Before our trips to Vigan by raft, Mother would prepare food for the day-long trip, consisting of rice, tapa (dried meat), eggs, tomatoes and salt, wrapped in banana leaves.
At sun break we rode a cart pulled by a cow from Bangued to Nagtalabongan, where we boarded a raft propelled by four oarsmen using bamboo poles to push it on shallow water.
This means of transportation between Bangued and Vigan existed until the road through Narvacan became available sometime in 1930.
Riding by raft down the river was, to a child like me, great fun. Floating in deep water by sail was very thrilling. There was a part of the river where the raft had to be pushed by the boatmen using a yoke hooked to their shoulders and attached to the raft on four corners.
At a certain point where a mountain had a HUGE footprint called PADDAK NI ANG-ÑGALO (Giant’s footprint), the raft had to be propelled by oars when tall mountains blocked the wind from driving the raft sail.
We used to shout and have fun hearing back the echo of our voice.
My Lolo Terio gave me a fishing line on one trip back to Bangued which I dragged from the side of our raft. I caught nothing!
Upon arrival at the mouth of the Abra River in Vigan we were met by my lolo, who carried me on the back of his neck while he waded in the knee-deep mud followed by my mother and our raw-hide cargo loaded in a carabao-drawn cart.
On our return trip we had a harder time because we were riding against the river current, and so the boatmen or raftmen had to pull their oars harder or push their long bamboo poles while striding on the side of the raft, from the front end to the rear.
Strong waves would rush inside the raft and we had to jump up not to get wet.
Upon arrival at Nagtalabongan we were met by cow-drawn carts that brought us to Bangued for a fee. The cart drivers would race against each other on the dusty and stony road, thus covering us with dust and jarring our bodies like black berries shaken between two plates.
But for a kid like me, nothing could be more thrilling than cheering and urging our cart to pull ahead of the others to avoid the dust and reach home faster. We arrived in Bangued as the Angelus rang, in time to pray and get our parents’ blessings.