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Hacienda Buyung - Rosario Lucero

Hacienda Buyung - Rosario Lucero

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01/13/2013

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The
Composo
of Hacienda Buyung 
Rosario Cruz Lucero
The Composo of Toto Kiko’s Despair 
WHEN THE PEOPLE OF BARANGAY HACIENDA Buyung heard the news at a bunch of jewels hadbeen found entangled in the bushes on the riverbank of Ilog Danao, they were not surprised. Ever sincethey could remember, their mother had sung them to sleep with the
composo
about Don Enrico Soler,whose suit Inday Juana had rejected. The families of Inday Juana and Don Soler—named in the
composo
 as Toto Kiko—owned adjacent haciendas, so of course, a love match between the two would have beenideal. Toto Kiko was heir to what had once been an
encomienda
granted by the Spanish crown to FrayFernando Duertas, who had had a son by Francisca Tim Chua, who was the daughter of a merchant fromFu Chow. But on the day that the two families were to formalize the betrothal, with Toto Kiko bringingwith him a bagful of jewels as his family’s proof of the purity of their intentions, they found Inday Juanagone. She had eloped with Jose Buyung, their
encargado
.From the bag of jewels clasped in Toto Kiko’s hand sprang many legends that slowly grewbranches all around it, many of them sinking to the ground, weighed down by the many rings of truthsthey carried, each one taking root in the fertile soil of the people’s imaginings. ‘When Tiya Estrella beganto sing the opening lines of the
composo
of Toto Kiko, people would gather ‘round her store, ready tolisten to a story they had already heard hundreds of times but ready, too, to be surprised at a new twist toit or a continuation to a story that they thought had already been brought to closure.
O mga señores kagsenoras, Pamati-i ninyo, akon iga-asoy ining higugma ni ‘To Kiko.
Tiya Estrella would then sing about how Toto Kiko, still numbly clutching his bag of jewels, hadslumped on the riverbank, sunk in the depths of despair. Then he had looked up and seen, from the deep,middle part of the river, the scales of a large fish’s tail flashing silver in the dawn light, He stood up,opened the bag, and walked several paces up and down the riverbank, scattering the jewels on it beforewading into the river until he vanished, pulled in by the river
diwata
whose heart had gone out to him asshe watched him suffering the kind of torment that only a mortal woman could inflict upon mortal man.“And that’s why,” Tiya Estrella sang, “when the moon is very bright and full, sometimes you cansee diamonds half-buried in the sand, sparkling like sugardust on the riverbank.” And then she wouldend the
composo
in the traditional way, which was either with a moral or an apology or a warning, likethis: “But don’t go there to pick them up, for the sirena will get you.”Tiya Estrella owned the store around which the men and women gathered ‘round at the end ofthe day, but she was proud to know that they applauded her
composo
not because they owed her threemonths’
dumaan
wages on sardines, rice, and gin but because she had a memory for the formula phrasesof the
composo
, which she combined with her own original turns of phrase—a gift that many said she hadinherited from her family line of epic chanters, who as the
babaylan
of the people, had been massacred bythe Spanish soldiers that had come with Fray Fernando Duertas to Christianize them.
I’ndi ah
,” said Tiyo Sardo, “Fray Duertas was not the first fraile to arrive here; otherwise hewould be 200 years old now: Fray Duertas was only Toto Kiko’s great grandfather, which makes him just120 years old.”Tiyo Sardo, who was the hacienda timekeeper, prided himself on being the only one among themwho had gone up to second year college, and so he knew enough about history and mathematics to makethem useful in conversation. Besides, he wanted to add, our
diwata
s don’t have fish tails. Women withfish tails were the
sirena
s, and Tiya Estrella made that up from watching
Dyesebel
starring Mice Dixson, ormaybe
The Litol Mermaid
starring Walt Disney.But the people’s eyes were already rolling upwards as the more impatient ones shushed himbecause Lito Libat was beginning to strum his guitar to sing his own version of what had happened to the jewels. He sang about Toto Kiko’s suicide, which he committed by tying the sack of jewels around hisneck and jumping from the pumpboat into that part of the river that all the children avoided swimminginto because of the whirlpool. And Toto Kiko had done this out of shame, for already there had beenrumors that he kept two different wardrobes in his closets: one for the daytime and another for theevening, when he turned into Darna.
 
