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Short Story


July 25, 2009

“To me, it is quite unsettling that one person would always attempt for her- or himself ‘to steal the show’—so they say.”

“But, Celia,” Editha responded to Cecilia’s robust protestation, “Inday is merely proud, and justifiably so, of her family’s long tradition of public service.”

“I have nothing against family tradition—even family wealth so long as it is not ill-gotten—as an excuse or a pretext to do public service. What bothers me is when certain individuals, who cannot make it on their own, use lineage for personal selfish ends,” Cecilia insisted.

“We need to view this situation from another perspective, from a positive one.”

“You know, Edith,” Cecilia went on, “the case of Inday is something else. This woman is so ambitious and arrogant—and does not hesitate to cross the demarcation line of propriety. She tried to be a politician as an upstart—lieutenant governor and then governor, all a flop. Well, she made it to a lower, elective provincial position. That’s all.”

Replied Editha in an attempt to defend Inday from Cecilia’s tirade,  “Well, arrogance and abrasiveness are a downside of our culture, especially among the breeds of so-called prominent families. Inday is somewhat spoiled. Look at her name. That is a special one in our culture or society.”

“Ha ha ha, she wants to get special treatment at the expense of others,” guffawed Cecilia.

“Don’t mock. She merely wants to be taken as having been born with a silver spoon in her mouth.”

“Silver spoon? What, a caste system? Let us not dignify that kind of society!” Cecilia protested.

The sun was already up, about thirty degrees since it rose from the mountain east of the town, across the Catubig River. Forty years ago and before—when technology had not advanced yet the living standard of the town—that position of the sun, as common people then used it as a timepiece anytime during the day, would indicate it was approximately 9:00 in the morning.

Editha checked her cellphone and it was 9:10 that Wednesday morning. A gadget of modern technology, designed for multi-communication purposes, has just confirmed the time that the sun, at any position in the sky, tells people accustomed to using it as a chronometer way back to the unrecorded history of what used to be a sleepy town in Northern Samar in the Philippines.

“Let’s pick up more of our conversation this evening after the dusts had settled from the parade this afternoon, if you got the time, Edith,” proposed Cecilia as she bid Editha goodbye.

Catubig is quite different now from what it used to some four decades ago and beyond into the distant past. But its geography is fascinating if not romantic, yet awesome and will always be, depending on what part of the year people are talking about. Some geologists would no doubt argue that Samar itself—which hosts the fertile Catubig Valley, the rice granary of Eastern Visayas—is a splinter, among the 7,100 islands of the Philippine archipelago, resulting from the tectonics that had continents collide and realign some 25 to 30 million years ago.

Thus the Catubig River started carving itself, the way it does now, together with other river systems in the huge island of Samar, soon after the earth had settled and cooled off and the Pacific Ocean and surrounding bodies of water—the way they are now and themselves also the aftermath of the tectonics—seasonally started to send massive vapor into the atmosphere that came down, as now and conceivably through the next tectonics, in the form of torrential rains which the river systems have to empty the resulting floods back into the earth’s largest ocean and the other bodies of water surrounding the island.

Immediately to the west of the town is a mountain, running for approximately three kilometers from north to south, proudly and majestically standing there no doubt for beauty, a natural barrier, a natural recreation hub, produce resource, and the early water supply reservoir of a yet undetermined growing community in the past.

No formal name yet but often referred to as Ligiron Mountain, which some native folks are trying to shorten in a somewhat romanticized way to Mount Ligiron. The south end of the mountain, called Ligiron Pass, is dotted now with beautiful cottages in the immediate vicinity, largely a housing to the faculty and staff of the local campus of the University of Eastern of Philippines-Pedro Rebadulla Memorial Campus—UEP-PRMC for short.

