(Excerpts from the unfinished biography of my father Bailon V. Zafe Sr.)
Parents expect from their children to surpass them in all abilities except the look. Original is better than the clone.
Father wants his son to be brave. Not afraid of the dark, ghost or the dead. That he can face danger with calmness and cool demeanor.
When i was in high school, Father noticed that courage was not one of my qualities. It’s true that in this stage of my mental and physical development, I also noticed that I was far from being brave.
He could not send me to an errand a without companion during night time. I stayed away from places with a dead person.
Night time at barangay Buyo when relatives and carpenters, all volunteers, start fashioning a coffin for a dead person, it made me felt uneasy and I could hardly sleep.
The sawing of the timber, the flattening and finishing of surfaces and edges of timber, the putting of the nails and other activities created enough noise to disturb me. Going to the toilet at time like this was a big challenge. These made me a bit wiser. I made it a point to sleep at the center of my siblings and never near the walls or doors. All these did not escape my observant father. The basis for him to believe that I lacked bravery in my character.
Our family at this period of my story was engaged in the lumber business. We cut trees on our duly licensed concession area or timberland. To reach the area, one must hike a half-day.
One beautiful early Monday morning my father called his lumberjacks/laborers. They were engaged to cut trees for the making of timber. Preparations were readied for the food and other provisions for a one-week stay in the timberland. Suddenly my father approached and told me that I was included in the team. My uncle Kindo (Herminigildo Vargas, the brother of my mother) and I will be the advance party to clean the rancho (nipa hut or dwelling place) where we will stay for one week. We have several ranchos scattered all over our timberland. The one pointed to by my father was near a riverbank and the farthest. The place is called Bariot.
We arrrived at Bariot after a four hour-walk, crossing many rivers, taking short cuts by climbing mountains instead of the usual easy path and we seldom took a rest so we could prepare the rancho before the group arrived.
This was my first time in Bariot. We arrived at high noon. It was fair weather but you could not see the sun. The thick and crowding leaves of trees covered the sun, with its rays of sun passing thru only in areas where branches and leaves were not so dense.
Fifty-one years ago from today, September 23, 2019, while writing this biography of my father, I can see Bariot vividly in my imagination: what it was during those days, the air we breathed, its surroundings up to the farthest my eyes could reach and the cold touch of the river in my feet. It was pristine and wonderful in every aspect of what was supposed to be virgin forest.
In these virgin forests, we feel, see, touch the serenading sound of music of birds, the bark and impulsive reactions of frightened animals disturbed by our arrival, some of them far but felt our presence thru their acute sense of smell. Cold air that permeates the environment encourage one to whistle an old love song out of overwhelming feeling of peace and happiness.
For a teenager’s carefree attitude whose mental processes of appreciation is not yet formed, I just took it at face value, experienced the beauty and wonder of the place without expressing gratitude to its Creator.
Uncle Kindo inform me that night time will come soon within two hours but still the group of lumberjacks had not arrived yet. An hour passed and my uncle started getting apprehensive. His attitude was changing as seen from his movements and talking. He keeps on saying why they had not showed up.
When sunset came, he laid out a plan for us to leave the nipa hut and transfer to Tang Trizo Zafe’s abode in the middle of a mountain. I realized then I would be face-to-face with the man from whom I inherited my father’s problem with me, my fear of the unknown.