The following day was a picnic at the Blaisdell Park. It is on the leeward side of Oahu, a shoreline park overlooking Pearl Harbor in Pearl City.
Lots of open green areas and large trees and parking spaces. You can kick a soccer ball around here with your friends. There are park benches and tree covered areas where you can grill. It also has a restroom available, and a bike path along the shore.
But, the tremendous outpouring of guests was a shocker to him. He estimated over a hundred souls came for a memorable get together under the acacia trees. With everyone having a mobile phone camera, photo ops ruled the day. Tons of shots were taken as they mingled around and posed together.
Bon Appetit. The reason for a picnic, of course, is food, to share a meal with friends, relatives, etc. You add music, singing, and dancing, and you get yourself a memorable, delightful fun day. That’s exactly what happened here, indeed.
He fell in love with the singing and dancing as it reminded him of William Holden and Kim Novak, singing and dancing in the film Picnic. If you are talking about musicals, here it was as Elsa kept playing the electric piano board, and folks led mostly by Flordelize started a circle dance and kept dancing.
Needless to say, it was an excellent production, deserving a nomination for any musical award. Someday, he thought, they will call it, Vintar Nation.
He paid attention to the lechon bench that drew a crowd. As they say, braising makes heroes out of weekend cooks. Well, the team who did the lechon were the heroes of the day. The pork meat was so tender and succulent, that he kept going back for more. It reminded him of his Nanang’s chicken adobo when she brought their lunch at the river while he and his Tatang were line fishing (ag-ketang) every time the river overflowed after a heavy rain. The river then was teeming with bukto, palileng, dalag, kiwet, ikan and paltat. His Nanang, always says when she saw the ‘kuribot’ filled up with their catch, “That’s enough. Leave something for tomorrow.”
As he left the picnic grounds and drove along the shoreline near the park, he saw anglers casting their fishing poles. He stopped for a while because he noticed they were using a fishing technique he is familiar with. With a bamboo pole, his Tatang taught him how to attached two hooks to a single line. His favorite fishing grounds was just below the Dam where the river water runs silent deep. Here, he would cast his makeshift bamboo pole and waited for a bite as he watched the ‘kanawayas’ display their pyrotechnics of flying in the blue skies of the river. Sometimes, he forgets to notice the pull of his line and missed a catch as he watched how they spread their wings gracefully and soar up high, then suddenly fly down low skimming the river top, extending their talons and grab a fish from below the surface. Catch of the day! It was a delight to watch.
“Are they biting? He asked.
“No, not today. I only got a nibble,” an angler answered, shaking his head.
“Might be the bait,” he said. He noticed they were using artificial flies.
“Nope. we have used these many a times,” one of them answered, raising a few with his hands.
Maybe there is no more fish to catch, he thought. Man has really wrecked havoc not only on land but also the waters and seas around us. The seas have been overfished with the modern fishing technique of bottom trawlers. Huge fishing boats dragging industrial fishing nets scooping indiscriminately everything in its path including corals. As a result, ecosystems, and habitats that give food and shelter to marine life are destroyed. He was shaking his head on that dreadful rumination.
He thought of his Nanang’s warning. “That’s enough. Leave something for tomorrow.” Now, he thought of the river in Vintar. Has the fish disappeared too? How about the Siwawer? If there is no fish, will they show up? He wondered.
“Oh, Tito don’t you want to hear about the river?’
“Yes, tell me.”
“We picnic at the river. We were on the river almost every day, from sunrise to sunset. They brought our food and drinks, so there’s no need to go back to the house.”
“That’s why you are so dark!” he said in jest, pinching one of the boy’s cheek.
“We don’t mind.”
“So, what’s so exciting about the river?”
“Well, first of all, the river is at a distance. We have to walk a few yards of hot rocks, pebbles, stones, and sand before we get to it. Tito Jem calls it, ‘kapanagan’.”
“And, that’s where we had so much fun.”
“At the kapanagan?” he asked. It was a rhetorical question and he knew it. As a young boy, he spent countless times at the kapanagan, playing, exploring and discovering little treasures. Among the plants that grew on its coarse sandy soil were bushes of ledda grass, home of the pugo, and billit. They would play a game of ‘shake and catch’ with the birds. Rattled a bush and the frightened little birds would fly out disoriented, directly into their waiting hands. It was an easy catch.
They would cracked rocks along the river shore and marveled with the little shining crystals they found inside. They played ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and their version of ‘Three Musketeers’ among the groves of damortis and dumanay. They would launch and fly their kites when the wind was right. The day never ends on the kapanagan.
At moonlit nights, they would play hide and seek until their parents would come and fetched them home. Those were the days when life was easy. Now, he wondered, with all the computer games and electronic gadgets saturating their young lives, what kind of fun did they have in the kapanagan.
