ANY CHILD who passed grade school can sing from memory, without
skipping a beat, the lyrics to this childhood melody.
I. "Bahay kubo kahit munti"
Tragic, however I would say it; because a few more years from
now, the bahay kubo will be just that—one of many songs
written from a bygone generation. The landscape of many
agricultural lands had radically changed since I saw them on the
road trips I'd taken for the last two years. Together with this
is the shift from the functional bahay kubo, blending perfectly
in the ricefield, to the incongruity of a concrete house, without
a lalam bale for airflow during the hot summer and for muddy
water to flow under during the wet/rainy season.
Totally absurd. Not only has common sense seems to have left a
many number of people, but also gone away their sense for
building in harmony with one's locale. Perhaps it is to make a
statement that people no longer yearn for the scent of carabao
dung or freshly trampled grass after a day's labor. So now the
money saved from what kind of unspeakable labor a family member
does in a faraway land is spent on changing the house's look. It
is not for me to dwell deeper on that here, though.
II. "Ang halaman doon ay sari-sari"
The plants and crops are found in variety. But only in the song.
That was the way it ordinarily used to be. No one ever bought
from the market one's daily fare of vegetables because they were
most readily available from the garden plots and vines used for
Together with the now vanishing bahay kubo, even the vegetables
and herbs for cooking and healing are also disappearing, being
taken over by bermuda grass, which is not endemic to our place.
Along with the concrete house comes the altered landscape of
useless imported flowers, which even the local dragonflies,
butterflies, tamumu (bumblees), grasshoppers, lipaktung, etc.,
cannot live on. They that cannot think further than the tips of
their pudgy noses.
But there is one sure consolation. Although the bahay kubo is not
to be found, the plant life and vegetation cited in the song can
be found in the urban center—right in the Happy Hobby Herbs
Garden of Judith San Miguel-Mercado. For doing something so
right, and in perfect timing with our call for going back to
growing the vegetables and spices and herbs that we eat, even the
regional networks are seeking out Judith’s garden.
And so, as the houses in the ricefields have taken on a twisted
turn, even the looks of the people who dwell within have taken on
a massive overhaul. What with face reconstruction and botox and
other cosmetic surgery. For not only that the buac mais can be
seen in the cornfields, but the reddish hue is now being sported
atop many Juan's and Juana's heads. Again, the environmental
impact of all that comes with such hairdressing is best tackled
as another topic.
III. "Singkamas at talong"
Turnips and eggplants.
The singkamas used to be a daily part of the water-filled bottle
meryenda stock for kids outside the perimeters of private and
public schools. Refreshing and crunchy cool, it can be eaten
dipped in just plain salt, or baguk, or if you wish, aslam with a
combination of salt and sugar. Turnips are sold either sliced
round or cut in centimeter strips. No adverse side-effects there,
no matter how much you take.
The year-round produce of singkamas is also a crucial ingredient
for my own recipe of siomai, at least, or for lumpiang borles, or
crispy fried veggie combo rolls. Exhorbitantly expensive when
bought from the hypermarts, the singkamas is one root crop that
is easy to grow in yet so little space.
Life is what we make of it. Take "Bahay Kubo" (from just its
first three lines) up against the impressive offers of modern
life (that could just depreciate from promised comfort to
appalling discomfort). Choose either to make our daily food fare
healthy or greasy (but taken with risk of all the illnesses
attached). Think about the next lines of the song, while I pick
some balasenas to steam later for an early dinner to go with