By Pet Melliza/ The Beekeeper
IGBARAS, Iloilo – Ask children in this town what “ubog,” “tughod,” “urok”, “sihud” and “linaw”, among others, mean and chances are they would look at you bewildered.
Those terms were common in our days when the Tangyan River was still much alive and the center of life in this mountain town, 40 kilometers south of Iloilo City.
The Tangyan River was our main source of drinking water. It buzzed with life from dawn to evening as people flocked there to fetch water for drinking and washing; wash their clothes; and catch fish.
The river edge was dotted with “bubon”, holes one foot deep dug by hand, its bed lined with pebbles and sides walled with rocks. At the bubon, people scooped water for drinking or for washing clothes.
The “ubog” and “tughod” are brown and spotted, freshwater fishes. They abounded at the Tangyan River until the ‘70s. Both are rare now. The former is smaller and sticks itself on stone through the spot below its mouth that clings to any object, including larger fishes.
Tughod is bigger, the size of a finger, and looks like a distant relative of the bigger “bagtis” that agounds in Central and Northern Iloilo.
“Urok” is the habit of fresh water fishes to escape danger by burying themselves under the sand or muddied beds of rivers.
“Linaw” on the other hand refers to junctions of the river, usually the spot where a boulder lied that the river slows down as it veers away to another direction. The curve slows down the flow. Here, the river runs deep.
Tell children of this mountain town that their elders learned how to swim during their elementary years by skipping classes to jump into the “linaw” of the Tangyan River and they will likely stare blankly at you. Nowadays, kids learn to swim at the beach or swimming pools.
Tangyan River is dead, well almost. During summer, it recedes down to ankle level. Even then, the river during the height of the dry spell becomes scattered pools as some portions of its bed dry up.
The kids could not imagine how they could learn to swim in the river during summer vacation. They are equally baffled how they could frolic in it during rainy months when its torrents are strong.
Deforestation and excessive quarrying in the river bed wiped out the series of “linaw” where the flow slows down.
“Sihud” is a bag net whose mouth is framed by a vine formed into a ring, about one meter wide. Amost each house in Igbaras in the ‘60s had it. During floods, men and women would flock to the river with their “sihud” and pails in tow to partake of the bounties that the flood brings.
The “sihud” is walked downstream, its mouth facing upstream while the fisher maneuvers its feet to turn over rocks underneath. The fish, crabs, eels, shrimps and snails under the rocks flow into the “sihud”. The catch is picked after 10 to 20 meters of walk.
An afternoon with the sihud could give a fisher a pail of catch, enough to feed the family for supper and breakfast. The leftovers are feed to the dogs and chicken.
A glance at the Tangyan River now can make one like our FaceBook friend and Igbaras native, Francis Benjamin Estuche, cry. Today’s river is a mere skeleton of its past.
Deforestation combined with excessive quarrying that depleted boulders that slow down the torrent, gave the river two conflicting traits: it dies in summer and bounces back to life during rains with vengeance. Water is scarce during summer but becomes murderously abundant during rainy months.
The linaw, or deep junctions of the river is gone as quarrying rechanneled the river along strait line where the current becomes treacherous, and turned the “bulos” (first flush of floodwater) into murderous rampage the way it swept away a jeepload of mourners at Sitio Sorsongon, Barasan, Igbaras, Iloilo in October 2007. Twenty nine were killed and 18 others were missing in that tragedy.
Every year, lives are lost along the Tangyan River. And so are the words that sprung from it in its heyday. The children, the succeeding generation, have lost track of what “sihud”, “bulos”, “linaw”, “urok”, and “tughod”, among others, mean.*