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Kulangot Country

Just the other day, I thought about writing a story about Kulangot Country. Albeit, I was hesitant because I was damned sure God reads my blog and enjoys making a damned fool of this peasant blogger whenever I am daft enough to present Him with an opportunity.

For the unenlightened – and pardon me if you are munching on something; albeit you should have known better from the title alone – Kulangot Country is the football field when the engine that drives the northeast monsoons suddenly loses steam about late February or early March. Because even drizzles become such premium commodities, the poor grasses that peek out from underneath the soil become reticent about growing until they eventually refuse to do so altogether. Those that bother quickly die out and turn to gold, their thin blades to be blown away like toys of the brisk but dry winds that are almost obligatory at this time of the year.

Then, of course, once the blades of grass have been sheared off the field, nothing is left but the parched earth the specks of which are scooped up into the air by the very winds that stole the lush green color from the field. That, my friends, is this phenomenon that a seventies acoustic group named Kansas crooned in a timeless ballad entitled “Dust in the Wind.”

It is this very dust that we who are foolhardy enough to play the beautiful game on through the arid months inhale into our lungs as we coast along the ebb and flow of the game. I suspect, if x-rays were taken of our lungs during these months, that it would not be totally improbable for radiologists to find mongo sprouts have grown amidst all that earth we have sucked into our lungs.

That will be just the half of it. The other will have to be all the earth we have to dig out from inside our nostrils once we get to the privacy or our rooms – as modesty and etiquette dictate that no excavations are performed when one is in public. Believe me, fingers are so, so inappropriate for these delicate operations; shovels will be so much closer to the required specifications.

Because much of the trampling of the poor suffering grasses naturally occurs just in front of the goalmouth, then it is there too that the baldness of football fields is frequently found. Fronting the southern goalpost of our beloved field, therefore, becomes a replica of the great Sahara particularly in the driest months of March and April. This merciless place which our defenders regrettably have to inhabit is the most unsightly part of Kulangot Country.

I console myself, however, that Kulangot Country has – in spite of its shortcomings – produced some very fine practitioners of the beautiful game indeed over the years. Eduardo Marasigan Jr., Gil Talavera, Darwin Motel, Jeremias Jiao and James Dimaculangan all share one thing in common apart from having been spawned in this fearsome desert: they have all donned, at one time or the other, the colors of the national team.

Not bad at all – and picture me taking a gracious bow – particularly when one considers that Kulangot Country and Football Country are in no way synonymous. I do have this theorem which has gained credibility over the years and the more school football fields I visited: if a football field is lush green and well manicured, then the school’s football team is probably not very good at all. The theorem, naturally, excludes under its scope and limitations those obscenely wealthy schools which can afford both manicured pitches as well as skillful football teams.

Over the years, Kulangot Country had hosted scout jamborees and pop concerts; had been the site for the setting up of Ferris wheels, carousels and caterpillars; and had been parked on by cars, trucks and buses. It is treacherously uneven and gravelly; and to this day I continue to periodically scoop up anything from stones to rusty nails to ball point pens left behind by some unthinking students.

Not one square foot of the field has been re-sodded over the years. It will continue to turn lush green when the rains finally have mercy on it and deliver the kiss of life withheld over the harsh and dry summer months. When the grass is fully grown and newly-mown, it will take on the look of a proper football field.

It will also continue to die and become this parched ugly place once the rains disappear as the cycle of life and death plays itself over and over again, to become this piece of land I sometimes scornfully refer to as Kulangot Country: a field that has seen hundreds of boys turn to men over the years and a place where the collective memories of those of us who loved the beautiful game in this corner of the country will reside forever.

And because God loves to make a damn fool out of this poor peasant blogger, it rained through scrimmage this afternoon…

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