Creative nonfiction by Charmaine Carrillo
It was a hot day, a few hours before noon and I woke up to a booming voice.
Mga silingan! Naa nay tubig!
It was my brother who lived a few meters away calling out to the neighbors that there was water.
Peeking from the window, I saw the glistening water spilling on the dirt road which I thought was strange on a sunny day. In this community, children could get a beating if they spilled water (though not applicable on rainy season).
The thought brought me back to what I called was the kariton days.
On glorious summers when the road was dry and rocky, karitons were the king of the road. First time I saw a kariton on TV, it looked like a sorbetes cart. The only difference was sorbetes carts had colorful sides whereas what I saw was just unpainted plywood. Those karitons would not survive in our rocky terrain.
What we had looked like rectangular box that reached the knee, with one wheel in front and two short legs at the rear for support and balance. Two handles extended at the back. The person would have to hold those handles, give it a lift, and push the kariton along the road – more like a pick-up than a push cart. A cart would not survive the steep slope. Our karitons relied on the physical strength of the person to push it despite the weight it carried.
I remembered when I was in kindergarten, the people in this sitio used to go the sentro of the barangay to fetch water and carry the containers in the kariton. Those were the kariton days. The people made a trip to the sentro every afternoon, our old man one of them. My sister and I tagged along, sitting on top of the kariton. Sometimes, our brother went with us and the old man would ask us about school. A few years before I finished elementary, water reached the basketball grounds of our sitio but still it could not serve those who lived farther up where the number of houses kept on increasing. But the farther uphill the water reached, the fewer the karitons got.
My musings were interrupted when I heard kids squabbling.
Paghulat mo, Rex, ba. Paghulat mo ba.
Sunod na ba, ayaw ipaawas ang tubig.
Some things never changed. Kids still fought over water.
Listening intently, I heard the dull thump of containers against each other. I heard water splashing on the road. People were chatting.
Curiosity getting the best of me, I went out to crouch by our small gate. And fair enough, I was greeted by the sight of my neighborhood gathered just where our perimeter fence ended. Their containers of various sizes arranged in a single file. But the most glorious sight was water gushing out at the end of a pipe. No faucet. Just water from a pipe as round as my upper arms.
People were delightfully filling their containers with water. Gisalod nila ang tubig nga nag agas. And water ran off the road. Like ribbons, the water eddied along our dirt path changing direction whenever it hit a rock. It flowed all the way downhill and sparkled under the blazing noon sun.
A woman whom I recognized as Analou even did her laundry outside.
A teenage boy in red jersey shorts carried a bucket to the other side of the road, only to empty all the contents over his head. Then he stood beside a basin and scrubbed himself. After he finished, he refilled the bucket with water. Then poured it over himself a couple of times.
Nakaligo ra jud siya oh, another boy who passed by commented.
Upon hearing this, the boy in red jersey shorts came up to the other guy and hugged him behind his back.
Taysa ba, said the other. Mabasa ko, he said while checking the dampness of his shirt.
But the boy continued jumping and pouring water over his head.
On that day began the fulfilment of the promise for a water system in our sitio. Now that I was in college and my brother married, water finally reached the upper part. It seemed that his young kids would not get to live with karitons. No kariton rides for them.
That day also marked the retirement of the karitons. None of those rocky downhill trip. None of those arduous uphill journey. The day came when karitons could retire and park in the backyard.[Charmaine Carrillo is a junior fellow for essay at the Nagkahiusang Magsusulat sa Cagayan de Oro (Nagmac). She has been a fellow for creative nonfiction at the 1st Veritas Writers Workshop (XU’s university-based creative writing fellowship) and has recently been accepted at the 2017 Davao Writers Workshop. Her personal essays appeared in Dagmay Literary Journal and the Bulawan Literary Zine of Northern Mindanao.]