I don’t know why, but those who live in the provinces here seem to have an aversion against fresh air. At exactly five-thirty in the afternoon, which is thirty minutes past the end of the school and work day, you’ll have people burning their trash. It happens in front of their houses, behind their houses, by the sides of the streets. Consider yourself lucky they don’t burn plastic with the leaves, twigs and paper. At least the information campaigns from both television and non-television media penetrated through and remained in their minds that burning plastic is not a good thing.
It could be a manifestation of what is called ‘racial memory.’ Generations upon generations have been burning their trash in much the same way. One could even bring up the fact that the indigenous people here have been burning twigs and leaves to produce smoke just before night-time, since before the Spanish period. The people reason that mosquitoes avoid smoke-saturated air. Between learning to live with smoke-filled air, and catching malaria, the former is certainly the lesser evil. Smoke also drives away insects that do harm to ornamental and fruit-bearing trees.
Between the final two weeks of September and the first weeks October, when the rice have been harvested, the rice straws and hulls are gathered in the middle of the ricefields. These are burned by the farmers. Before the sun has set, you’ll see the thick columns of white smoke rising up to the sky. The smell of burning rice straws and hull sticks to the clothes and skin. The tiny particles, sometimes mixed with dust, irritates the nose and throat. At night, especially when it is hot, the smell of the smoke becomes even more oppressive. It is hard to fall asleep.