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STORIES FROM THE BOONDOCKS: Of banacons and santilmos 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 30 April) — My elderly former farmhand scared himself witless with stories of Banacon (King Cobra) seen in a property next to mine. Despite the presence of a number of banana plantation workers, he would take a longer route to avoid this  most poisonous snake. Banacons are rumored to attack without provocation  and run after their intended victim and he was absolutely sure he cannot outrun the deadly snake. To this day, he takes a longer and more inconvenient route among the rice paddies to avoid the snake and no amount of persuasion can change his mind.

Twenty years ago, Banacons were unheard of. Santilmos or St Elmos Fire, however, are real. We saw dancing lights almost in the same area where the banacon was sighted. They swirl, bounce and swiftly climb trees.

My nephews Nognog, Pololong and  the late Toto  would go back to myfarm house way after midnight. They like to  attend the weekend  “baylihan” or community dance near  the rice field area referred to as “ubus.” They would tie a couple of dried coconut palms and set them on fire to find their way back to my house. They would run as fast as they could, fearful that the light would  run out along the way and they might find themselves in total darkness. 

Just like my farmhand, they scared themselves silly thinking that they will encounter the santilmosalong the way. 

However, this same spot can easily trigger fear. In the midst of the pandemic, I decided to take a walk and spend the night at my sister’s and I could easily find my way through the road that ran through the banana plantation before reaching my sister’s place. I was humming when I felt something  out of the ordinary. The moon was suddenly covered with dark clouds and it was pitch black and I could not find my way. I could feel  something ominous among the trees and felt a dark presence. I stood still and said the Lord’s Prayer and started singing hymns and soon thereafter, the moon came back in its full glory. Was I scared? Momentarily. But when you choose to live in a farm, one must embrace the thought that there are spirits around us….

(Susan Palad used to be in the government service and later ventured into the travel business. She has retired from both and spends more time at her farm. She is still on denial stage though by refusing to call herself a senior citizen. She still wants to maintain a busy lifestyle)

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