Sunday, February 2, 2014

Aniru and Other Cold-Weather Memories of Dupax

THE early-morning 8 to 12⁰ Celsius temperature that we have been experiencing in Baguio this January brought back memories of what children in my part of Isinay land did when the weather was tungnin podda (very cold).

Easily the frontrunner in my recall was the practice of aniru, which simply involved staying near an open fire to keep warm and avoid being manggopas (shiver due to the cold temperature).

Photo I took when my sister's grandchildren came from Dupax to Baguio in December 2010 and joined my nephew Dustin and niece Haina (two bigger kids on the right) in doing the aniru at the basement of our house.

Called inudo (or panaginudo) in my other mother language Ilocano, the practice of aniru taught us kids then with valuable know-how that had to do with trees and the use of fire.

For instance, the aniru taught us which trees shed their leaves during the cold months – starapple, eucalyptus, santol, pomelo, and mango. Thus, we knew where to go pick up dried leaves or sweep fallen leaves into a file and build fire to burn them.

We also got to learn how to manungutung (start the fire) using as kindling material rice hay, wood shavings, corn husks, or dried dipterocarp bark from the sawmill. Related to this, we learned to be careful enough not to make the fire so big or so close to the tree as to make it stop producing aromatic leaves for the fire.

It was usually the darauway (elder people) and other early-rising members of the family who would start the fire for the aniru. But quite often it was part of child play then especially during weekends when we didn’t have to worry about being late in school or going to class smelling of burnt leaves and grass-scented smoke.

Unlike today, there were no ukay-ukay sweaters for us children in Isinay land then.  Neither did we have cold-weather clothing sent home via balik-bayan boxes by relatives earning a living as OFWs in Hong Kong or in the USA.

Thus, the aniru may have played a huge part in making lesser endowed kids survive nippy weather in the 1960s.

Apart from getting warm, a side event then was the insenso we boys who went to the dawn masses during Christmas, played with during aniru time. This toy consisted of a tin can with holes on the sides and which we filled with burning charcoal sprinkled with the powdered resin of the tree we call antong (anteng in Ilocano, pagsahingin in Tagalog), and equipped with a long string to imitate the gadget the priest and his sacristan used to "smoke" each other during the mass. 

The aniru fire also came in different forms.

One form was the open fire where a large panga (tree branch) is burned on one end such that smaller kids could sit ala-horsey-horsey on the unburned part. Often we would take advantage of the smoldering embers to roast kamote (sweet potato), mait (corn), and occasional pindang (dried meat).

Another form was the outdoor dali-an (stove usually consisting of three stones fixed on the ground) where a coffee pot or a large kaldero (cauldron) containing water for someone’s bath is set to boil. Aside from coffee, at times what’s cooking in the stove may be seyor(food for the pigs), often chopped gabi stalks and tubers, green papayas, or the wild herb imbayang (tigi in Ilocano, Amorphophallus campanulatus in scientific parlance).

And another came in a pile of green leaves, grass and twigs purposely allowed to produce lots of smoke to drive away mosquitoes or, if set under a flowering mango or avocado tree, to rid the tree’s canopy of pests. Isinays call this process of smoking out fruit flies and other tree pests manuuv (agsuub in Ilocano). Yes, it is an organic way of pest control that I recall my father used to do in early December mornings when as a family we still proudly owned a gigantic and prolific-fruiting mango tree.

Alas, when I went home to Dupax last week, I didn’t see anyone doing the aniru anymore. One reason for this is that many households don’t anymore have loonta (frontyard or backyard) with trees or wood for such method of warding off the cold.

So to cope with the tungnin, children prefer to man-piut (curl up) in their beds or stay nan-amumun (covered from head to toe in their blankets) while their elders or capable siblings go for a brisk walk to the Benay bridge and back.

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