Ligiron Pass used to have a narrow trail just for hiking. At the turn of the 20th century before a wider hiking road was carved, the south end was narrow—running approximately three quarters of a kilometer in length—right at the steep, higher elevation of the Catubig River bank. In fact, ligiron is a term in the local dialect that means in English “steep and narrow to walk through or negotiate on foot”. The south end of the mountain fell sharply into the river bank until local ingenuity carved a fairly passable trail which townspeople traveled through before the passageway was cut wider in early 1900 to be used by the local militia and men of General Vicente Lukban’s army to in part pour en masse from the westside of the mountain in order to overwhelm the American garrison, then under surreptitious development, should a military confrontation become necessary. Recently, engineers have cut a highway through the narrow pass which, when finished, goes all the way to Catbalogan, the capital of [Western] Samar, where in turn it junctions with the Philippines National Highway System which runs from its northern most terminal at Laoag, Ilocos Norte in northern Luzon to its southern most terminal at Zamboanga in southern Mindanao.

Mount Ligiron itself, rising hundreds of feet high from sea level, commands a panoramic, breath-taking view of the whole town and, including farther south, southeast, and southwest, the surrounding vast expanse of fertile agricultural lands—broken only almost in half by the Catubig River which slices north to south—that in pastoral time provided and guaranteed largely the economic lifeblood of the people, let alone the usurers and the absentee landlords. To the north is Apolonio Hills adjoined to the northeast along the river by Inatupilan Hills. The two separate but conjoined hill systems—with mostly coconut, pilinut, and santol trees the dominant vegetation—are a rich green, rolling piece of the earth year round.

At a peak of Mount Ligiron, right at the edge of its south end overlooking the river, a good-size picnic area had been developed with reinforced stone benches placed where needed, both for recreation and picnics and aesthetics. Reachable easily via eastside by a fairly wide, nicely-paved winding, hiking road that easily reminds a world traveler of the winding road to the Twin Peaks of San Francisco in the United States, the park at the peak, also referred to as Peak Park—as it has been for over three quarters of a century now—is a mecca of tourists and the haven of promenading young lovers. There, too, aspiring young public speakers, individually and most of the time in solitude for focus, gaze into the expansive view from up high and start modulating their speaking talent in well-enunciated diction, amid the sporadic fluttering and crackling of leaves among trees around—reminiscent of the rehearses of Demosthenes or Cicero in classical time or Graciano Lopez Jaena and Manuel A. Roxas of Philippine breed in their separate generations—as they rehearse their oratories before they actually speak at the local schools, community civic functions, or public fora.

In World War II, the Japanese Imperial Army recognized the strategic value of Mount Ligiron. They dug a network of trenches and set up machine gun nests and associated military hardware emplacements on the summit to forestall any enemy attack that might be difficult to foil on the plains north and the river east and south of the town below.

Today, Mount Ligiron is no doubt awaiting further development for social, aesthetics, economic, and even religious purposes. A tramway could easily be built, conceivably even by private capital, from the westside adjacent to the campus of UEP-PRMC. A huge Cross—something of the sort of the giant Cross on Mount Davidson, in San Francisco, U.S.A., or the Christ the Redeemer statue, considered one of the new Seven Wonders of the World, atop Corcovado Mountain overlooking the City of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil—may yet rise at a point directly overlooking the town and the river below. The mountain has virtually limitless development possibilities as a tourist and spiritual hubs for the good of the town.

It would not be surprising likewise when one day someone, born to local heritage, will compose another song that will replicate the beauty and imagery of Catubig River as composed in the early 1940s by a local musician-composer—or rival the lyric of I Left My Heart in San Francisco, U.S.A., as immortalized by Tony Bennett—for in Catubig on moonlit nights during dry seasons, the moonbeam glistens the river and evoke the romantic passion of the young at heart. Yet the morning sun also sears the air and the fog rising from the giant river below into the hillsides of Mount Ligiron, as people of different persuasions climb halfway to the sky, through the neatly carved winding, hiking road—like the way the morning sun of San Francisco sears the air and the fog rising from the San Francisco Bay, as the cable cars climb halfway to the sky at Nob Hill—to probe into the seemingly improbable affectionate heartthrobs of those young at heart, or for whatever else are the purposes of those who climb halfway to the sky at Peak Park.

