after the lull, i’m back

I’ll be writing back here in Time Travelling after a rather long blogging hiatus. What has become of the other blogging site, Anthropology Corner? Well, I wrote one post there and never get to writing anything. I think Anthropology Corner will stay there in its non-space in the internet, like an hermit’s cave, a place of contemplation, of silence, of not writing nor thinking of anything–frozen in cyberspace yet forever pregnant with potentialities. Of course, I’ll still maintain Anthropology Corner as a monument of sorts. A token of what it is like not to blog at all and just fling myself into the rough-and-tumble world of behavioral data collection–constantly stalking monkeys in sweltering heat, recording every bit of scratch, bite, mount, sleep, eat, gurney, etcetera while being preyed on by annoying majes (insects no bigger than a ballpoint dot yet relentless in their bloodsucking ways).

After almost two years doing this, I am still fascinated by monkeys and caught in the day-to-day ordinariness of their world. It’s almost like a meditation in its ordinariness–me, staring at the monkeys with a minicomputer on hand (Psion), them, immersing themselves in their monkeyness. In the world of mass information, the respite that I get in following the monkeys in silence is golden, somewhat similar to a monk’s religious epiphany when flower petals slowly unfold before him. In the best of days, behavioral data collection is like dreaming wide awake–all senses tuned in to what the monkeys are doing yet you hear yourself think, really think, and admire, really admire. This silence must be the same silence that poet-philosophers like Lao Tzu pursue when they go to the mountains, live in caves, and sleep under the trees; and when they feel like they’re settled already, then they move again, just wandering aimlessly, savoring the breeze and scenery for its visual, tactile, and auditory pleasures, like going to another fiesta where nature is the host.

Of course, it’s not all ordinary. I perk up whenever the monkeys perk up. Their excitement becomes my excitement too. Just a few days ago, huddled together with the monkeys (okay, not huddled but pretty close to them, like 4 meters from the next monkey) , I had the chance to see a primiparous mom in labor. I saw her heaving, reclined on a rock jutting out of the bushes. Whenever the labor contractions came, she would squat and then stand, raising her hands to balance herself while trying to force out the infant inside. The contractions came in intervals and she rested in between, visibly exhausted, the hairless patch of skin red due to hormones. Her brother, a two-year old juvenile, would come and hug her. When the hugging stopped, the brother  groomed her (grooming is what primatologists call that behavior where a monkey combs–and sometimes pound like a drum!–through the hair of another monkey, as if searching for parasites or dirt, but is actually more than that). Or take for example an old male monkey which I was very fond of (thus some of the staff named him after me), slowed by age, walking gingerly with its back arched like a turtle shell. Once a middle to high ranking monkey weeks before, he was now left at the edge of the troop and at the receiving end of attacks from other monkeys whenever he ventured close. Then one cold and dewy morning, I found him frozen in rigor, partially hidden by the grasses he once ate.

Here’s a poem for him:

kamatayon sa unggoy’ng tiguwang/death of an old monkey

pagkaupos sa imong katiguwangon /when your senescence is at its end
inanay kang mitikuko sa kasagbutan– / slowly, you bent like the grasses where you now lay–
tuhod sa siko, palad sa ulo–/knees on elbow, palm on your head–
puya nga kinulipad/a child spat out
sa tagoangkan. /from the womb.

hilom ang pag-abot sa katapusan:/the coming of the end is silent:
hoyohoy’ng gisabak sa dughan./a breeze nursed in your chest.
sa yanong pagpanghupaw,/in a simple sigh,
nakalingkawas,/freeing itself,
nahimugso ang imong pagtaliwan./birthing your death.

So, what more can I say. Time Travelling is back.


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