Sugar cane milling days (Second of five parts)
By Estanislao Albano, Jr.
Some distance away from the house of Saturnino were the houses of two Chinese bachelors one of whom was named Fong. The duo planted sugar cane and processed the same into all sorts of sugar products which they sold at the open air market in Ubbog which comes to existence every Sunday. They used the sugar mill which operated through the energy of a carabao. The older siblings would go watch the milling and cooking of the extracted liquid. They would cook the liquid in a vat sitting on a hole on the ground under which was a space for a fire. The first stage of the cooked sugar liquid was the pataroy which is thin, cooked further, the sugar became the palotipot which is thicker. The ultimate product was the moscovado or brown sugar which was called borisangsang in the locality.
What the Belandres kids loved most about the sugar milling days in the Chinese yard was the sinambong – cooked glutinous rice contained in woven young coconut fronds and then dipped into the vat of boiling sugar cane juice.
After a while in the house of Saturnino, the family moved to Dagupan which was also called Ubbog to the southwest of the valley a stone’s throw away from the Chico River. The village is called Ubbog (the Ilocano word for spring) because one of the two known springs in the valley was located there the other being at the back of the Laya Elementary School on the way to Balong. The villagers relied on the spring for the domestic water requirements.
The family rented the house of Gregorio Pugongan, a member of the immigrant Bago tribe.
Near the houses, there was a cockpit where the immigrant menfolk in the locality converged during Sundays to gamble and amuse themselves. Ever enterprising, Filomena cooked lunch to be sold to the cockfighters. Amelia would help in the cooking and serving. More than that, she also chopped tobacco and rolled these into cigarettes which she vended to the menfolk. While going about her business, she would go underneath the bleachers to watch the cockfight and at times she would be showered with the spit of the rowdy cockfighters.
The market was also located in Ubbog. It was open air with the farmers living in various parts of the valley just displaying their products on the ground.
By the 1930s, the valley was already subdivided and plotted for the different land uses.
The settlers included the Tubogs headed by former mayor Baac, the Apilados and Santiagos of San Julian, the Rosarios of Balong, the Bagos were already in what is now known as Casigayan, the Luyabens at the boundary of what is now Dagupan Weste and Magsaysay, Mundas and the Baduyens in Magsaysay, the Busligs in what is now Dagupan Centro, the Gallemas in Dagupan Weste, the Candelarios and Gonzalos, and a certain Raquel of Ubbog. There also were the immigrants from Cervantes, Ilocos Sur in Tuga across the river to the west.
It was the scourge of the valley. It wrecked havoc on the program of the American government to develop the valley.
Amelia distinctly remembers one of the traders from Pangasinan who came to buy large cattle from Tabuk and walk them all the way back to their province. Perhaps they never heard of malaria. They used to stay for the night in the house of Racquel. Apparently one of them fell ill of malaria. It appears there was one in the house and he wanted to go to the water jar (caramba) to drink but died without reaching the water jar. That was the first and only time Amelia saw someone die of malaria during her childhood.
Amelia now says that the Tubogs, the original settlers of the valley, appear to have developed some measure immunity from malaria because she had not heard of anyone of them dying from the disease. By contrast, the Bontoc people who settled in what is now barangay Bantay were nearly wiped out by malaria forcing the survivors to go back to their native place, Bontoc.
On hindsight, Amelia says that the government was remiss in protecting the settlers from the deadly illness. The government never attempted to give the settlers anything to ward off malaria like mosquito nets and quinine. So what the people did was boil a part of the dalipaoen tree and drunk the bitter liquid as cure to malaria. As for the Belandres family, their quinine supply brought from Manila held throughout the early years in the valley.
During those days there were no medical professionals in Tabuk so people relied on home remedies.**(To be continued)