Time to wake up
LOVE LUCY - Lucy Torres-Gomez (The Philippine Star) - April 23, 2017 - 12:00am

My love, wake up. I hear a herd of goats in our front yard.”

Richard is sound asleep. After all, it is 4:22 a.m., his birthday morning. The goats persist, louder this time.

“Honeeeeeeyyyyyy... Wake up! I don’t know how or why but there are goats in our front yard. I hear them...”

Oh, did I mention that prior to that I heard chickens? But then I would hear their “tuk-tu-Ka-ok” daily in our home in Ormoc, so nothing about that surprised me. But goats?! Why are there goats?! Then I heard the cows.... Oh, my. Cows, too?!? And lots of them, because the sound was solid. In our front yard! Someone was playing a joke on us. How could a farm suddenly be in our home, up a hill, in the city? Then the goats and cows started singing in unison, almost chorus-like. “Meeeeeeeeeeeeee, mooooooooo…” The chickens join in — “Tuktukaok” — all three kinds of animals together now.

We are both fully awake now. Richard has gotten out of bed to check downstairs; I follow, and we enter the open living area to find about 70-plus people, a guitar man, a portable sound system.... they are singing beautifully Wency Cornejo’s beautiful song Hanggang.

We get it now. It is a mananita, a birthday salubong, where birthday songs are sung at the crack of dawn to the usually unsuspecting birthday celebrant. I grew up in the province where mananita was a way of life. But after spending few birthdays in the province for a long stretch of time, the tradition had somehow slipped my mind. Otherwise, I would have been more prepared. I would have stocked the pantry with enough fruit and bread and jam and bottled spreads. Enough for the 50-100 that came by in three tranches to surprise their Mayor and my birthday boy.

But back to the mananita. It is a beautiful thing to observe and vicariously experience. That beautiful morning, at the crack of dawn, 4:22 to be exact, the birthday boy was roused from slumber, first by his wife who thought the farm had made its way to their home, then by the sound of three kinds of animals — chickens first, the real ones, and then humans who wonderfully mimicked the sound of chickens, goats, cows, and at one point, all three all at once! Yes, apparently, they practiced those sounds, have perfected it, and it was to me as authentic as the real deal. After the animal sounds came a mini-concert of songs, all wonderfully sung. They are so good at it.

Over breakfast, they related to us how the sounds of animals are important in a mananita, for isn’t the beginning of a beautiful, gentle morning peppered not just by coffee brewing but by God’s animals also rearing to start their day? The first group of 70 sang about five songs — hanggang, usahay, an Aegis medley, and then a really nice, springy birthday song, the likes of which I had never heard before. It was all so nice. Then they brought out a simple cake with a birthday candle for Richard to blow out, but not before a lovely group of grandmas gathered round it to read birthday prayers, blessings and wishes — for good health, wisdom in leading the city, for prosperity and happiness, and many, many more happy birthdays to celebrate. Then we all sat together to enjoy breakfast and each other’s company. By this time the sun had gently risen, casting a soft glow on what was a very beautiful morning indeed, in every possible sense.

The well-wishers had brought with them fresh mangoes, and budbud, plus a slew of other kinds of rice cakes, plus fresh flowers from someone’s garden. I slipped the flowers in a vase and placed it on one table where the grandmas were. I scrambled in the kitchen to find whatever food there was to supplement the mangoes and Kakanin they had brought and I found bread, crackers, cheese spread. Everything else I could perhaps serve an army of about 100 was still raw and in the freezer, not that I could really cook anyway, so I made a mental note to be more prepared next time. And so we sat and enjoyed the morning for what it was — spontaneous, lovely, peppered with little surprises here and there, beautiful. Very much like life in any given day with all its nuances. It is moments like these that make one so mindful, grateful of how great a gift it is to be alive, to be human, capable of loving and being loved, how there are so many moments in a day to be had, not grand ones by most measure now, but real moments involving people, not things — big hugs, warm handshakes, fresh flowers, a birthday cake, well wishes, trees and plants that grow lushly in a garden, the opportunity to do purposeful, meaningful work. Life — and birthdays! Both are beautiful because of the gift of family and friends. I climbed back into bed at around 9 a.m. after the last batch of early morning well- wishers had left. Richard proceeded to the City Hall to start his day’s work. It was all really lovely. Really. More so for the birthday boy, for this was all for him. I know I fell asleep with a smile on my lips, grateful in my heart for all that is.

WAKE UP
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