink tube top and a cowboy hat. Amazingly, all 24 of us found seats, courtesy of la Présidente who, having gone there ahead of us, must’ve elbowed other guests off the tables to reserve seats. Part of the meal, of course, was the famous pancit habhab. Ok, Michelle, let’s say that again, it’s habhab, not hadhad. The latter is an itchy, smelly skin disease found in the genital area. Let me say that again, habhab.

This Chinese noodle, which is traditionally eaten by devouring it doggie-fashion, without spoon or fork or bare hands, is best served with local vinegar. The rest ate puto and dinuguan (pig’s blood stew).

Snacks (or more appropriately, a very early dinner) was served in Bon’s aunt’s house. While some of us were still dripping with water and sweat, we eagerly partook of the food at the feast table. The fruit and potato salads, which I eventually shared with Michelle after I got for myself two helpings, were awesome! Credit to Bon’s aunt who was kind enough to feed 24 people who just came from a dusty trip from Majayjay.

Before sundown, we were already walking toward the edge of the town where our two rented vans were waiting. In the van, we still had some energy to discuss the local rebels’ disgust over China’s emerging capitalist thrusts (let’s listen to Lu’s lecture on this; nope, she won’t be making up one of her stories like she did in Paris: “Oh, this must be the exact spot where Marie Antoinette picked her nose before being guillotined!”), the military’s connivance with the Abu Sayyaf and their leaking of a list of enemies of the state, or whatever that list is called (come on, Marc, speak up! What do you know about the military’s stench?), why rainforests are called rainforests (go Dax! This is your field of expertise; I know you’ve got a rainforest somewhere on your body), crustaceans (so Michelle, how many feet does a centipede have? Does it fall under the Crustacea family?), and so many other unprintable topics. There was even some room for Michelle’s Spanish song for the Peñafrancia Virgin and some bugtungan (“Ang ano ni Nena, bubuka-bukaka”).

As the night deepened, and after an exhausting conversation in French, our mouths (nos bouches? Hehe) finally got tired, and we fell asleep.

I’m wondering where our next stop would be. Did I hear someone say Peñafrancia? I guess we just have to wait for invitations from true-blooded Bicolanos, right Dax, Michelle? I’d start packing my trunks and goggles this early, just in case.

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8 Comments:

At 1:22 PM, Blogger dionne said...

Peñafrancia sounds nice! =) Dapat libre lahat. Hehe!

Bon is also inviting sa Cagayan. Pero 12 hours byahe kaya dapat at least 3 days tayo. Next year naman. =P

 
At 7:33 PM, Blogger weng said...

i had so much fun grabe, quite an experience! amazing how you were able to capture in words the emotions of the day. indeed, there should be a follow up to this one. i go for cagayan! =D

i was wearing hanes, by the way... hehe.

 
At 12:10 AM, Blogger Jules said...

well, what can I say? your entry are the stuff of good novels. apart from being very descriptive (read: observant), the words used have a good command of the language. It's easy to make an article, but to have a good sense of observation and wit in describing it, is another level way up from standard fare. More articles in the future!

 
At 9:34 PM, Blogger bullish1974 said...

brilliant writing. i want more of these.

and thanks for visiting my site :)

 
At 11:09 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

dionne,

wow! cagayan! sige! go ako jan!

weng,

had a blast too, grabe. yup, cagayan's great! hope it pushes through! can't wait!!! itching to go!!!

i was wearing bench, i think...hahah

julsitos,

thanks so much! i've been dabbling in short story writing a few years back but after writing three short stories, i felt that i can't hack it. dunno. felt inadequate. so here i am, just blogging...hehe..oh well.. hey, i tried clicking your name but your profile isn't shared so i can't go see your blog. YOu might want to send me your URL, if it's alright with you (please, please!) thanks so much

bullish1974,

coming from you, it's such a compliment, man! thanks so much! is it ok if i link up your blog to mine? thanks

 
At 9:39 PM, Blogger jenjaded said...

pagkatapos ng mga comments nilang puro sense, here comes mine which is nonsense. hahaha!

i don't like using goggles (well, siguro pag sa beach lang kasi masakit sa mata ang salt water). mas gusto kong wala pag sa pool. :D i always open my eyes underwater (kahit sa beach at kahit masakit hehehe)

 
At 11:22 AM, Blogger slim whale said...

jen,

di pumapasok yung eyelashes mo sa mata? ang sakit kaya nun.

 
At 9:31 PM, Blogger jenjaded said...

Chris, you must have extremely long eyelashes then. Kasi I don't have that "problem".(kasi halos wala ata akong eyelashes)

 

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