2004/01/05

“Yayo” Was How We Were Called

I was one of the two “Yayo” in the history of IHMS high school. The other one was Issac from Valencia. He is now a doctor, and the last I heard of him he was connected with the Cebu Institute of Medicine as Professor in Anesthesiology.

Why were we called “yayo”? It all started this way.

During our high school days in Taloto, Isaac and I were fascinated with airplanes and bombs. We spent our vacant times flipping over volumes of encyclopedias and other references in the library. We read about Alfred Nobel and nitroglycerin, aerodynamics and propulsion. Isaac was more intellectually equipped than me, but my fascination and imagination about those things were as intense as his.

On weekdays and free days, we would walk to the airport passing through the barbwire-fence of the seminary and into the field. Cutting across a cornfield we exited through a piggery, owned by who-knows-who, we didn’t care. From the piggery, we crossed the Tagbilaran-Taloto road, which looked more like a dirt road, and then into another patch of land to finally reach the end of the airport’s runway. We did this walk in the middle of the day, dauntless to the scorching heat of the sun, the spiky tips of the cogon leaves, and makahiya grasses.

When the plane arrived at 11:50 AM, we were there--ready. When it landed the sound of the turbo-prop engine would seem to drown the whole environment of life and the enormity of its aluminum-colored fuselage seemed to embody the whole of my dreams and ambitions since I was a boy. We usually stood outside the barbwire perimeter fence at the runway’s edge as the giant machine, thundering in front of our face, rushed like a bull charging the earth below. Everything happened in just a few seconds, and yet it would leave us speechless and mesmerized for the next 30 minutes, as we contemplated on the magic of modern technology. More often, we would find not only our hands gripping the rusty barbwire but even our mouths unconsciously biting it, too. Isaac was always the first to laugh at me for doing it, although more than once he also did that.

What about the bombs? Yes, we used to scrape powder from the pospuro (guitar was our preferred brand, because it was drier than the other brands) and mixed it with the igniter to create this homemade firecracker called lubintador. One day, Jones scraped a good amount of powder, almost the size of a ping-pong ball. Together, we placed it in a tin can and compacted it with clay. First we thought of detonating it in the kalibunan, just beyond the football field. But as we prepared a hole in the ground, one of use noticed the downspout (metal pipe) at the side of the high school building, which ran from the roof down to the gutter below the school building.

It was Jones who started the conversation and shifted our attention from the “hole in the ground” to the metal pipe, “McAbs, adto nato ibutang ning lubintador sa baba (lower part) sa tubo unya diha nato pabuthon.”

Isaac, applying his aptitude in physics affirmed the idea saying, “Bitaw. Ang tubo maoy magsilbing (long) barrel. Mag build-up na ug pressure. Kusog jud na’g butu.”

Enthusiastically, the three of us walked back to the building and prepared the lubintador to be placed at the end of the pipe near the ground. We were so engrossed with our project that we never tried to trace where the other end of the pipe was or what was adjacent to the pipe. It was only later after the blast when we discovered that it was attached to the back wall of the Dean’s Office. The distance between the lubintador and the chair of the Dean was less than three feet. The Dean during that time was the brawny Fr. “Borax” Cajes, who was notorious for being strict and stern.

It was around 3:00 in the afternoon. Fr Borax just came down from his room still wobbly from a restful siesta. He was rocking quietly at his big springy chair, massaging his forehead while staring blankly at the ceiling. He must have been enjoying the quiet and solitude inside his office. Fred, the Registrar, was ruffling at some files, at the corner of the office. They were totally unaware of a devious plan that was afoot. Likewise, neither were we conscious too of the fact that we were setting a bomb so close to the Dean’s office. Our whole attention was focused on detonating the lubintador inside that metal pipe. For us it was “the thing” that our hearts desired. And we were anxious to know how big the detonation and the sound would be.

After we ignited the fuse, we ran quickly to the kalubihan, a safe distance but near enough for us to see the flickering fuse. All our hearts and soul, attention and consciousness were perpetually fixed on the burning fuse. Today, as I recall that particular instance, I feel as if it we were in a time warp. Time stood still momentarily. Even the wind and the clouds seemed to pause, and like us were waiting anxiously as the fuse was steadily being consumed by the flame. It was a momentary eternity experienced by one who is at the edge of nirvana.

My eyes quickly shifted focus between the lower end of the metal spout where the lubintador was and its upper end that was perpendicularly protruding at the roof of the building. Then, the burning fuse was gone. From the outside there was no flame. There was a pause that seemed like eternity. There was a sudden flash, and then in a split second, it was followed by a big, thunderous sound. KABLAMMM--sending shock waves through the pipe. Within the next millisecond, the pressure building within the pipe’s chamber weakened its metallic strength and the pipe gave way to the expanding energy of the lubintador. The metal pipe crumbled, with the cracking noise adding a sinister crescendo to the thunderous vibration of the detonation. The bang was huge--bursting the pent-up desires within our breasts to a resounding climax as we patted each other in victory.

Indeed, the blast was strong, well enough to throw the big burly Fr Borax of his chair. According to his own account, he felt being thrown up to the ceiling. Fred, on the other hand, scrambled to the floor mumbling the names of saints together with a sign of the cross as the files he was holding scattered everywhere.

As quickly as the blast faded, the physical shock translated into psycho-emotional shock. Jones, Isaac and I were jumping joyously and by then we were already at the kiosk (that stage at the back of the high school building). Our hands were raised to the sky, feeling that ecstatic “rush” for having successfully detonated the lubintador--something that was more than what we expected.

Indeed what was more than we expected was embodied in the person of Fr Borax who came rushing from that little door at the back. He was a raging bull--nostrils seething and his big bagtak (now looking even much bigger) stumping towards us. Fred was behind him. Nang Feliza and Utan came out from the kitchen, all horrified. At that point, we regained our wits and the feeling of elation fizzled out. Our laughter morphed into an awkward line of smile on our lips.

Fr Borax, in his anger, appeared like a giant glaring down at us. Jones, who was always quick on his feet, was nowhere to be found, leaving me and Isaac against a formidable enemy. Fr Borax was furious, his face flushed like his tiger-painted buggy car. Isaac and I, the two smallest boys in the class, looked even smaller than the hobbits of Lord of the Rings. The priest in his emotional state assumed the rage of a tiger, and with his deep guttural voice shouted in great fury: “MGA LITSENG YAAAAA ...” he could not complete the cuss word. Some seminarians had gathered in curiosity at the scene. He was conscious of their presence. So torn between his seething rage and his urge to temper it, he finally said, “ ... YAAA ... YAYO! Mo! LUHOD mong duha. Hapit ko mamatay sa KALISANG!”

When he left, Joseph B--the one with a perpetual smirk on his face and served like a court jester in the Boraxian kingdom--came to us, jeering, “Mga yaaayo mong duha.

The word “yayo” stuck.

Throughout our high school days, during our free days, Isaac and I became the two “yayo” who busied ourselves on playful and imaginative things, while our classmates occupied themselves in the pursuit of girls in Tagbilaran. They would come home to the seminary on a Sunday afternoon with stories of their adolescent exploits. But for Isaac and me, we always stayed within the seminary compound--contented with the imaginations, dreams and visions that boys like us weaved as we crossed the threshold to manhood. (chris)