Still at another segment of Mount Ligiron’s summit, a separate peak, adjacent to the northwest rises in effect to form the twin of Peak Park—as do, too, the Twin Peaks of San Francisco. Catubignons, as well as people from other nooks of Eastern Visayas, might one day wake up to the lyric of a ballad, imaginably a composition by a local bard, proclaiming the twin peaks in metaphor to dalagang Filipina, young Filipino woman, as a Visayan poet of note not long ago would have it, upon whose bosom sprout proudly two tender but firm peaks—yes, twin peaks—beautifully created by God that drive young men in their sleep into sinful yet romantic dreams.

The northern segment of Mount Ligiron is heavily wooded and thickly forested. In some afternoons in summer, mists form to produce drizzles which give curious observers the impression that the thickly-forested area is in fact a mini rain forest. The tall trees and the undergrowths serve as watershed to a subterranean natural reservoir that gushes out a year-round spring even during severe droughts. The spring has been tapped at the northeast side—ever since anyone in town now living could remember—into a small, fairly strong, steel-reinforced, concrete box-like reservoir that stores and conserves water from contamination and waste when not being tapped at desired, controlled rate into water containers and bottles by fetchers for local home consumption.

This mini reservoir—together with another subterranean spring across the river, just a couple of feet above sea level, on the foot of Mount Kalingnan—was the main source of potable water for the town until a reasonably large, fairly modern reservoir was constructed several years ago at Hingangadian River, a tributary to the Catubig River, some kilometers southwest of the town, to provide a running-water system for the growing community.

In the longest stretch yet from upstream, the Catubig River approaches the south end of Mount Ligiron diagonally in roughly a right angle. The long stretch provides the river with inertia to strike the mountain at that end with full diluvial force and fury it could muster during rainy months. But the mountain proudly and stubbornly stands there, as though the intent by accident of tectonics is for it to be a massive and towering levee of rock and soil to protect and preserve the huge flat swat of real estate to the northeast, upon which the town of Catubig sits on, from the ire and havoc of the river. This explains why the river instead, tamed by the mountain, swerves eastward to the right from upstream defying logic but nonetheless submitting to the law of physics. Yet after some three kilometers on its easterly downstream course, the river has to veer northward to the left, in a near-perfect right angle, to submit to—and parallel the rise of—another mountain, Mount Kalingnan, which runs north from the south.

Downstream from where its swerves at Mount Kalingnan, the river streams its way with slight swerves past Inatupilan Hills, adjoined by the Apolonio Hills close-by to the west, until after some four kilometers it reaches Mount Kalirokan—not far from Barangay Domingo Mercader—where the river is forced to swerve and stream northwest suddenly at a perfect right angle. This configuration of the river at this juncture makes it difficult for skippers of larger vessels to navigate downstream on high tide ebbs and more difficult still on high floods because the swift current creates a massive maelstrom that could handily quirk beyond control even a midsize watercraft. In fact, it was on an ebbing high tide that on April 19, 1900, an American gunboat, chased under pressure of possible capture by the Catubig militia in conjunction with the battle of Catubig, was steered beyond control by its American naval skipper causing it to capsize.

Back to Peak Park or elsewhere on the summit of Mount Ligiron, visible to the southwest, just below the peak, is the budding campus of UEP-PRMC, the pride of the town second to none when it comes to the subject of education. The campus, with its beautiful quadrangle that rivals the quadrangles of the colleges of Oxford University in England, initially started out as the Catubig High School, which came into being in the late 1940s, almost immediately after the end of World War II, single-handedly under the effort of the most pioneering citizen of the town thus far, Pedro Rebadulla, who donated the land upon which the school was established.

Across the years, the Catubig High School, which underwent a number of changes in name as funding to maintain it changed from one source to another, dramatically prospered. Then it metamorphosed into a college, the Pedro Rebadulla Memorial Agricultural College—PRMAC, for short—and finally into a full-fledged university that by name it bears today, a satellite campus of the University of Eastern Philippines, UEP, with flagship campus in Universitytown, just in the outskirt to the east of Catarman, the capital of Northern Samar.

Again from Peak Park or at any point on the summit of Mount Ligiron, to the east immediately below one could see the garden flats cultivated by upper grade school students of the Catubig Central Elementary School as a requirement in part of their industrial art education classes. The flats used to be laden with vegetable plants—kangkong, cabbage, camote, etc.—and the hillsides used to boost the abundance of guava and banana fruits in town.

