Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Seeing through a fight scene

Three minutes went into the awkward swap of fist blows between two FX van barkers at Cogeo village’s gate 2, a traffic-chokepoint in newly minted Antipolo City.

Neither appeared seriously hurt. Not a blood droplet drawn. No gash, visible bruise or snapped bone. Both were gushing with curses and taunts. They were about to have another go at it when a burly cop appeared, collared them both, dragged ‘em across the street intersection -- the fray had traffic choked in knots -- to a police outpost. Those blokes may be booked for public scandal, peace and order violation (say, POV was catch-all crime of political detainees in the Marcos years), traffic obstruction. Probably, even littering.

Puwit, my youngest son witnessed the scuffle. It broke out in front of the Cubao-bound FX van that we had hailed and were about to board. The barkers, a pair of scrawny-looking chaps in their late 20’s or early 30’s had fought over P10 -- pittance sum that a driver pays a barker to call for passengers. Maybe, small amounts and lean pickings are worth fighting for. Or when their lives don’t amount to much, dirt-poor blokes claw at each other’s throats for scant sums.

Anyway, the Cogeo gate 2-Cubao trip that usually takes an hour accounts for the 3rd leg in our five-leg trip from the howling spread of cogon in the Sierra Madre foothills down to home in Palmera Springs in north Kalookan City. Leg 4: Cubao to Fairview or Lagro in Quezon City. Leg 5 is Fairview/Lagro ride to Zabarte-Camarin area in north Kalookan. Those legs are spread so apart, they often get screwed.

Awash in sweat and heady with a half-day’s reforestation work, we’d lug our backpacks of beddings, soiled clothes, leftover food, and tools for a three-hour hike that ends at a national highway cut between mountains in Baras, Rizal. Our own legs cover the first leg. The three-hour ploughing through a sylvan path plus a stretch of Baras river ensures the tail-end jolt of endorphin -- courtesy of one’s brain. Feels like a wash of slow orgasm, this endorphin treat. Oh, endorphin’s a brain-released hormone. It’s oozed out at the peak of prolonged physical exertion that lends a sense of inner well-being, a heightened sense of clarity. Plus a second wind.

Leg 2’s Baras-to-Cogeo gate 2 trip aboard a jeepney flow in sweet tedium. And on this particular Sunday (July19), the start of Leg 3 treated my kid and I to a droll scene that offered something to chew on.

“Meron pa tayong P200,” I began as our behinds comfortably plopped onto the FX van’s rear seat cushion. “‘Pag suwerte natin, those seafood stalls at Farmer’s market (in Cubao) may be selling oysters culled from Ragay or Lingayen Gulf. Makakabili tayo. Hindi pa sapol ng red tide do’n. Sa Cavite, Batangas, Bulakan hanggang Bataan, meron nang red tide. Kung may mangangahas na mag-ahon ng talaba kahit may red tide, puwede na rin siguro. After all, red tide fatalities that turn up in the news ate tahong. Mussels. Lousy mussel control. Murang mura kasi ang tahong. Death comes cheap...”

“Papa, ano ba ang kaibahan ng tulya sa paros?” the kid shot back. At Baras river, he had culled for freshwater clams called tulya, brought a fistful of ‘em that he intended to put in the fish tank at home. In one of our family’s out-of-town trips, we had grubbed for the malakat or paros (a species of violet-shelled saltwater clams) in brackish mudflats by a river flowing into Lingayen Gulf.

“‘Yung tulya, hindi tinatamaan ng red tide. Both clam types dig in the dirt, they eat up whatever the water current brings to ‘em. Poor things, they just lie and wait. They don’t wait in ambush like predators and the highly mobile species do. They just wait for things to come their way. That’s not a picture of patience. That’s a picture of false belief in fate, not faith. Fatalism. That’s awful and sad. Oysters and mussels are in the same lot. Strung up in a stretch of wiring and set against the tide to fatten ‘em before they’re culled. Patambay-tambay. Hindi kumikilos.”

“Wala namang direksiyon ‘yung mga kilos nu’ng nag-away kanina, ‘di ba, Papa?”
That shot segued to the destructuring of the moves in that Cogeo scuffle. Say, dance movements can be encoded in Labanotation. A chess duel between grandmasters are preserved in algebraic or English notations to allow learners to get into and learn from the game. Even grandma’s hand-me-down recipes allow the fledgling cook a hand in concocting a delight. And life-or-death physical engagements -- even those that have transpired in earlier centuries -- can be kinesically transcribed through kata. An initiate in the martial disciplines needs 3 - 5 years of constant learning and practice to get into a kata’s physical secrets, and some 30 years to chew through the spiritual kernel that the kata offers. (With some patience and persistence, my kids will inevitably see through and understand the secrets hidden in the austere movements of clearing grass, turning ground and such menial tasks entailed in raising plants.)

The Cogeo scuffle offered negative lessons on the conduct of one’s self. A closed fist is the symbol of a tightwad. Also a symbol of a closed mind. Fists were flung out, flailed about in aggression, meant to bash in an adversary’s face. So unserene. Disruptive of an individual’s inner harmony. Grossly obscene.

So I sounded preachy to my kid: “The more know-how you gain and the deeper the understanding you obtain about yourself and others, the more you become peaceful and loving. You’ll radiate your inner calm, your serenity within will always prevail. Mas marami kang nalalaman na ginagamit mo sa buhay, iiwasan ka ng gusot at away.”

“‘Di ba nakipag-away ka noon, Papa?”

“ Ako ang inaway. Hindi ako nakikipag-away.”

“Pero lumaban ka, ‘di ba? Bakit ang bilis ng away ninyo?”

“Hindi ako lumaban.
Something smothered the violence. Call it the spirit of harmony. It went to work. All one does is to keep in synch with it. Lashing out in violence generates hardly a ripple. Living and moving in harmony is being part of a universal flow, something akin to a tidal wave.”

“E bakit nagkabali-bali ‘yung kamay no’ng... sino nga ‘yun? ‘Yung kaanuhan ng yaya ko dati. Pinapalabas kami ng bahay ‘pag pumapasok sila sa k’warto ninyo noon..”

“Sinisilip n’yo kung ano’ng ginagawa nila?”

“Siyempre.”

“Ano ba’ng ginagawa nila? “

“Bata.”

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