Tabada: Nests

Mayette Q. Tabada

HALF of the mahogany trees growing beyond the fence have started their summer ritual: shedding leaves.

Silhouetted against the half-finished high structure abandoned after last Tuesday’s imposition of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon are bare branches festooned with the sprigs of young leaves and seed pods.

Sweeping the fallen leaves into some semblance of order, I look for bird’s nests. I saved two from previous summers: leaves and twigs joined by a yellowish substance the birds spit and sculpt into wondrous panniers.

My search for nests are paused at times by a neighbor hollering a greeting. Suspended from reporting to work, more residents have taken an interest in sweeping the streets, fixing the house, and noticing neighbors.

Social distancing has replaced the protective masks we once wore while clearing Taal ashfall from gutters and sidewalks. Better than any navigation software app is this neighborly exchange of which side roads to take for a quick run to a pharmacy or grocery and which checkpoints absolutely prohibit entry.

Meals to cook, children to distract, telephone conferences to join. The new normal has begun to seep into the old routines. Online, friends and family continue with updates. The coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) comes up first in the thread but quickly merges with and becomes submerged in the banter.

“Monggos (mung bean)” topped the online conversation last Friday. Soup variations were made in Sydney by my sister and I in Silang. My friend S. looks for lentils and other beans in the depleted grocery shelves in Las Vegas. Guided by his mother, my graduate classmate L., E. experimented at home with monggo beans. Another classmate, M., shared in our group photos of his garden experiments.

When R. suggested pickling the mangoes ripening in M.’s backyard in Iligan into “sambal,” Indonesia’s version with chilli, imaginations and appetites ran off to another direction.

Under the familial and familiar runs a slipstream. I know it’s there even if I only glimpse glints in the darkness. The politeness at checkpoints, the nightly siren, the silent highway, the kilo of wrinkling calamansi costing P250 at the neighborhood tiangge. Something out there makes it hard to think and write.

L. puts it succinctly: “maingay ang isip (the mind screams).”

Among insects, true nests are created only by the social ones. Ants and termites connect chambers and tunnels for movement and ventilation, according to scientists. Do social insects perceive threats as we do? Do they experience lockdowns? How do they care for their most vulnerable?

This will be a long summer of seeking nests.