The grounds of the town’s central elementary school—dominated by the Gabaldon [General-Purpose] Hall and the Home Economics Building and largely defined until now by the landscaping of lush blue-green Bermuda grass and citrus shade trees—are breath-taking to behold from Peak Park or elsewhere from any point on top of Mount Ligiron.

Yet still, Saint Joseph the Worker Church, immediately east of the central elementary school grounds, prominently stands as a massive stone edifice, a monument to the town’s faith in God. Here several years back, indeed every now and then, visiting high national officials and dignitaries, temporal or spiritual as well as national politicians, upon arrival—in the past flown in by mini seaplanes that landed on the calm waters of the Catubig River during dry season—would be received by the local pastor to the tune of Te Deum as part of the Mass celebrated in their honor.

The church is as well a landmark to the struggle the townspeople had waged against a foreign power at the turn of the 20th century. Such a struggle proved in no uncertain terms that they deserved respect and, for those who did not want to grant it, they stoutly demanded it with a show of sterling valor under arms with competent local direction. For on April 15-19, 1900, a leading local ilustrado, Domingo Rebadulla, together with other prominent townsmen, led a siege of the American garrison that—by pretense and wily deception—was being set up by the new colonizer of the Philippines. The siege itself began with a battle and ended with another battle to roundly defeat and drive away the Americans.

Yet, at the time this event of historic proportion took place, no Filipino newspaper or media, locally or from Manila, was available to record what happened on the spot. Scanty dispatches by the American military were directly sent to Washington, D.C., primarily just for service reporting purposes to avoid gross embarrassment, from where as resource American newspapers inadequately wrote secondary accounts. It never was discovered until August 9, 1968, that the American defeat in the battle of Catubig was in fact among the first few that Americans decisively suffered at the hands of the Filipinos during the Philippine-American War. A native of Catubig—fresh from graduate school in San Francisco, U.S.A., while visiting the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. as a part of his after-graduation continental tour of the industrial, cultural, and political hubs of the United States—was stunned upon discovering from records that the Americans were roundly defeated.

The historic event evidently escaped scrutiny by Filipino historians in writing Philippine history books. An objective look will make a neutral observer wonder why so important a victory by Filipinos in the battle of Catubig had been overlooked compared to the well-publicized so-called “Balangiga Massacre” which, considered from the standpoint of an objective assessment, easily pales into insignificance.

The clue to the answer is that in Catubig the Americans were forewarned and the helpless survivors were treated humanely—as though the treatment accorded was the precursor to the Articles of the Geneva Convention first promulgated in 1929. The resulting loss was a shame to the Americans, and hence to be kept [by them] under tight lid. On the other hand, in Balangiga the Americans were not forewarned in view of their arrogance. When the attack came by surprise, they called it a massacre, with implication of savagery to be used by the Americans with vengeance as an excuse to resort to the burning of Samar and turning the island into a howling wilderness. The “massacre” had to be kept open to the world by excessive publicity to invite sympathy and to justify the disproportionate revenge that followed, as well as to portray the Filipinos as savages.

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The local populace of Catubig, however, kept the event alive in their memories, supplemented by notes some local prominent families had taken for keepsake on the historic event. The stories alone that a lady—thirteen years of age at the time the battle was fought and the grandmother of the native Catubignon who discovered the records in Washington, D.C.—used to tell were so vivid each time she did before her children and grandchildren. Still, not until 2003 was a fairly detailed account of the battle was written by the native Catubignon himself upon his retirement from gainful employment as an editor at the University of California. The delay was apparently in part a wait for anyone in town, especially those who claim to be direct descendants of the men who had a role in the combat.

“What do you think of the parade and the program this afternoon, Edith?” Cecilia struck a conversation—the sequel to the one they had in the morning—with Editha, who was seated with her husband on a bench in the main townsquare at the civic center, almost three hours after the 109th anniversary celebration of the battle of Catubig.