Lito Libat’s version was the more entertaining one, and his audience would howl with laughterwhenever he would sing the refrain about Darna, for he wriggled his eyebrows and pouted his lips andmade many flourishes on the guitar with his right thumb, whose fingernail he had somehow managed togrow and keep one inch long in spite of his work in the fields, cutting and loading cane.After the applause and another round of gin, Luciong Ulianon, who could not sing, declared withauthority that he had been witness when Toto Kiko was hit in the head by Landong Walis, who ii•’as atthe helm of the boat when Toto Kiko had wanted to cross the river so he could get to the city and depositthe jewels in the bank. The jewels were a handful of diamonds contained in a velvet bag the size of Inday Juana’s purse that she put her rosary beads in. Landong Walis had then thrown Toto Kiko into the riverso he could keep the jewels for himself. And then Landong Walis had vanished.
The Composo of the Negros Nine
“GAGO.” TIYO SARDO CORRECTED him. “Lando was one of the Negros Nine, the nine boys that DonPedro had ordered arrested by the military when they were playing basketball at Hacienda Istanpordduring its
 pista
. And it wasn’t just Lando who was missing; all of them went missing. He was calledLandong Walis because he could shoot the ball with a left hook when he was actually right-handed ineverything else.”“Including shooting the enemy right on target?” someone asked.“No no,” someone else replied, “he was not
 gani
en-pi-eh. None of them were. They justhappened to be playing basketball when the military wanted to fill up their quota of arrests for the week,Besides, the Negros Nine disappearance happened only during the time of Cory, when General Jarquewas leading Operation Thunderbolt. There is a
composo
about that too,
di bala
, Tiyay Estrella? That storyof Inday Juana’s vanished lover happened much before that—during peacetime in fact.
Te, kundi ulianonka gid
.”
Te
, who is
ulianon, aber 
?” Luciong Ulianon’s tone was belligerent because it was not his fault thathis real surname was Ulianon. Litong Libat’s real surname was Magbanua, but they called him Libatbecause he was cross-eyed. Landong Walis was Rolando Alarcon, but they called him Landong Walisbecause he was left-handed. But Luciong Ulianon could not appeal to a birth certificate for defensebecause he was doomed by the accident of his name to fulfill its very meaning with every word heuttered. But now, historical truth was on his side and he was self- righteous with it.“Jarque is the commander of the en-pi-eh, not of the military.
Te
, who is
ulianon aber 
?” herepeated triumphantly.
Buang ka gid
. Jarque became en-pi-eh only during the time of Ramos. Before that, he was the onein fact who trained the si-ets-di-ep, the ones who came upon your father when he was on his way to the
tabuan
and they made him strip while singing all those hymns because he was the Komunista lay leaderof Bo. Alimango.”
Te
, what are you two arguing about?” Barangay Capitan Cabral butted in. ‘Both of you are right.Besides, there were no jewels found on the riverbank anyway. These rumors started only because aMerkano arrived yesterday and is now guest in Mayor Soler’s house. He has a map with him and he’ssoon going to hire some of us to dig up the fields to look for the treasure that the Japanese buried herewhen they used Inday Juana’s
Balay Daku
as headquarters. Do you remember when the surveyors camelast month and they went around measuring lnday Juana’s cane fields and our Iagwerta? Ye, it turns outthat our
lagwerta
is not part of Inday Juana’s hacienda.
Kuno
it is government property but inday Juanadidn’t know that when she gave it to us. And they’re not digging up the riverbank, which is all limestone.Nothing could have been buried there. It’s our
lagwerta
they’re digging up.”Everyone fell silent as the meaning of Capitan Cabral’s words sank in. They looked at each otheras they, almost at the same time, began to understand where these words would lead. But they weremomentarily distracted when Miss Lourdes walked toward them as they sat on the benches on either sideof the store. Tiva Estrella handed her her month’s supply of toiletry already prepared and discreetlywrapped in a newspaper.
 Ah te
.” Tiyo Sardo broke the silence as he gave the assurance that everyone was hoping to hear.“That Iagu’erro is so side I’m sure they’ll dig into only one corner of it. Even if they dig in several spots,
 
