With my very close but at times rascally cousins, I would be teased to no end with the “humbleness” of my birth. You see I was born in that place during the last great war. A place not only very rural and remote, but even quite unknown to even the locals. The teasing would be constant and knew no bounds. It evoked guffaws and laughter from listeners, thus was always quite an effective default joke during family gatherings. Thus, the mere mention of the place came to be dreaded by me, and discussions on places of birth were avoided. But the puerile tauntings continued and lingered on.
Because you see, once upon a time, my father’s family, members of some illustrious families locally, owned a vast tract of land in that general area, bounded on the west by the defining
. It must have been
vast, since when the patriarch died and the seemingly borderless land was
subdivided among the heirs, each still held quite a large tract. Graciano A. Neri, youngest brother of my
father, during our youth still had over Cagayan River 100 hectares of landholdings in that area. It was huge and though not really mattering
much in economic terms, it was an enviable place to go horseback riding and
Anyway, however sketchy this is how I am able to piece together the circumstances leading to my humble birth.
When the war broke out and scary news about the atrocities of the enemy started filtering locally, harangued families started their mass “evacuation” to forestall the eventual coming of the feared enemy. Families gathered together and sought refuge and cover in places which were familiar to them and for the rich ones, places they owned and controlled. I am surmising that in the early war years, the family of my father force-marched to this vast landholding, intending to sit out the duration of the war in that secure setting.
When my time to be born came, I was told once that my father had to travel back to the city on horseback in the inky darkness of pre-dawn, to seek out the family doctor. Given that I was fifth in the family, that doctor must have had quite an experience with our family. And four more would come later. Who was the doctor? I wasn’t told, but from my mother’s mouth much later, the name of Dr. Emilio Dayrit was mentioned as the family doctor and assisted the births of those who came later after me.
Whether the doctor’s trek to our evacuation place was timely enough to assist in my birth, I was never told.
Thus, inauspiciously I was delivered into the world, amidst the heavy drums of war, in a place quite unknown even to the locals.
BTW, the place was selected because there was a very nice secluded place with a constantly running underground spring providing fresh potable water. And much later during our camping trips there I had noticed a little structure built close to the spring which had been adorned with a catchment area re-enforced with rocks on the sides. This is now the site of the
spring which had all been cemented over as part of
the Kagayhaan Resort of the city. Lawndale
This dread of the place would be carried by me into adulthood.
Then we started visiting the place which during those times had no real access road leading to it. So we went by horseback from Macasandig and followed paths that went thru uneven terrain. As we neared the place, excitement grew because once we reached its clearing, a horse race was in the offing, allowing us to break the horses into a full gallop to reach the spring.
Those were exhilarating trips with close relatives which at times lasted a few days. Even our aunt tugged along with us at times, but riding on a carabao instead. We had been assured by our handlers that the carabao was more sure-footed than the horse and thus could prevent fatal falls into a deep ravine we had to pass through.
The memorable experiences started the change in my outlook of the place. I began to have good feelings about the place, the place where I was born.
Then as our current modern times shaped up, it was inevitable that an exponentially growing city would start expanding every which way. Access roads were built slicing through the huge area. A bridge would be built spanning the river to the east. In the process, precious archaeological finds would be reported on the bridge site, close to an old cave that dates back to pre-historic times. And of course, human population started creeping into all corners of the largely untapped area. Subdivisions, whether just simple cutting up of bigger areas into smaller lots or more involved ones, now dot the area. Thus, complicated legal battles ensued, and would carry over to this day. To a point that my cousins, the heirs of Graciano A. Neri, would sadly note that every piece of plot they possess in that area is now under legal question or litigation.
Today, Taguanao is as commonplace as any of the densely-populated districts of the city. Not anymore some unknown locus from some faraway location.
But do we even know what kind of a political subdivision it is or how big it is? It is not a barangay as I found out. But since it is closest to the Barangay of Indahag I am betting it is part of it. If so, then is it a sitio of Indahag?
To this day, I never cared to find out. Though there had been times when I would leisurely drive through and around it trying to recall familiar places or landmarks. Even rode my new motorbike through it for a more physical experience, feeling the wind on my’s face and the power between my legs.
I even consider it now as an alternate route getting to our place in Kauswagan from the poblacion, when at times horrendous traffic jams would clog the regular bridge routes.
A case of a place too far, becoming one closer to the heart.