Catubig is hot in April—in fact, to many by sheer perception, before the advent of outdoor thermostat, the hottest month of the year. It is also the peak of the yearly rice harvest season. But the days and nights are usually clear and the air fresh and clean although sometime humid. So at dusk on April 15, 2009, it was still warm but cold breeze from three zigzagging stretches of the Catubig River—forming almost like the last letter of the English alphabet, with one almost a perfect right angle hugging the town at two sides—and the thickly forested mountains around were starting to make the evening pleasant as usual at that time of the year, especially in the open air of the civic center. The Manuel A. Roxas statue, a prominent structure, even in the vanishing light of day was simply like that—prominent—and in fact it dominates the square. But people were milling around, some with ice cream cones, still discussing the main event of the day.

“The darn civic parade is said to be a flop and…,” Editha replied as her husband cut in.

“How would you characterize…?” inquired Leonardo as he cut in noticeably impatient.

“And who was the star or…?” Cecilia in turn cut in.

“And, Celia, don’t try to bad mouth Inday again. I know she has her detractors, by envy perhaps, but she is doing a heck of a job trying to make this town alive. Remember she, with her family and some friends, came all the way from Manila, all on her own, just for that celebration,” commented Editha cutting in, too.

“Bad mouth? Make this town alive? Come on!” Cecilia complained. After adjusting her jeans while standing—her curvy waistline when young having been lost to advancing age—she continued, “You know, Inday thinks her family owns this town. It is a common knowledge not just in Catubig but even in northeastern part of Northern Samar.”

“That is pushing your antagonism too far!” Editha countered.

“Excuse me, Celia and Mahal,” Leonardo batted in again. “Why don’t I wander around this beautiful square and catch some cool breeze while you two finish your lively conversation?” implored Leonardo and walked away hardly getting the attention of both his wife and Cecilia.

At the other side of the main square, quite a distance from where Cecilia and Editha were in an animated discussion, Leonardo ran into Alice, his high school sweetheart who took the week off from her job in Manila just to attend the celebration with her teenage son.

“Hi, good evening, Nards; glad to see you,” Alice greeted Leonardo as she opened her arms for an embrace under dim light.

“Ha, ha, ha—I have been dying, too, for sometime now yearning to see you again.”

“Remember the local song we used to sing together, almost right on the same spot where we are now and elsewhere in town during our growing-up years?” Alice reminisced.

“Don’t mention it, Al,” confirmed Leonardo. “It pains my heart.”

“Gee, Nards, don’t address me like I am a guy, okay? Sounds like you have forgotten ‘sweetie’ just because…” Alice complained.

“I did not mean it that way.” cut in Leonardo.

Suddenly all smiles Alice twanged, “‘Moonlights are here again, bringing love and memories…,’”

Instead of ‘pains’ about which Leonardo complained just seconds earlier, he joined Alice; together, as when they were in their late teens many years ago, they sang Catubig River, repeating the song once and the last two lines twice for a finale.

“This song is lovely, very lovely, especially when sung with or by someone you love,” pointed out Alice as she looked at Leonardo straight in his eyes.

Leonardo in turn stood his ground on their eyeball to eyeball romantic reminiscence of their youthful past, which this time only their individual marital knots forbade them from melting into one the desires of their hearts.

There was moonlight but, with the moon almost just half, moonbeam was not quite bright. Still they could see the twinkles of each other’s eyes in excitement under faint light.

People around the square heard Alice and Leonardo singing. Soon there was a swell of some two dozens or more men and women and young adults—Cecilia and Editha among them—who, attracted, approached the duo. But Editha, upon noticing the presence of Alice, threw a disapproving, even dirty, looks at Leonardo, then at both of them. Yet, almost everyone in the growing crowd started singing, ‘“Moonlights are here again, bringing…,’” and there was gaiety and spontaneity in the air.

“Does anyone here know who composed the song?” inquired Cecilia from the thick of the crowd.

“An attorney—sometime in the mid or late 1970s,” yelled a young man from the younger set in the crowd.

“Nope. I hope you are not doped out by plagiarism, because Catubig River was neither composed by an attorney nor in the mid or late 1970s,” an elderly rather stocky man shouted from the crowd. Continuing, he exclaimed, “It was composed in the early 1940s by the late Luis Jolejole, perhaps the greatest musician thus far this town has produced. Shortly after it was composed, Catubig River whenever sung was the source of this town’s inspiration amid the depressing, heart-rending conflagration of war that engulfed the Philippines, yes, the entire world at that time!”

