Once there was a family of bamboo near a rice field. It grew between the big boulders that adorn the nearby creek. The bamboo has a lot of baby shoots and one of them was Bayog.
When Bayog was small, he competed with his siblings so he can sprout as beautifully and quickly as his siblings. But Bayog was a little slower than his brothers and sisters so when the farmer who lived nearby harvested his siblings for bamboo- shoot salad, Bayog was left alone. He was still very small to be harvested. So Bayog grew up as the only young member of his family.
He learned to swing his leaves according to the music the wind makes. He has also learned to sing with the birds that seek shelter in his branches after feasting in the farmer’s ripe palay. When the sweet cool of the creek lulls him to sleep, he just gives in and in no time at all, Bayog’s trunk has grown stronger, longer and bigger.
Bayog also loved watching the farmer’s daughter, Lily, every time she passes by. Whether Lily washes the laundry and fetches water from the nearby creek or just gathers edible shells from the rice paddies, Bayog just loved watching her. Bayog thinks he must be in love with her.
One day, Bayog heard a news from the farmer. His daughter Lily is getting married in a week! Men and women from different villages will be coming to celebrate. That day, upon hearing about the news, Bayog has danced more, sang louder and slept less. He was excited! Maybe, the farmer is going to harvest him already. He has grown his trunk beautifully. He was ready! He wanted to be used for Lily’s wedding! He would be serving his human love!
The fateful day came when the men approached the riverbank and examined each bamboo trunk seriously. The leader of the men then instructed the younger men to cut the bamboo trunks he selected.
“These ones”, he said, pointing to Bayog’s four very sturdy siblings. Then he looked past Bayog and selected 6 other slimmer trunks. Bayog’s heart slammed into his chest. The man is now looking at him directly! He was kneading through Bayog’s trunk. “Now, now!” Bayog was beyond himself, he was going to be cut and be made worthy!
“This one”, the man moved his gaze away from Bayog and is now pointing at Bayog’s neighbor.
Bayog was dejected. The man did not select him!
With a heavy heart, Bayog groaned as the men carried the bamboo trunks that they just cut. For hours, Bayog watched as the men constructed the bamboo trunks into posts, braces and roof of a makeshift enclosure. Soon, the men took a large tent to cover the roof and finished their handiwork. The smaller branches of the harvested bamboo trunks were also woven into a beautiful backdrop of a makeshift stage.
The entire time next day, Bayog sulked while many people came to celebrate with the family of the farmer and his daughter Lily. He moped and would not sing with the birds. Even when the villagers beat the gongs for community dance, Bayog would not move. Not even when the wind caressed his leaves. No, he did not go to sleep even when the creek tried to hush him. He felt so insignificant and unimportant.
“Why did the farmer not choose me? Was I not sturdy enough?”
Every day since, Bayog has kept mostly to himself. “Maybe, I will just grow old and dry right here where I am standing”, he often mumbled to himself. But secretly, he still loved watching at Lily who would often do her chores with her husband. Bayog can’t help to notice that Lily seemed to grow more beautiful each day. She even seemed to have gain weight as the months went by.
“Ha! What marriage can do to a human,” Bayog would think to himself albeit sourly.
“Wake up! Wake up!” the birds were pecking on Bayog’s leaves urgently.
“What is it?” Bayog said, sleepily.
“We heard that Lily is giving birth!”, the bird said in a chorus as they nervously flew from the nearby house to Bayog’s branches.
“What?” Bayog got excited too, obviously affected by the commotion of the birds. “Pray, tell me, what else did you hear?”, he urged.
“We heard they need to bring her to the hospital. The baby is not coming out and Lily is already exhausted”, one of his friends told him.
Bayog was just opening his mouth to answer when he saw the father of Lily rushing out from the house. He was running to their direction. He looked distraught. Without a word, he checked the bamboo trunks and then he looked at Bayog.
Then the most unusually beautiful thing happened. The farmer ran his hand up and down Bayog and took out his machete. “You are perfect”, said the farmer. Then in swift blows, he cut him! He cut Bayog!!
“Oh, now, what am I going to do?”, Bayog was nervous. “Will I be good for a new post? Or a brace for the roof? Or a decoration? What will the farmer need me for?”, he could not believe his most awaited day has come. He was going to serve his purpose in life!
The farmer quickly cleaned the branches off Bayog and left him leaning by the door. When the farmer came back, he had ropes and a blanket in his hands. He tied one end of the blanket in on end of Bayog and did the same to the other end. Bayog still could not comprehend what the farmer wanted to do with him. He looked at himself with the blanket tied upon his trunks. “Now, what?”, he wondered.
Then a bunch of men arrived on the doorstep. “We are ready!” they told the farmer.
Then they grabbed Bayog by his two ends and put him on the ground. A little later, a very pale Lily came out of the house with her mother and husband in tow. Lily looked very huge with her very rounded belly. But she looked in pain.
Bayog kept still as Lily’s husband helped her into the blanket that was tied around Bayog. Lily laid down and hugged the trunks of Bayog. Two men took each end of the bamboo trunk and carried Bayog- all with the blanket and Lily.
“Oh, they made me into a hammock!” Then, Bayog understood and he started relaxing his trunks on the shoulders of the men who carried him and Lily.
