The bus tour stopped by Kualoa Regional Park for lunch. Each one was served a bento box lunch that consisted of white rice and bites size sushi of salmon, shrimp, and sardine, including a dessert of sliced mangoes and pineapples. The saltiness of the sushi together with the sweet fruits made him craved for more. But he soon forgot about it. He was distracted by the amazing view of the mountains looming above them, although there was a gorgeous view of the ocean accentuated by Chinaman’s Hat in the distance. The rugged mountain fronted by a large grassy area reminded him of Lubnac which lies on the western slope of the Pallas ridge.
“Tito Jem took us to Lubnac, your stomping ground when you were growing up,” said George, the second oldest boy.
“What did you see and do in Lubnac?” He asked.
“Nothing much, except at the end of the day when it got dark.”
The day in Lubnac starts late and also ends later. It lies on the western slope of the Pallas ridge, catching the rising sun late in the morning. Situated on a higher ground it catches the last rays of the sun in the evening and makes the day last longer.
“What happened when it got dark?” He asked anxiously. “What has his older brother Jem, doing with these kids?” He asked himself silently.
“Well, Tito Jem told us to sit by the drinking well, near the house.”
Looking at the cliffs of the Koʻolau Range at the back of the picnic ground, he vividly remembers the house in Lubnac. As you come up the hill, you see the house built on stilts. It is actually three separate houses, build close to each other. But, when the family grew bigger, it was decided to make it look like just one house. A left wing served as a kitchen, the middle served as a living room, and the right wing have three bedrooms. The living area was accessed by a seven-step ladder made of sturdy bamboo. Below the house served as a granary and storehouse of farm and carpentry tools. The floors were made of split bamboo an inch in width and nailed to a wooden plank. He remembers when school was out, one of his chores was to make the floor shiny by scrubbing it with a lampaso (a coconut husk).
There was no ceiling which allowed the air to circulate freely during warmer days cooling the house as a result. The roof was made of bundled ‘ledda’ and was steeped to allow water to flow down quickly during rainy seasons. It has wide overhangs to protect the walls from water. The walls were made of flattened bamboo splits woven together to form slats.
There was an uncovered part of the kitchen jutting out from its walls used for dishwashing, bathing and sometimes for cooking.
The bedrooms have no doors and without beds. At night sleeping mats were rolled out for the family to sleep on, then rolled back in for storage in the morning. The windows are large awning windows, held open by a wooden rod.
There was no fence around the house as was common during those days.
It faced south looking over fields of sugarcane and tobacco, and its backside was a thick lush tropical forest. In between the house and the forest was a creek. The creek was the source of the ‘wa-ig’ that cuts the plain of Hacienda & Barrio Uno. The ‘wa-ig’ was the reason why there is a ‘se-fon’. (siphon) When the irrigation canal was constructed, a tunnel was dug under its path, so as to let it flow unimpeded, emptying itself into the karayan. The mouth of the wa-ig is the “salogan” in Barrio Uno.
The drinking well was at the east end of the house under a huge lomboy tree. Both were on the south bank of the creek, and the forest at its north bank. Further uphill was a spring covered with dried leaves and forest debris. Its gurgling and bubbling sound was unmistakably a spring water as it rose perceptibly to the surface. The headwaters of the wa-ig starts here.
He remembered as a boy sitting under the lomboy tree beside the well munching on a sugar cane stalk (unas), listening to the gentle bubbling of the brook, along with the sound of the wind in the trees and the birds singing in the forest. The creek looked so small compared to the giant forest vegetation. Tiny frogs were scattering back and forth along its banks covered with moss, shrubs, and ferns. Its flora and fauna were the home of the ‘kulalanti’.
“We waited beside the well until it got dark, quiet and spooky. There were no lights around and we did not bring any flashlight.”
“We heard frogs croaking and crickets chirping.”
“Then, we spotted some faint flicker on the trees. Then, suddenly, one by one they appeared from nowhere. Some were stuck in the bushes, and some were flying around us.”
