Tabada: Passage

·2 min read

The first time I stood outside the Lepanto chapel dedicated to the Birhen sa Sto. Rosario, the farming community of this upland barangay in Alegria, on the southwestern portion of Cebu, was preparing for fiesta.

In the 1980s, I worked with communities to pilot a community wall news. It was my first job after college. A colleague handling community theater had the young and old flocking to the skits held by passionate amateurs at weekly “tabo (market gathering),” as if gods descended from the top-rating AM radio drama dominating the airwaves.

In contrast, it seemed that my main job was to explain till I was blue in my face the strange idea of a news wall that featured photographs of local farmers and was moved around the sitios. Finally, local leaders of Lepanto expressed interest to start a “hatud-balita (deliver the news).”

At that time, Lepanto was connected by a road that was treacherous in rain or in drought, with gullies of loose rocks that made travel on horseback safer than any other means. The local horses despised me so I chose to walk and cover the sitios.

Information about the latest in forage systems and integrated pest management does not travel faster than word-of-mouth about a local worker and a certain young woman “from the city” seen walking around even before roosters have flicked the dawn dew from their cockscomb.

When the two are again seen doing the same thing—“walking!”—before the doves roost in the gloaming, it is no longer information that is transmitted but a drama serial. I don’t know when the “hatud-balita” became “hatud-Mayette” because no one told me, certainly not the local counterpart I was training to hand over devcom duties.

I had my re-education about information in the interstices of community life: judging a beauty contest, washing clothes with other women, never refusing a dance in the fiesta, never saying no to an offered glass, even if the liquid smells like vinegar, tastes like orange, and uncoils like a snake.

No one is needed to deliver news. Information will grow legs and do the walking where there are ears.

Recently, I found myself again outside the Lepanto chapel being prepared for the October feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Boys ran around. I was happy until I noticed they were firing toy guns with the ease of TV police hero Cardo Dalisay.

According to communications experts, the elections in 2022 will be waged and won online. I followed the boys in their pretend games of slaughter before joining my son and husband, who the gossips and bet takers foretold I would marry because we were seen, from dawn till dusk, walking.

In many places, digital still knows nothing to the murmurs from the ground.

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