COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
It’s a cold January as the cold wind from the north hemisphere ushered in with the coming of the new year. The cold was not so much felt in December even though more precipitation has started to seep in. This kind of cold perceptibly is not due to the climate brought about by the rain waters for we are used to having rain each week in this part of the globe, but, without the cold. The cold is simply foreign, penetrating the flesh and bones especially for one living in the tropics. I remember Mother calling it the Siberian Wind but the weather forecaster now says it’s the “tail-end of the cold front.”
With the cold wind bringing in more oxygen to the atmosphere in the past three weeks I haven’t been drinking water as I used to during the usually hot days, which is about half a glass every half an hour. I normally do it on a hot day to oxygenate my blood and minimize the vascular headache. But the cold wind as an overflow of the Siberian winter affords me fresh air to breathe. Not that we’re particularly polluted here for I live along the coast of Leyte Gulf, and surrounded with grasslands and nearby mahogany trees by the road. But the earth’s gradual warming has made the tropical heat unbearably suffocating.
Yet the cold pierces my flesh and bones that I have to warm my body especially during sleep. So this is the time when I have to pull out from the closet my mother’s woolen blankets; blankets that have thinned out and worn at the edges with use and age. Only two are left with me now and probably another one with my sister’s daughter, but these woolen blankets must be over half a century now. For I recall that when my brother was dying he told me that when he was small, every time the “habol na de lana” was separated from his body during sleep he suddenly wakes up.
The habol na de lana as mother would call it was seldom used when we were in Consolacion in Southern Leyte. These blankets were taken out of storage only during the unusually cold nights or if there’s a storm or typhoon. They were so thick and heavy and quite a burden for the laundrywoman to handle when washing the linens. They were not also suitable for ordinary days in a warm climate. But the blankets were our comfort when the cold sets in, or when someone was ill and needed extra warmth, or during heavy rains or a storm in this typhoon-ridden land.
Mother must have several of these de lana blankets and the remaining two with me now still have the brand sewed on one of their corners. One reads TIEN KUN Weaving Factory Made in Shanghai, while the other one has the same factory but printed underneath is Made in China. The cloth where the brand is printed also has Chinese characters and a drawing of a deer. These blankets are a comfort to me now that the cold is here. They have thinned out somehow through years of use but the thread is still durable. The outer velvety texture is gone but as old linens are wont to, the fabric has become softer and more pliable.
For the woolen blankets to have come from China is quite understandable since a greater part of that country lies within the temperate zone and has a cold climate. Thick bed linens would be expected to be produced from that place. The other blankets that we used then came from the Ilocos region and locally made. Thinner and lighter to fit our warm climate, those Ilocos blankets were woven in bright colors with beautiful geometric designs. A few were even made of silky thread that gave a smoother texture to the fabric. Those woven of pure cotton thread and in plain color were very durable. While the lovely ones with long tussles at the edges sometimes served as good bed covers.
The penetrating cold wind may linger for a month or two and still here to stay. But I have my habol na de lana to keep me covered from the cold. It was my brother’s comforter when he was a child, and served as the family’s source of warmth during cold days and nights. These blankets are older than me and I hope to keep them for long. They don’t only afford me a feeling of warmth but give me a sense of home.
January 25, 2013