“Then suddenly! More and more appeared. There were hundreds of them. No, thousands of them!”
“The sparkles got bigger and bigger, as they twinkled together. Then, they were in front of us, in front of our faces, right before our eyes.”
“The lights were dancing in front of our eyes!”
“Oh, fireflies!” They screamed in delight.
“’Kulalanting,’ Tito Jem whispered.”
“Nobody moved, except our eyes, following their blinking lights.”
“The bushes lit up, like a Christmas tree.”
“As it gets darker and darker, the lights became brighter and brighter. Sooooo many of them!”
As a boy, chasing and catching fireflies were a summertime ritual for him. He has been in this place many times and never gets tired of it. In fact, he looked forward every year to be gifted with an amazing sight. In all his days growing up, he has never seen nature offers up a more impressive sight! He was in absolute awe. It has to be God’s work, he thought. It was truly a worshipful experience to see what Nature has bestowed on the lowly Firefly!
“Tito Jem gathered us together and gave each of us a jar and said, ‘Follow my lead.’ He opened his jar and started catching fireflies into his jar.”
“We followed and did as well. We filled up our jars.”
“’Now, seal your jars,’ Tito Jem whispered”
“We put the lid on top of our jars, and soon after that, we went in the house. We ate dinner with our jars in front of us, full of fireflies.”
“I got the most fireflies.”
“No, you didn’t. I got the most.”
“So much fun Tito.”
“Did you take them home?” He asked.
“We didn’t go home that night. We slept overnight. Tito Jem laid down straw mats in one big room in the house for us to sleep on.”
“Ikamen,” he said.
“We laid down on the mat with our jars. Tito Jem covered the doors with cloth, closed the windows and put out the kerosene lamps, and it got so dark. Then he said, ‘Now. Open your jars.’”
In the darkness, the children let go of the fireflies inside the dark room. The effect was dazzling and stunning. If their innate curiosity was ignited while catching them, their sense of wonder while watching the fireflies flying around the dark room had burst into flame!
They were absolutely mesmerized by this dance of light, an incredibly beautiful, intricate, and marvelous dance of heavenly delight.
“We called them love bugs.”
“Why?” He asked. “Because you loved them so much?”
“No – Tito Jem said, they only come out during mating seasons.”
“We wanted to stay all night watching them, but Tito Jem said we have to let them go.”
“Because – Tito Jem said, if we don’t let them out, they’ll die and there’ll be no more fireflies.”
“So, Tito Jem opened the windows and we sadly released the fireflies.”
“We watched in delight a stream of fireflies flying out the window into the darkness of night.”
As he grew up, he learned about the short life span of fireflies. Long enough to mate, lay eggs and die giving birth to the next generation. And every year the cycle repeats again.
Boyhood memories are now all coming back to him. His Lola Mayang, like his brother Jem with the kids, in that same house, in that same room, gave him a glimpse of Heaven with the kulalanti, flashing at once in a symphony of light.
He is now reflecting on it. He slept in that sacred room completely surrounded, top to bottom with greenish yellow lights of these heavenly creatures. He tracked how they flickered their way around the room. How they created patterns of light flashes as they made their way to find a mate. How they would, with divine urgency completed their task to mate. How they emitted a light “blink” most often while dropping on the mat letting their mate knew where they were to complete the journey for the good of the flock.
Now, as he picked his bento for a morsel of rice, with his back leaning on one of the palm trees that dotted the park, he knows in his heart that the firefly mating dance is a part of the play of survival. Success and failure are part of procreation, he thought. There is no turning back from that altar of birth and death even if you just got only one chance. It is a chance. An opening before you as you dip and rise in the morning of each day, in search of the stuff dreams are made of—the ambrosia of labor—the seeds of ideas—the nectar of desire, to carry on the survival of your kind.
He felt this longing and hoping, among the folks as they gathered together to eat lunch at the park. They were here to partake in the wisdom of the firefly dance, a desire to give, to share, to work together for the good of the Vintar diaspora, known today as the Vintarinian International.