“Thank you, sir, I stand corrected,” replied the young man. “I guess I merely have gotten used to hearing the word plagiarism. Yes, ‘doped out’. Nowadays, almost everyone I run into in this town and in Catarman has been talking of plagiarism and The Battle of Catubig for about two years now.”

“Plagiarism?” echoed a lady from the crowd asking with almost familiar voice.

“Who is that?” inquired the stocky, elderly man unable to get a clear sight due to the dim moon, the only source of direct light upon the square.

“Cecilia Matadong. And,” after a brief pause to catch her breath, she continued, “I want to be counted against plagiarism. There are plenty of talks about plagiarism in our town. Even the account that put Catubig in the history books in 2003 is said to have been plagiarized in 2007. What kind of people are we? We seem to be traitors to the brave men that fought the battle of Catubig!”

“Oh, Celia, you are the person I have been looking forward to talk with again when the occasion presents in view of your illustrious daughter in the States,” replied the stocky, elderly man.

In almost half an hour the crowd was gone. However, Cecilia and Editha resumed their conversation on the bench.

“You were talking of antagonism when we heard the singing. Edith, are you Inday’s drumbeater?” Cecilia remarked and in part asked a rhetorical question.

“I am just voicing out my perception,” Editha replied. “By the way, I have been meaning to ask you, now that we have finally met, about your visit to your daughter in the States last year. Do you have any story to tell me?”

Glowing up in pride with broad smile, Cecilia started, “I enjoyed it beyond measure. Rose had a couple of physician conferences to attend at various places across continental U.S.A. while I was visiting. She saw to it that coming with her to the places where those conferences were held was an opportunity for me to see big cities and other places of interest in America.”

“Sounds like you had a good time! Anything in particular you could tell me?” Editha became insistent and curious.

“Every minute of it thrilled me to my bones; all places of interest were exciting. But the ones I love the most are the mammoth Niagara Falls in upstate New York, the towering skyscrapers of New York City even without the World Trade Center anymore, and of course the majestic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,” Cecilia elaborated.

“You are so lucky, Celia,” Editha remarked.

“Perhaps. But remember now, like the saying goes, ‘…luck favors only those who are prepared.’”

“Yes, graduates of Philippine medical schools—almost without exceptions, even practicing physicians and surgeons licensed in the Philippines—seem not to have enough preparation to practice in the States. They instead work as nurses or even nursing assistants and lab technicians in the States, according to what I have been hearing,” Editha added.

“Philippine medical schools alone are not to get the credit or the blame for the success or failure of any given graduates. So much depends on the individual, as well.”

“Yes, I know. And, Celia, aren’t we talking here of Inday’s daughter who is working as a nursing assistant or lab technician in Alabama, so I am told, despite the fact that she is an MD licensed to practice here in the Philippines? Inday does not say anything at all about her daughter, although she is very articulate about the upside of her other family members.”

“Not necessarily, but, yes, you can say that,” Cecilia replied. “Well, Inday has intellectual lapses—not necessarily dishonesty, if you will. In the States, I learned that she has been writing to friends claiming that her father should get the credit for the published account of the battle of Catubig because he had written a draft of the story. However, her father was not able to finalize it because martial law soldiers and agents, when they ransacked her father’s law office in 1972, took the draft away in a brown envelope and presumably destroyed it. That’s something totally absurd, even verging on insanity.”

“I agree with you, Celia. And that is the kind of mentality that would plagiarize, given the chance. Imagine making a brown envelope as her only claim to her father’s authorship of an important article! Brown envelopes could be very dangerous, just like plagiarists, if Inday’s rationale can be upheld. Anyone could just allege losing one containing an alleged unpublished masterpiece and get copyright to it and other appurtenances due an author. There are at least a dozen ramifications,” Editha pointed out.

“Also, Inday brags for no apparent purpose other than to intimidate. At a private gathering a while ago, she was telling those present that her husband, like her father, is a lawyer and works for the richest man in the Philippines for the past twenty years. Additionally, she pointed out that her husband has an M.A. degree. What she kind of consciously overlooked is her daughter, an MD working as a lab technician.”