they can’t possibly uproot everything we’ve planted there. That time of our lives is now past.
Basta
, weplanted it with our vegetables and fruit trees because Inday Juana told us we could. Maybe the reasonwhy they want to dig it up is because Inday Juana gave it to us.
Par eso
, Mayor Soler is just using thistreasure hunt as an excuse so he can destroy our crops because we’re selling the biggest and best- lookingfruits and vegetables in the market at the cheapest price. Ye, I heard him say to Pedring the
encargardo
 that we are getting
reclamador 
again because we have other sources of living to depend on besides ourcutting and loading cane. We should all agree, right now, that none of us will allow ourselves to be hiredto destroy our own means of living.”
 Ay abaw
, I thought all that was over now?” Tiya Estrella exclaimed. “
Te
, what will we do nowthat Fr. Louie is no longer here to help us every time the bulldozers come?”“Times are different now,” Tiyo Sardo replied impatiently. And he added slowly as if addressinga half-wit who had not been able to catch the drift of the conversation from its very start, ‘What weshould in fact pray for is that Mayor Soler is really interested only in destroying our crops and notdigging up that piece of land.”“0.” Someone pointed to a human figure shaped like a question mark shuffling toward them. Itsalready bent figure was bent further by a sack that curved around his hump. “Here comes Ekot Buktot.Aber, let’s ask him what’s going on at the
Balay Daku
.”But as always, none of them could hope for anything more from Inday Juana’s loyal servantexcept a shake uf his head with every question. He would pull out an empty bottle of Perrier MineralWater with every headshake, for Tiya Estrella bought them from him for 25 centavos each. At night shewould fill up most of the plastic bottles with cooking oil for her sari-sari store and the rest she would fillwith her own drinking water that came from the village well.Miss Lourdes, who had stayed quietly to hear the rest of the conversation, left when she sawthere was nothing to be learned from the silent Ekot Buktot and hurried to find her sister to tell her aboutthis latest gossip. She found her sister, Miss Demetria, in the classroom doing the boardwork for nextday’s lessons, Miss Lourdes taught first grade while Miss Demetria taught the second grade in this schoolthat had been Inday Juana’s pet project. The Doña had saved the two sisters from a life as eitherindentured servants or weed-and-grass pullers in the fields by putting them through school in the city onthe condition that these two sisters came back and devoted the rest of their lives to the Hacienda BuyungElementary School, which never went beyond Grade 2.Miss Lourdes’ every word came with a sound resembling an asthmatic wheeze when she wasnervous. “I heard the people at the store talldng about a Merkano coming to dig up the
lagwerta
.”“Yes, I met the barangay capitan this morning and he said the same thing to me. He said thisMerkano is a professional treasure hunter. He had found a map in some library in the States. I’m sureMayor Soler will get a commission on this, the way he’s really entertaining this Merkano.”“Do you think Inday Juana will allow it?”
Te
, what can she do? She no longer has the strength to protect us the way she used to. The leftside of her body is dead; there’s nothing coming out of her mouth but her saliva and her litany of saints.Toto Pepito has his own life abroad; he no longer cares what happens to his hacienda here.”“I’m so scared, Metring. I told you even then we shouldn’t have used that
Lagwerta
 
 Ay sus,
don’t worry, it’s been more than fifteen years. Forget all about it,”They stopped and hurriedly reached for their handkerchiefs kept in the desk drawer when thestrong smell of a thousand rotten eggs wafted through the classroom windows, doors, and the cracksthrough the walls. They knew Inday Juana had soiled herself again and now Ekot Buktot was washingher down with the Perrier Mineral Water that he drew from the well in the middle of Inday Juana’sgarden.Ekot Buktot was the only servant now staying in the
Balay Daku
, caring for the bedridden Inday Juana. It was he who spooned the lugaw into her mouth, washed her down when she soiled herself, andcarried her from the bed to the rocking chair when she wanted to look out the windo where she couldview the four
duendes
of the garden playing around the dried-up well, She believed it was these
duendes
 who filled her well with clean, magical water that kept her alive beyond everyone’s expectations.Years before, Inday Juana had drawn emphatic lines and shapes in the air with her hands tosignal to Ekot Buktot why there should be no other source of water for her but this well. She had, she

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