Thursday, July 29, 2010


MUNTA TAMU MARANGLE. A typical daily scene in agricultural Pampanga shows hard-working Kapampangan farmers driving their native bullcart to the rice (or sugarcane) fields. The majestic Mount Arayat looms in the background. Dated 1934.

Just like many Kapampangans, my father’s side of the family earned their living from their agricultural lands which they accumulated through the years. Local history cites the Tiglaos, Dizons, Dominguezes, De La Cruzes, Moraleses and Castros as Mabalacat’s leading post-war landowners. Indeed, my earliest memories of my grandfather, Ingkung Dandu, were his weekly meetings with his tenant-farmers or casamacs, where, from my regular eavesdropping, they discussed anything and everything about farming—from fertilizers, molasses yields to pricing strategies, crop rotation and unforeseen problems like ‘silab a atbu’ (burned sugarcane) and delayed ‘cabio’ season.

Our casamacs and their families lived and worked in the same farmlands that my Ingkung owned. Annually, at least twice a year, my grandfather would check on his farms personally, and on these special instances, we—his ‘apos’—would be asked to tag along just for a change of place and atmosphere. “Munta tamu marangle!”, my Ingkung would announce, and, in no time at all, my brothers and I would be all dressed and ready for our farmville adventure.

In the 60s, our agricultural land in Bundagul was a dusty and bumpy 15 minute car ride away from the unpaved Sta. Ines Road (now Sta. Ines NLEX exit). Upon arrival in our trusty Oldsmobile, our casamacs and their families would surround the car and wait for us to alight. From the start, we would get star treatment, given cool drinks and offered kakanins like kalame, (rice cakes) preserved fruits, inuyat (sticky molasses)—all prepared and homecooked by the casamac's wives.

Then, while my Ingkung and my parents were escorted for his ocular inspection of the planted fields that were almost ready for harvesting, we, kids, would be entertained by the farmers’ families through exciting carabao (damulag) and gareta (cart) joyrides. Insect-catching was another fun thing to do while there. Sampaloc trees would yield salagubang, salaguintu, papaltuk (click beetle) and the rare uwang (rhinoceros beetle) which we tied to an ‘atbu’ (sugarcane) stalk and kept as a sort of a pet. By nightfall, the noisy kuligligs (cicadas) would take over.

Under stones, we would uncover mole crickets (kamaru) and field crickets (lipaktung) which we collected in softdrink bottles. In shallow streams, we would find butiti (tadpoles) and frogs whose tummies we rubbed till they ballooned. We would trace the pilapils with our feet, walking between thick rows of sugarcane stalk without fear of getting lost.

When not in use, our smaller farmland in Mabiga would be overgrown with tall, cogon grass—an ideal ground for dragonflies or tulang which came in three varieties: the plain, green tulang, the rarer orange 'tulang dapu' and the slender-as-pins ‘tulang karayum’ (dragonfly needles). These, we would catch and subject to various torture, which included either trimming or reducing the number of wings, and in extreme cases, removing their legs and letting them fly!

During end of summer days, when the winds were stronger, we would fly kites out in the field—from our paper karang-karang tied with plain thread to the high-flying gurion made of sturdier kwayan (bamboo) sticks and papel de japon. Sometimes, we would accessorize our buraruls (kites) with colored wing flaps and long tails. We would also wage kite dogfights or compete for the title of who could keep his kite airborne for the longest time.

We knew it was time to go when the kuligligs make their presence felt and fireflies start lighting up the groves of trees in the marangle. Packed again in our Oldsmobile, our casamacs and their gracious families would send us off with gifts—from fresh gatas damulag (carabao milk), more ‘kakanins’ (homecooked native delicacies) to bunches of bananas freshly picked from their own backyard.

Today, our ‘marangles’ are no more. Our Bundagul farmland has been reduced by more than half its size, with many lots titled and given away to our casamacs for their years of loyal service. They deserve them. Only four hectares remain, with squatter families slowly encroaching and nibbling away its perimeter. A lone tenant rents it from us, using the field to plant corn and fruits. It’s up for sale as it is simply too big for us to manage; besides, no one has any intention of being a gentleman farmer—we just don’t have the knack for it.

In the early 70s, our farm in Mabiga was subdivided and converted into a real estate development—Casmor Subdivision (from Castro-Morales). This is where I live now, at least on weekends, in a small SSS house, on a lot turned over my father to me way back in 1983. I could hardly find salagubangs, salaguinto and tulang in Casmor these days, but on some nights, when you close your eyes in deep reverie, you will be able to hear again the hum of kuligligs, the bellowing of carabaos and the rustle of sugarcane stalks, just like we did when we went to visit the good old place of our childhood called ‘marangle’.