“Really, Celia, yes, and what we shouldn’t overlook is her intellectual lapses, to say the least. What she said is totally unwarranted and unethical, even assuming that the educational attainment of the person she was trying to intimidate is far inferior to her family’s. Indeed, she seems to have gone mad!”

“The irony is that with respect to educational attainment and places of employment of the person she was trying to intimidate, the reverse is absolutely true! There is at all no comparison! Concerning educational attainment alone, the person has advanced degree in Business from an Ivy League school in American and all his three children have doctorates in Mathematics, Physics, and Biology from MIT, Columbia, and Harvard—all Ivy League schools! And his eldest son works with the richest man on earth in Redmond, Washington. ”

“I could imagine! But you see someone who talks like Inday does is enmeshed with insecurity.”

“Yes, and what a shame,” Cecilia commented. That’s the kind of self-aggrandizement that is intolerable! Inday seems to have gone mad, yes, you are right. But, you see, that is the problem when you allow yourself to be perceived as coming from the rich and the powerful—elite if you will; you are tempted to create the impression of high expectation on yourself or immediate members of your family to maintain the status quo of family economic, political, and intellectual powers all rolled into one. When your, say, intellectual capacity gets taxed to the limit, you brag to avoid going on the defensive. It’s difficult to hold torch that way for long. Eventually you will be cornered by your own ego and left with no recourse other than to resort to, well, plagiarism in the case of intellectual pursuit.”

“You are correct, Celia. Now, do you have something to say about the growing supply of Ph.Ds. in Northern Samar in particular?

“You are not kidding, Edith. But let’s reserve that subject for our next meeting. By the way, I met Pepe in Los Angeles!” exclaimed Cecilia laughing hard as she tried to change the subject.

“Pepe, who?” inquired Editha laughing just as hard, but pretending not to know about the person Cecilia was talking about.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know, Edith. You know Pepe nga Garong [the fox], your one and only when we were growing up in this town.”

“Ahoy! I thought he is in Taiwan; any grey hair yet?”


“You know, speaking of Garong (fox), Langaw (fly), Tayud or Onud (meat), Bantad (shaker), Tabili (lizard), Kagang (land crab), etc.—all those and many more are imposed pseudonyms. We call them bansag in our local dialect, as you know. We are fond of imposing such a thing, engendered by the given individual’s or by his or her forebears’ habits and tendencies. This is common here in Catubig. Have you gotten an idea about the origin of how those people you know bearing them acquired their respective imposed pseudonyms, Celia?”

“Frankly, I don’t know. In part you just responded to your question. Many of them have been around for generations. But now I could deduce how someone might have gotten her or his bansag—or how one may get it in the future. Like if you are a girl, and you are overly aggressive on boys, you could get called ‘foxy’ or fox, Garong in our dialect, for a bansag,” Cecilia replied.

“But Pepe is a man!”

“Yes, but remember now he certainly had merely inherited it,” Cecilia pointed out.

“Ha? You mean if you are a plagiarist you could get called ohmmm—omang, and that could be passed onto your children and grandchildren down the family tree?” inquired Editha. “Wow, you sound funny!” Editha remarked, and without waiting for Cecilia’s response, continued, “Anyway, in my entire life I only have a vague understanding of what an omang is. Could you elaborate, Celia?”

“Well, it is a common metaphor in our town; say, if you are short of idea or ideas of your own, i.e., if you have no originality—just like a plagiarist—you can get called omang. Omang, by the way, is a type of crustacean. There are over 50,000 species scientists have identified thus far the world over. However, quite many, especially the terrestrial species, don’t have their own natural shell or protective shield—housing, if you will. Many adapt themselves into and live in the empty shells of mollusks as their own. That is omang.


“Yes. We call the very common mollusk here in the Catubig Valley as wawang. There are plenty of them around, especially in moist and shady areas. When you are cutting grass, for example, your husband or a friend is likely to caution you from running into a wawang because its hard shell, which is like a porcelain, is going to mess up the blade of your sharp bolo or porang or any related cutting implement. Check around for shells left empty by dead wawangs; chances are that out of ten, three or even four may have in each that skinny, crab-like creature enjoying the shell as its own [home]. That is the omang very common in the Catubig Valley!”

