The early morning weekend sun has just filtered through the enormously green mahogany crowns across the 1632 garden east of the capital.
The garden is dotted by fortune plants, a robust growth at one corner of birds of paradise, Chinese bamboos, different species of ferns, five fingers, palm trees, some orchids, baston ni San Jose, santan, several pots of la suerte, a climbing deep green cluster of sampaguita vines near the grotto, begonia, bougainvilla shrubs, replicas of two big herons on both ends of the garden to—I told myself when I bought these along nearby Ortigas Avenue extension—remind my husband of his youth in Pinili.
I noticed radiance in his eyes the first time he talked of south-bound white herons during the monsoon when he was still in the grades. That radiance returned when he saw the couple in the garden. They were standing separately proudly on both sides of the spacious blue grass-carpeted garden.
White butterflies and a couple of familiar dark feathers—billit balay and al-allawigan—are having some frolic among the leaves and petals of the plants that have become invitingly robustly green.
I bought some of the plants during quick visits to Tagaytay City and Los Baños. Dayaw and the family driver would wait for me at some nearby restaurant across the asphalted main highway while I go through rows of potted plants. Or those hanging overhead. I get overwhelmed by the easy possibility I would have the plants added to the other stems at our Brookside garden.
Today, as the sun slowly gets its shafts on the pebbled garage walk, I look at Dayaw from across the table, a few coupon bond sheets in front of him. I know he is just about ready again to unleash his thoughts on paper, after 24 minutes brisk walking on the path.
For a no nonsense practitioner in what he calls the thankless world of journalism, who started inhaling the printer’s ink in college, I sometimes find it rather unusual that he does not read newspapers on his days off. Neither does he listen to newscasts.
We have made it a ritual to do the brisk walking morning exercises before I raise my cup of dalandan-tanglad-ginger tea and he his cup of tea, sometimes coffee despite, or perhaps because of, Mian’s admonition.
About three meters away from our table is the CD player that boomed out, during the past 24 minutes, John Sousa’s Stars and Stripes, Under the Double Eagle, National Emblem, The Thunderer, Tommy Dorsey’s Song of India, Glenn Miller’s In the Mood, and Harry James’ Ciribiribin.
I am used to seeing him caress his ball pen anytime and any place. Sometimes I feel a bit jealous.
During our initial years as a couple, I knew he was off to his fertile valleys of quatrains, couplets, octaves and sestets when his fingers took turns at moving, tapping and the like, his ball pen between his right thumb and right index.
But when they did that in our later years when he was asleep, I thought he was in some steep cliff of panic. I had the stalking thought he was counting some other rhythmic cycles. Wanting to save him from some unnecessary nightmare, I would wake him up.
Often inside a north-bound passenger bus, while the vehicle runs at 110 plus kilometers along the MacArthur Highway, while I feel his skin pressed against my side, his fingers keep tapping whatever piece of paper in his hand. And I would understand.
His mind flies like some healthy northern oriole looking for a perch in the hills of Sang-at, his childhood playground he has repeatedly brought me to whenever we are on vacation up north.
Of course, every now and then, he would ask me if I remember the landscape which we had passed by in an earlier trip.
We have seen the landscape repeatedly. But somehow there is always a new footnote every time he asks me if I remember the view.
Going north, the right side gratifies our appetite for verdant crowns, with the breeze that has just caressed part of the Ilocos mountain range whipping our eyebrows. To the left, starting from Santo Tomas in La Union to Cabugao in Ilocos Sur we can have a glimpse of Luzon Bay.
I remember, during one of our trips home to the north, when we were rolling deeper into the Ilocos region from the narrow strip of La Union, the pre-teener Andy Lord, who had by then taken alone by his lonesome nearly a dozen summer trips north, flexed his muscles and inhaled deeply, as though savoring the Ilocos breeze as we crossed the bridge connecting Pangasinan and La Union, “parang naamoy ko na ang Pinili.”
That distance to his father’s birthland, nearly 200 kilometers away, gave him the feeling—and I understood him well—that he was home.
He could well have been tanned by the Ilocos sun, in much the same way his father was years after the bloody second world war.
And he is as proud of the culture of the Ilocanos as his father has been and is. We all are. It was there too, in Pinili, where Andy Lord went through the summer passage to manhood, during a trip I was with him.
In the challenged but visibly brave steps of his father in an earlier time. And Andy Lord wants his sons to go through the same ritual in Pinili in their time.
And his paternal cousin Narding was very attentive and caring while Andy Lord was trying to bounce back from his by then better forgotten fright.
Now, as Dayaw begins to scribble what might well be his first quatrain of a Shakespearean, or perhaps the octave of his Petrarchan, I take a sip of my green tea, enjoy the morning breeze that floats throughout the sprawling gated subdivision, and relish the memory of my shibashi waves while he punctuated his brisk walking with his shadow boxing.
The dogs—Barclay, Chase, Puti and Choco—who themselves had their walk-the-path behind their masters, are now resting, every now and then wagging, near the deep blue Corolla in front of Andy Lord’s gym equipment not far from the white Serena mini van.
My son often is a perfect picture sight under the steel bars, only meters away from the visitors’ comfort room by the alley to the dirty kitchen, raising his bulging muscles like men his age in some pay-per-hour gym in the capital.
Dayaw has changed the Perez Prado CD and replaced it with Ray Conniff’s Christmas carols. It is only September.
But the Christmas songs have a way of transporting him, this early, back to the times he was a fair-haired boy in Pinili, where his mother cooked for Honor’s old man and his brothers sinuman, a sugar cane juice-sweetened rice cake he says to this date made their weeks a memory.
The radiance in his eyes while remembering the sinuman of old beats the radiance when he remembers the immaculate herons above the sturdy stands in Sang-at.
The CD is now playing the country song “We Believe In Happy Endings” by Earl Thomas Conley and Emmylou Harris. There is a subliminal message in the song.
Apart from the many Dayaw and I share—jokes, laughter, instrumental beats, love for family – we also share some enormous passion for country music.
I catch the first few lines of the song “Who can tell just how it starts/ Angry words and broken hearts/ ‘Til silently we sit apart/ You and I// But in a while the anger’s gone/ And we forget who’s right or wrong/ Then one of us will end it all/ With just a smile.//
I catch Dayaw bending where he has written a few lines.
Then Simon and Garfunkel join the scale with their “Sound of Silence.” The CD was airshipped by Mian in March 2009, a month before my children and I gifted Honor with the awarding of the Cabie PINILI we launched months earlier. This is a literary contest we named after my husband for literature written in Iluko.
PINILI, the acronym for Premio Iti Naisurat Iti Literatura Ilokana, means Prize for Literature Written In Iluko. The maiden year was open to all Ilocano writers in a contest for Iluko fiction.
And the acronym just fits into the name of his hometown. Also my hometown now. As well the hometown of our children. And grandchildren.
I catch Dayaw stop scribbling after hearing the first few bars of “Sound of Silence” caress the leaves and petals across the garden, now kissed by the morning sunshine.
His eye level this time is higher than the grotto, its back against Burbank. Like his memory is right smack into the mahogany green crowns that partly shade Burbank fronting 1632.
I look at Dayaw. He looks like he is only 22.
I feel I am still 18. I am once more a college junior.
Maria Rosa A. Cabie, Ulirang Ina Awardee in 2003, is the incumbent vice president of the Ilocano Writers in Metro Manila. Herons in the Garden is an excerpt from her book “My Own Write, Rightfully” (Armiandy Publishers, 2010).