Carmen started telling me a story of how Kabunyan (a term they use to refer to God) had first planted a tobacco plant. After a day’s hard work in the fields, he sat down and was frustrated with all the mosquitoes. Tobacco plants would ward them off, he thought. And so he planted them. Kabunyan, still tired, then wished that something would make him regain energy. He took a leaf from the tobacco plant, rolled it up, and smoked it. And he felt better and energized.
Carmen related this story with such a soft voice – a lullaby almost. While the ladies kept interrupting her, we were both relishing a moment when a storyteller and listener form a bond that only they can understand. The listener, me, delighted in such a tale. Whether it was true or not, I listened intently. I can sense she delighted in telling me the story – her usual silent and shy façade gave way to an animated storyteller.
Seemingly enjoying the task of weaving a basket which she says she will use to store food, Carmen smiles at her companions as I went on talking to her.
I asked her to teach me how to roll up a tobacco leaf and if I could try smoking it. She was hesitant at first, but took out a leaf later to show me.
The ladies laughed when I told them I never smoked my whole life. They said I shouldn’t try it now because my head and tummy will not approve. In the end, I didn’t. Most of the ladies won’t let me.
Carmen showing me how to prepare a tobacco leaf for smoking. And no, I didn’t try it. Most of the ladies discouraged me too. They said I will get a massive headache, diarrhea and will feel nauseous.