I CREPT downstairs and tiptoed soundlessly across the yard, dashing outside the open gate into the dusty, stone-covered road. Heat waves sent electric shocks up my trembling knees. I ran faster until I reached the top of the hill. Without hesitation, I rushed downwards, rolling into the soft, dry carabao grass. Brushing dirt from my knees, backsides and elbows, I advanced toward the dense undergrowth. Abruptly, I was plunged into the darkness.
The thick rows of trees were still and the crackle of dry leaves echoed faintly into the gloom as I stepped on them. I heard the distant sound of running water. A filter of light escaped the protective roof of leaves and illuminated my path. As the light grew stronger, everything was bleached in black and silver. The trees thinned, making way for the wide expanse of water.I flopped into the soft bed of moss covering the bank. Across the mist was a jungle of coconut trees swaying slightly in the breeze. The murky, still depths rippled as a cow bent its head to the water and drank. A loud squawk cut the silence and the cow lazily raised its head, droplets of diamonds from its muzzle causing more ripples. A responding screech followed, and then another and another, until the noise rose to a wild crescendo as I became a captive listener to nature’s symphonic orchestra.
At last, the frantic beating of my heart slowed to an even, normal tempo. I opened my eyes and turned my head to the sound of Rofel Brion’s soft voice.
More than twenty-five years ago, we moved to the hills. Our family was the first to settle there and was relatively isolated from the rest of the community. I just started high school in the city then and I often complained about the distance I had to walk before reaching the highway to get a ride to school and vice versa. Being young and resilient, I soon got used to the long walk and the remoteness. I wasn’t the sociable type and I guess, never would be. Still, I would’ve welcomed somebody to hang out with. Nevertheless, there was something I really loved in my new home: there were plenty of grass, trees, and birds around.
These birds were good companions on quiet, sultry afternoons, their melodious twittering breaking the lonely silence. At twilight, they would flock noisily into the big mango tree in your backyard as they prepare to settle down for the night. Early next morning, it is their loud chattering that would wake you up. One could often tell when rain is about to fall because they’d frantically fly past to God knows where, prompting you to scramble down the yard to yank clothes off clotheslines. Going home from school, you’d catch a glimpse of them white flying objects in their famous V-formation, heading west. When you’re lucky enough, you’d come upon them building nests amid dry cogon grass or high up the duhat tree while you are on a limb partaking the luscious, dark, and purple fruits. More often, they’d invade your kitchen, seeking scraps of grain or rice, hopping and pecking like mad.
Nowadays however, ours is just one of the many houses in the neighborhood. The trees have been cut into lumber and in their place rose graceful, modern residences and towering steel cell cites. Either blaring music or vehicles honking or passing by disturbs the silence of the lazy afternoon or interrupts your siesta. And, engrossed in the daily concerns of living, you wouldn’t have noticed that the birds are gone too, if you were not startled at the sight of several crows stopping by the malunggay tree. Then you stare at its fragile, empty branches, long after the birds have flown away, and wonder where those fine-feathered friends that used to delight you as a young girl, could have gone to?