“Tito Jem told us to turn over the rocks, and see what we could find.”
“What did you find?” He asked.
“There were l’il critters crawling, skittering from one rock to the other.”
“We chased them all the way to the river.”
“Like little, tiny frogs.”
“Some water bugs floated on the water. No, walked on water.”
“Kutokuto.” he said. “They scurry across the surface to catch their prey.”
“Tiny shrimps on the edge of the river, moving sideways.”
“Dragon flies were fluttering all over the place.”
But the best was yet to come, they told him. They discovered a fish trap in the middle of the river. Jem told them it was an Asar. During the rainy season when the river overflowed, they would man the Asar, and wait for fish to get trapped.
“We played on the Asar,” they said in unison.
They told him how they would wade upstream and from a distance floated their little bodies toward the Asar, and pretended to be a stranded fish on it. They would walk up to the highest point of the Asar, then jumped into the water. They would do this many times until they get tired.
They were not alone in the river. They have company. Every day they were in the river, there were women washing clothes on the banks of the river. So, they felt safe, somehow.
One day, while frolicking further upstream, they watched an elderly woman carrying a watermelon on her head, wading towards the Asar. While on the Asar, she broke the watermelon in parts with the edge of a flat rock. Then, she motioned and waved for them to come over and munch on the watermelon.
At first, they hesitated because they have no idea who she was. But, the older boy, Paul said, “Don’t worry, we are in Vintar. We are safe here.” He started to float down towards the Asar, and soon, all of them floated down with him.
“How was the watermelon?”
“We ate every bite of it!”
“Even the skin?”
“No, silly. The red part.”
“Even the seed?”
“No, we spit them out.”
“Strange thing, we have not seen the old woman again.”
“Not even once?”
“Not even once.”
“How did she looked?”
Each one of them has a word or two for what they saw.
“She had a glistening thick reddish black hair.”
“It was flowing. The hair. All the way to her waistline.”
“Big round smiley eyes.”
“Her face looked young.”
“Her lips were shimmering bare but thick.”
“A long neck.”
“How was she dressed?” He asked pressing for more.
“A white robe.”
“But, it was not wet. It was dry!”
“She was glowing!”
“You saw the river fairy,” he said it casually as if it is an everyday happening.
“A river fairy? In Vintar?” They asked, looking at each other with amazement.
“Yes, she only appears once to people she likes,” he said convincingly with authority.
“Have you seen her, Tito?”
“Nope. I was a mischievous boy while growing up in Vintar. She only shows herself to good kids like you. Once, I heard her singing while fishing in the river with Tatang and knew who she was but never seen her. Do you believe in fairies? If you do clap your hands.”
Simultaneously, they clapped their hands.
Wonderfully, he felt joy rolling like waves in his chest. Tenderly, he gathered them close and gave each one a tight hug. Once again the river had spoken and captured the hearts of these young children as it has done so many times during his childhood years in Vintar.
As he left the anglers casting their fishing poles from the shoreline of the picnic ground, he remembered that episode in Peter Pan when Tinkerbell’s light was about to die and all the children in the audience were asked to clap their hands if they believe in fairies. Their clapping made Tinkerbell came back to life.
The same was true with the support given by the folks in Hawaii to make their picnic a success. Without it, he hated to think what the outcome would have been. The barangay like support they gave was phenomenal. It harks back to the narrative of how Vintar came to being when they snatched back the town from the claws of Bacarra’s visitation in the early nineteen hundreds. They clapped their hands together and Vintar came back to life.
To the children, the spirit of the river fairy was with them that day. All shouted, “We believe in fairies!” In these rural and rustic surroundings of Vintar, this folk tale and others like it are full of ascetic but harmonious atmosphere, acting as a symbol and expression of a people for whom every episode since day one of life’s struggles have glued them together in the preservation of Vintar’s barangay spirit.
In contrast, the children of cities have their machines, computers, cell phones, e-games, e-tablets which are inanimate objects and impervious to how they feel, reducing their ability to interact with other people. He has observed that multitasking with these machines doesn’t give them time to gather meaning, and with too many things happening simultaneously not even the biggest of a heart can hold and cope. Therefore, the ability to discern or judge what is right, true or lasting is impaired. As a result, he surmised, they become isolated in their own world.
He believes that wisdom has alighted upon the children because of their interaction with the river and the river fairy. This simple but profound experience with Nature is a literature to be had and sought for by poets and writers at any price, since the beginning of time.
To him, this is the ethos of a Vintarinian that holds them together as individuals, families and as a community – by the stories they tell themselves that express their hopes, fears, dreams, and values. Their stories’ moral worth lies not in their absolute truth or falsehood, but in the aspirations, they express and the cultural character they shape.