The men, were in a hurry. They seemed to know exactly what to do. They walked swiftly, half running across the rice fields, up the rolling hills and by another stream they passed by. Bayog was in awe! It was the first time he went out of his neighborhood. He saw that there were other houses up the hill. And as they passed by other houses, men who saw them would stop what they were doing and would substitute the men who were carrying him and Lily.
Up and up the hill they went, past the beautiful corn farms, the small pathway that opened to a bigger, muddy trail where they met carabaos pulling sleds. It seemed to Bayog that the men did not tire. Even if their hands and shoulders became slippery with sweat in Bayog’s trunk, they did not stop.
Poor Lily held on to dear life. Bayog could hear her heavy breathing and once in a while, he could feel Lily’s hands clasping Bayog so hard he could not believe such strength was coming from a small woman.
After about an hour of walking-running, the group came to a clearing. Bayog looked around to see that the pathway has widened into a road and there was a large metal house with wheels on the street.
“We leave the hammock here,” the farmer instructed. “We ride the jeepney to the hospital.”
Without saying a word, the men carefully lowered Bayog and Lily to the ground. With the help of her husband, Lily stepped out from the hammock still clasping her hands over her belly and they walked slowly towards the metal house. Bayog came to learn that it was a jeepney or a house that make strong noise when it starts running. The farmer took off the blanket from Bayog and left him leaning on a bugnay tree.
Lily, together with her father, husband and mother then left in the jeepney. The men who helped carry Bayog and Lily also went back to their villages, back to whatever they were doing before they helped carry Lily.
Meanwhile, Bayog still reeling from the mixture of his feelings, let out a loud sigh.
The bugnay tree, very heavy with red and violet ripe fruits, greeted Bayog. “Hello my friend, you came a long way. Didn’t you?”
Bayog looked at Bugnay for the first time and apologized for not talking to her first.
“Ahem, er, yes. We came from the ricefields down the series of corn fields two rivers away from here,” he said. “I am Bayog by the way”, he continued.
“My name is Bugnay. I lived here all my life so I can only imagine that you came from a long way”, Bugnay said in a friendly tone.
“How do you know we came from a long way?” Bayog asked.
“I know. It is not my first time to see a fulig”, she said.
“A fulig, a hammock! That is…” Bugnay can’t seem to explain clearly to Bayog. So she tried again. “You know, when they cut a bamboo, tie a blanket on the two ends to make an improvised hammock and carry a sick person… That is a fulig” Bugnay said.
“Ah, that was what they did to me- to us- exactly”, Bayog exclaimed.
“Yes.” Now that Bayog understood what a fulig is, Bugnay continued.
“Anyway, I knew you came from afar. This is the end of the road. Or the beginning of it, depending on how you see it. This is where the people bring their sick and wait for the jeepney to go to the hospital.” Bugnay told Bayog diligently.
Bayog paused as if trying to let Bugnay’s explanation sink in. Then he asked, “what happens to the bamboos, like me that they leave here at the end of the road?”
Bugnay smiled at Bayog and said, “You will soon find out my friend.”
For three days, Bayog stood leaning on the branch of Bugnay. Once, he asked Bugnay again what is going to happen to him. He was wondering because farmers passed by them very often but nobody took Bayog away. Did other farmers not need him for posts or for fuel or for construction of houses? He wondered. But Bugnay just smiled at Bayog and said, “You will know soon my dear”.
It was a hot afternoon and Bayog was just dozing when he heard a strange sound. It sounded like… like a jeepney!!
A few minutes later, Bayog saw that indeed, the same jeepney that hauled Lily and her parents to the hospital stopped a few meters away from them. Then out from the jeepney were…
“Lily! Oh, Bugnay, look at Lily, she is back!” Bayog was shaking Bugnay so hard some of her fruits were falling down from her branches.
Bugnay who was sleeping was as instantly alert at Bayog was and was also very glad to see Lily. “Oh, look at her Bayog, she is back and she has a baby!”
Lily’s father approached the bugnay tree and talked in his human language. “Thank you for taking care of our Bayog, Bugnay. Now, we are going home”, he said then carried Bayog near the jeepney.
Once again, the farmer tied each end of the blanket Bayog and then Lily with her new baby climbed in the makeshift hammock. A few men also arrived and carried the hammock back to the village.
“Goodbye my dear Bayog!” the Bugnay called out.
“Goodbye my friend!” Bayog also shouted as the men carrying them were once again half-running.
All the way back to the farmer’s house, the bamboo was smiling at the sound of Lily hushing her newborn baby, embraced by the blanket that was tied to the strong and able trunk of Bayog.
Helen Biangalen-Magata is an indigenous woman and a mother of two boys. As a child, she loved listening to stories, mostly from her grandmother Talebya and grandfather Joaquin. When her parents wanted to teach her something, they told stories. If they wanted to encourage her, they told stories. If they want to reprimand her, they told stories. Short stories, long stories, funny stories, love stories, and inspirational stories, she listened to them all.
Helen sees stories out of the most common things and events around her. She wants to tell stories that convey the strength in the weak, the beauty in the ordinary, the power of the poor, and the love in this broken world. Short stories, long stories, sad stories, stories about humanity and reality, she tells them all.