Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Tabada: Fish or bird


THE most difficult is not the making but the imagining. In the second imposition of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) over Cavite, as with the rest of the so-called “NCR Plus bubble,” I am learning from kites.

“Tabanog” in my native Cebu is “saranggola” in Tagalog and “burarul” in Kapampangan. Our neighbor D., who hails from Pampanga, refers to the shape of the kite he makes in our tree-lined street during long, still afternoons.

As soon as the 5 a.m. curfew lifts, I go out to sweep leaf litter from the street and come upon pieces of what became “guryon,” a large kite named after the Spanish sparrow, or “sapi-sapi,” a kite with a tail.

D. has made a “tutubi (dragonfly),” and put together two boxes connected by four split-bamboo poles he calls “box” but which I think of as “Star Wars.”

My favorites, though, are the small plain triangles that become lost to sight when airborne. Only the tug of the “lambo (twine)” confirms there is a “bolador (flying fish)” being reined in, tugging at will to defy the earth and fence with the wind.

Twine, bamboo splits. In my street-sweeping, I come upon leftovers from afternoons when D. assembled a kite, followed avidly by neighbors.

The ECQ prohibits this grouping now but no protocol can prohibit grown men from remembering the summers when leftover rice rolled into a gum turned the brown paper bag containing pan de sal into a bee or eagle that responds to the slightest flick of one’s wrist.

Kite-maker and his retinue live for one thing: “tugpo.” In Cebuano, this is to fling a kite so it clings to the tail of a passing breeze and perchance sails on the wind. In Hiligaynon, “tugpo” is the breeze itself, released by the mountains and escaping to the sea.

At high noon, I hardly glance outside the window when the wind pats my damp face, when running feet clatter like dry leaves blown helter-skelter on the street, when men briefly turned boys chatter like sparrows. Without witnessing, I can imagine another “tugpo.”

After getting once too often splinters under my nails as a child, I gingerly put aside the “lipak” I find in my sweeping. Going by feel, the kite-maker whittles each slat of bamboo to just the right thickness to make the kite flex like the seemingly boneless coils of a serpent.

As with the eponymous creatures they borrow their shapes from, kites are endangered by high-rises and power lines, the march of urbanization and the retreat of memory.

One dawn, I came upon the sketch D. made with chalk on the pavement. After a day, all that remained of his imagined “burarul” was a fanned-out tail.

Fish or sparrow? From its perch beyond my reach, the kite says: be.


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