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Sunset in Gulod

NEW BEGINNINGS () - December 19, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Alex, my six-year-old niece, was ecstatic as she named all the colors splayed on the horizon while the two of us were watching the sunset from the backyard of our home in Gulod. It was the afternoon of my birthday.

“Orange, blue, white, black, gray, violet, pink. Meron din pong green,” Alex pointed at each cloud formation that bore semblances of those colors. Her little hand clutched mine as we both gazed at the horizon. It was one of those few moments when I unconsciously became a child again.

“Why do you think the clouds have different colors?”

“Because of magic,” she quickly said in the vernacular. “Because the sun has magic powers. It gives different colors to the clouds because it doesn’t want the clouds to be sad when the sun is gone at night.” Of course, those lines did not come originally from Alex. She has learned to say that through time.

Well, I taught her and her cousins that impression when once I found myself groping for words how to explain to them in layman’s term some scientific concepts like the reflection and refraction of light and the rotation of the earth on its axis as it revolves around the sun.

In my attempt to give their young and impressionable minds an explanation, I just told them that the sun leaves many colors to the clouds before it sinks so they will not feel lonely when they don’t see its rays at night. In time, they have learned the truth about the scientific explanation of a seemingly simple phenomenon as the sunset. But they never forget my “invented” explanation of the setting sun.

I may not have all the answers at hand about queries pertaining science but, in front of my nieces and nephews, I take the floor when it comes to the subject of life. Sure, I cannot detail to them the scientific process that goes through every sunset but I can tell them that every opportunity to watch the sun turns into an orange orb that slowly descends down the mountain is already a blessing. 

As I always explain to my pamangkins, those whose hearts are filled with gratitude always take time to notice even the smallest of gifts. The sunset, for instance. I tell the kids that we are very lucky to be promdis (from the province) because we get to enjoy beautiful things in life for free. 

Our community in Gulod, a barrio in Cabuyao, is sandwiched by Laguna de Bay in the east and a vast rice field in the west. If you’re facing the east, you will see that a mountain called Bundok Ng Susong Dalaga guards the lake. The tall cogon grass bearing white flowers sometimes obstruct your view of the lake but they can never block the view of the mountain even if all the white flowers are blown away even at the slightest breeze. If your gaze turn to the west, you choose to marvel at the rice fields, the faraway silhouette of the ridge of Tagaytay appears in front of you while, to your left, the enchanting Mount Makiling seems to be just within reach.

It’s idyllic to live in Gulod. With the exemption of a few Internet shops and the vehicles that ply the narrow road even way past midnight, I would still say our village has maintained to be bucolic. It is the place where I first learned to dream. It is also the place — particularly in the bukid where we watch the sunset — where I impart with my nieces and nephews how it is to build a dream, how to chase their muse, how to aspire to be good, how to be real.

I have an incurable penchant for the sunset because it symbolizes God’s promise of another beautiful day. A sunset is a gift that unwraps itself in the morning, in the form of a new day, a new beginning.

The kids and I have countless beautiful sunset moments. We run on the paddies, mindful that we don’t step on the creeping dainty purple flowers of kangkong. Many times we make balls out of mud. We picnic under a flowering katuray tree. We exchange stories as we touch makahiya plants and observe how their leaves fold inward and droop in an instant and re-open minutes later. We even read poems in the middle of the rice field, with the golden grains as our audience. With the setting sun as our backdrop, I get to teach them how to count their blessings — big and small — early on in life.

As the kids and I observe, no two sunset scenes are the same. What remains constant is our eagerness to witness this simple yet amazing natural phenomenon — an everyday occurrence, an everyday experience of divinity and bliss.

That particular afternoon, there was only Alex to keep me company in our backyard to watch the sunset.  

“So, Alex, what do you see in the sky,” I asked my little lone companion while the two of us still gazed at the horizon.

Using her imagination, Alex started to say: “A big gold fish, a mountain. Meron din pong ibong lumilipad.”

“What else?”

Higanteng uod. There’s also cotton candy. Mapa ng Pilipinas, an angel, a palace,” she said with laughter, proof that she was enjoying our lesson in imagination.

“I see a girl watching TV. A boy standing in the field. Trees. Flowers,” she continued to rattle off as she stared at the horizon that resembled an artist’s palette.

I did not see some of the images Alex saw in the sky. I just saw happiness in her eyes. 

“What else do you see?”

“No more na po. But I smell something.”

“What?”

“Food,” she said, referring to the birthday dinner her lola was preparing for my celebration at home.

“You may want to give me a cake as your present, Alex?” I joked her.

Sige po,” she confidently said.

Then she gazed at the sky again and pointed to a cloud near the peak of Mt. Makiling. “See that pink cloud, Papa Büm. That’s your strawberry cake, my gift to you.”

I laughed like a child. That moment, I was all the more convinced that a thankful heart always takes time to notice even the smallest of gifts.

But Alex’s gift to me that she plucked out from a cloud amidst an incredibly beautiful sunset scene is big enough for me to feel the bliss. I will always feel that bliss for the rest of my life — with my imaginary strawberry cake, a present from a little child with a thankful heart.

(Please e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com or

my.new.beginnings@gmail.com. You may want to follow me on Twitter@bum_tenorio. Have a blessed Sunday!)

ALEX AS I BUNDOK NG SUSONG DALAGA BUT ALEX BUT I GULOD SUNSET
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