(The Golden Vessel Part 4)
This natural diving rock, which I call the ‘saltahan’ (jumping stone) of my youth, had been there many years before my birth. I often wonder, which came first, the saltahan or Buyo river? Maybe together at the moment of creation.
Many great floods had passed by it for many years beyond calculus to give the exact number; still the jumping stone stays in its position unmoved.
Two backhoes were used to try to pry it out for use in our town breakwater but it was not successful. Contractors planned to convert this jumping stone to cash but they failed, making its fame grows.
Vincent Panti told me, “With two backhoes pulling the iumping stone together, how come it did not even move an inch?”
Hidden forces or spirits must be at work. Every day, rain or shine, JS had been steadfast in its functions to make people happy when they come swimming. Used by generations of Buyoans including many visitors, children, adults and senior citizens, the rock has seen children grow old, including myself, and some had died already.
Recently, it remained unmoved, undeterred by the mightiest of all typhoons that passed by Catanduanes in our time, super typhoon Rolly. My curiosity aroused, I started to inquire thoroughty about the riddle and mysteries surrounding the ‘saltahan’ of my youth.
During my previous vacation before the last national election, a policeman met his death near the jumping stone. The circumstances I heard and learned was that it happened at nighttime and the Buyo river was not swollen. The one who succumbed to drowning was with another policeman during a search for hidden logs or lumber that might had been submerged or stockpiled in that part of the river.
The following morning, several policemen arrived to investigate, gather information and look at the scene of drowning, the jumping stone. I was there in our farm observing with my dear wife. I decided to walk closer to them at the river bank as a few of the policemen looked familiar to me. I didn’t know the result of their probe and it has been more than two years since then. Our priest held a mass in honor of the fallen policeman and we had a little salo-salo.
Two weeks after super typhoon Rolly, I drove Tess Panti and Ledesma Tañon to do a cleaning job in a home where my son Nico stayed. Ledesma told me about her daughter Rizalyn P. Tañon, who drowned close to ‘saltahan.’
The year was 2000 when she went washing near JS accompanied by her daughter, then five-year-old Rizalyn. Based on her estimate, there were 30 or more who were also washing clothes at that time. She was focused on her washing clothes when suddenly she felt in her guts something was wrong. She stood up and noticed her daughter was missing. She went around feeling nervous, looking for her daughter.
She was shocked to find Rizalyn very near the jumping stone, floating and not moving. Her head was submerged close to the bottom of the river in a slanted position. Her buttock was near the surface of the river, as if her head was being pushed towards the depths.
The mother became disoriented while shouting and crying for help. Rizalyn was brought to the river bank and given first aid, mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and other traditional remedies. Ledesma told me that a black mark was found at the back of her neck, a sign that she struggled while being pushed to the bottom of the Buyo river near the storied jumping stone.
I heard different stories about this JS many times in the past whenever an accident occurred or somebody drowned near it, even during my teaching years at CSU as well as during my stint as member of the Virac municipal council.
I ignored it and took them for granted, believing that people who have nothing to do were the ones spreading rumors. Stories passing through several persons are usually adulterated, making them unbelieveable. To many cooks spoil the broth, so they say.
Ledesma also told about her unusual disease and how she got it and got cured of it while washing clothes near the jumping stone. We will have it here for Part 2 of ‘The Saltahan of my Youth.’ I wish to express my apology to Catanduanes Tribune fans.
My three weeks of research on the history of Buyo have given me opportunities to know better the place of my birth. Interviewing people, I found the best way to reintroduce myself to our barrio folks, enabling me to learn intriguing and interesting stories about the Golden Vessel, my favorite topic. Was Ledesma, whose fear and hate relationship caused by the drowning of her daughter Rizalyn near the jumping stone, driven by her strong emotion to point to JS as the port of the Golden Vessel?
The albularyo who cured Ledesma of the unknown disease pointed to an incident in the past when she threw stones at her son to move him away from the ‘saltahan of my youth, thereby hitting two beautiful unseen ladies swimming near the pier where the Golden vessel was docked. This was the cause of her disease, she was told.
Does the enormous flooding of Buyo River turn the ‘saltahan of my youth’ into the Golden Vessel?
Why is there only one Golden Vessel? How about that super big stone known as ‘Silungan’ in Manimpak, the two big stones in Dugui Too’s mysterious falls? Are they Golden Vessels too?
Myths must be kept alive. The people who can keep them alive are the artists of one kind or another. (John Campbell)