Once a vast tract of bountiful land owned by our ancestors, the domain has through the years been divided and further subdivided into smaller farms. First, it was among the children and finally going down to the present generation – the great-great grandchildren that includes me now. However, the absence of walls or fences among the cousins’ smaller farms, makes it appear that nothing has changed after over a hundred of years. It still looks like the tract of land of mostly rice field and coconut tree plantation that just goes way beyond what the eyes can see.
Three of my cousins have already chosen to resettle there now with their families since there’s now running water, electricity, cable TV, and the internet, although the narrow concrete road hasn’t been finished yet. Nevertheless, my cousins keep on asking me when I will be moving in the farm too. They eagerly assert the pleasant country life that they are now enjoying. It’s the best of both worlds, they say, with the serenity of the farm and with what the modern comfort brings.
I’m amused of how they boast of the clean air they breath and the organic crops they grow abundantly for the entire family with free open range chicken and swine raising. The land has natural springs and at least two small ponds adjacent to the vast rice paddies where succulent tilapia, talusog and hito thrive. The pond that my father developed was his pride and joy when he moved back there upon his retirement. Although, it now needs a serious rehabilitation since it has become more of a wild swamp invaded by aquatic plants mostly kangkong, water lilies, and even gabi or laing. Big city dwellers just can’t imagine the enormous difference in the quality and delicious taste of the fish there compared to those grown in crowded fish ponds we buy, which are fed by mostly manufactured mixtures. They taste like totally another breeds of fish altogether.
It’s interesting to note that varieties of fruit trees and vegetables easily grow wild in every corner including luscious pineapples like the Smooth Cayenne or Hawaiian variety, which is the most popular, and the African Queen or Formosa, which is the sweetest. Endemic pili nuts and bugnay, together with falling overripe avocados, papayas, guavas and guyabanos are favorite meals of rodents and diverse kinds of exquisite birds including some threatened species. Towering coconut trees and bananas are all over with few remaining abaca plants reminding us of the once lucrative crop the property had produced for decades until the use of hemp was replaced by plastic. There is, however, a revival of the world-known abaca hemp and fiber in luxury textile industry.
My cousins Eddie and Efren, are much younger than me, but we all grew up playing together in our grandparents’ ancestral house in Iriga, which was reconstructed after the original house was heavily damaged by US bombers when it had been mistakenly identified as the the garrison of the local Japanese military detachment during WWII. The house had never regained its past splendor with all the affluence of its lost oriental and European materiales fuertez and objets d’art used, which almost all came from Europe. All we had are vague melancholic memories recounted by our grand-parents of that glorious past with traces in the very few surviving furniture, silverware, and some miraculously recovered ceramic and porcelain from the debris. Nevertheless, we never get tired reminiscing our fond childhood memories in that much simpler reconstructed old house every time we see each other like today.
Efren was saying that even our parents could have hardly imagined that one day, the farm would also have all the present city living comfort for the next generations. Then, he mentioned that his children enjoy the farm, too, that’s why they prefer to go home every day rather than staying in cramped boarding houses in the city. Our conversation also lingered on how the children are doing well – very well, in fact, in their studies.
That was when Efren mentioned that his son Vince together with some team mates had to visit one of the local tourist attractions, the Itbog Twin Falls on the following day. They had been assigned to produce a 10 to 15-minute travel vlog highlighting the falls. I’d been hearing about it and the pictures on the social media are truly fascinating. I immediately asked my nephew if I could join them.
The next morning, I arrived two hours earlier than the agreed time at the Buhi town port. I had planned to do some photography before the group arrived and I was so happy with my decision. There were still very few people at the port to distract me and after roaming around and clicking, I thought that some of those color shots would be striking and some would be definitely processed in black and white.
Lake Buhi is a large shallow lake of 18 km2 surface near Iriga volcano and lies in the valley formed by the 2 older Mt. Asog and Mt. Malinao volcanoes. It has an average depth of 8 meters. It has probably been created by an earthquake in 1641, when a portion of Mt. Asog collapsed to form a natural dam. The lake is famous as one of the few lakes that contains the sinarapan (Mistichthys luzonensis) which is the world’s smallest commercially-harvested palatable fish.https://www.volcanodiscovery.com/iriga.html