“Alright!” Editha batted in, as Cecilia pauses as if to summon more knowledge on the subject.

“It is also said that there is a certain specie of omang, especially the terrestrial kind, that when still very young, by biological instinct it squeezes in and lodges itself as a parasite inside the shell of a living mollusk and in the process eventually kills the host in order to take over the housing or shell. And indeed, an omang grows fast as a parasite to overtake and physically destroy the host. Any omang, just like any other parasite, almost always chooses a healthy host.”

Agreed Editha, “Of course, a parasite cannot afford to take a sickly host inasmuch as it has to live and develop itself on the host as resource. Very interesting, but scary if the comparison is applied to people. Hence a plagiarist tries to take over someone else ‘healthy’ intellectual work and claims credit for something she or he does not deserve.”

“Just like the balete tree,” continued Cecilia.

“Thanks. Now I know what an omang is, let alone the balete tree for now. It is clear to me now that plagiarists are too dangerous and deserve to be called omang as the scorn of our local society and a precaution to people around whom they interact with from being—well—plagiarized or victimized,” Editha reacted visibly showing her distaste.

“That probably is going a bit too far,” said Cecilia.

The two rose from their seated position and started moving around obviously to get some good blood circulation.

“Alright, let us go back to your stories on your visit to your daughter in the States,” Editha suggested.

“It’s getting late,” Cecilia pointed out then countered, “how about another meeting?”

“Alright,” Editha consented, “and let’s do it sometime soon. Let’s include in our next discussion some disturbing aspects of our educational system, because a plagiarist—in addition to bad gene—does her or his trade due to miseducation.”

Editha turned to the sky up and saw the moon faint and fading. She invited Cecilia and observed:

“Look, Celia, the moon is almost half, not that bright, but moonlight there is nonetheless, as Catubig River would have it. The sheen glistens and sparkles on the ripples of the river at the distance far down below on the stretch southward to Kanoktan. Mount Ligiron looms big and robust close-by, Mount Kalingnan silhouettes far in the east, the open skies to the north is broken in the horizon only by the contours of the Apolonio Hills. Catubig, with all its natural surroundings, is beautiful indeed—day and night! Small wonder why those men who fought the battle of Catubig at the turn of the last century did not hesitate to put their lives on the line.”

Editha paused, then suddenly Cecilia took turn:

“Yes, on April 15, 1900, there was full moon when the Catubig militia chose to challenge the regulars in the military of an emerging world power. Not that by whim they wanted to, but of necessity they had to in order to set the example of principle, righteous pride, and valor to future generations. The fact that they had chosen to strike on a date with a full moon at night tells us very well of the wise decision the leaders made to be effective with the needed 24-hour a day siege and vigilance—vigilance of which they did not envision succeeding generations later to commit a dastardly act such as plagiarism or any malice of the sort on any original, honest account that might subsequently be written about the militia’s heroic deed.”

“Amen!” Editha, almost speechless but biting her lips in response to Cecilia’s touching words, nodded with tears in her eyes. -- #

Copyright ©2009 Q. Lambino Doroquez
All Rights Reserved

Editor’s Note: — The author dedicates this work to the poor people of the Catubig Valley in the towns of Catubig and Las Navas, Northern Samar, and to the natural, geographic beauty of the town of Catubig itself that inspired him to write this work.

The author wishes to express his thanks to Rico Gloton for his assistance in locating a copy of Catubig River and for his personal assessment to the author that the song is truly a classic; and to Jojo and Merly Tan for privately recording the song, which they may have immortalized in the process, on behalf of the author solely for his personal effort in preparing this work.

To Atty. Randy P. Lambino goes the author’s admiration in guiding the writing of this work and for his professional endeavor on facilitating its timely completion.

Finally, the author expresses his heart-felt gratitude for the understanding of anyone who may have legitimate right or interest on Catubig River unknown to him or those who assisted him in this work and that, due to the essence of time, he is at want of such to further check.

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 Last updated: 09/26/2020