Even as I have discussed and recalled memories, stories and current events about Siruma, I kept missing one more place much nearer our residence and of my father’s hometown. In a way, it is my third hometown, though.
I am referring to Bolaobalite, which immediately stirred a chord in my heart. It is a mountainous barangay in the town of Tinambac, a neighbor to Calabanga. As a young boy, I heard my father relate the story why the place was so named Bolaobalite. (Now, I could hardly recall the full details of the tale.) But he pointed out that balite was a tree that used to abound in the area, and one particular tree had its trunk the color of bolao, or golden brown.
It was in Bolaobalite where my father spent his whole life as a mentor to school age children. He would leave the house at 4:30 on Monday mornings to catch the only bus transportation available on that time. He would get off near Obo and start a two kilometer of steep trail hike up the barangay. Only on Friday evenings would he return home as he boarded in the barangay (village) captain’s house on weekdays.
At one time, father urged us to come and visit the place. So we took the bumpy ride to his mountain abode. The road was bad, potholes were common and numerous, perhaps, poorly maintained because of the remoteness and non-importance of the place.
On our way up the mountainous trail, we got lost. The trail disappeared from our sight as tall wild grass has taken over the fertile soil. Some elementary students went to our rescue and we were able to heave a sigh of relief. At the barangay captain’s house, we were offered fresh young coconut water. How I devoured the soft cocomeat with a coconut spoon made out of the chopped topmost cover of the fruit.
The school site was not cemented, I mean there was plenty of ground that when it rained, the soil turned into a sticky reddish/brown mud. The schoolhouse was very modest. The classrooms were bare and uncomfortable. Two students were assigned to a desk, some were delapidated and old. There was no electricity. Some students would come to school on foot, others wearing slippers. No, shoes were seldom seen in there, except those worn by the teachers. When it was rainy season, the classrooms were not spared of the mud. And on hot sunny days, dust was inevitable.
On some weekdays several students would not come to school prevailed by their parents to help in the planting or harvesting of corn and cassava. Corn, cassava, sweet potato and copra (dried coconut meat) were the staple food and chief income generating products of the area. Families survived eating boiled cassava for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also a popular concoction there was the topmost young leaves of cassava cooked on coconut milk. Steamed rice was actually a mixture of rice and milled corn.
On some Fridays, father would alight from the bus with a sackfull of either corn or cassava or a mixture of both. He obliged himself to buy from the parents of the school children the agricultural crops so often so they could have some money, too. Cunny middlemen would trek up the barangay to buy the crops at a very cheap price and resell the same for hefty profit at the town market.
Since then, we revisited Bolaobalite many times.
Why father chose to teach in Bolaobalite was never revealed to us. Countless many times he had the chance to get a transfer to a nearer, comfortable teaching assignment, yet he persisted teaching in Bolao. Maybe it was his passion to just teach the young learning minds of simple children with simple parents.
(Note: Barangay Bolaobalite has a population of 1,454 for year 2007 census.)