Showing posts with label leyte. Show all posts
Showing posts with label leyte. Show all posts

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Carabao Man

Merde! An excrement, says my dictionary! A carabao dung, in slow, painful-to-watch installation, is falling into the murky stream irrigating the rice fields of Malipayon -- my dusty hometown being taken ill by a hundred sleeping pills -- and descending into a steep, yet-unnamed, two-tiered waterfall.

I want to stop my exhausted beast, and not excuse her, from the disgusting deed, but it's all too late -- her last drop has just wrapped fast her nature-call up. If she had to deposit her stinky processed food, I would have wanted her to feed it to any green, to contribute to the wealth of grey clay. I am flaming, for I can't take any shit be submerged in any water or pool, but I can allow piss and sweat any day. I feel, by doing this, is me giving people taking a weekend bath under the noisy waterfall a mile from here a favor. Poo-poo is a no-no, sorry -- the bias I got when my feet were buried to cold, more nuanced slime many times before.

I sit every midday, immediately after a paltry meal of rice and dried fish, on my favorite bench, so alive, rough, and fat -- the overhanging branch of old acacia, as if bridging two banks, sowed by the first-known farmer in town, says the tale of yore. My back rests on the trunk, legs pointing to the running water below, hands gripping twigs.

On the bank facing the foot of the mysterious, secret-whispers-laden mountain, the tree bore witness to the time when the Spaniards first raided the town and trampled on the naive, bolo-and-sundang-wielding locals. It must have been surely a most nightmarish waking-up at 6 in the morning, when the shrill human cries drowned out the early rooster calls. The day was neither like any other day, nor a day that would fulfill its promise of a brand new day.


Image: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tacloban: Scars and Life After Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)

It was hard, I was told, though the world saw it all on the news. A recounting of the sad tale had opened old scars, the city bracing itself for the tempest: strong winds were relentless, a gush of water rose 7 meters high -- choking the city in seconds -- roofs blown off houses -- a rickety collection of thatch or aluminum, coconut wood, and plywood -- glass windows broken to pieces, trees pruned to their bareness and chopped off, huge ships dashed to the ground. Thousands of lives had drowned.

Survivors were met with a faint light. They were lost. They didn’t know how to fix their own piece of earth. They cried out in pain over the nothingness they were left with. Families were intact, reduced to two or one, or all swept off to the ocean. They grieved.

Swarms of flies feasted on what seemed to be cold wastebasket reeking of spoiled lifelessness, including of dead dogs. No potable water, no electricity. No food, and found it in malls or the nearest stores by breaking in. Desperation. It was a city in anarchy.

That day, November 8, 2013, Tacloban had turned into a war-torn landscape, with survivors feeling a dull to grave ache from the havoc wreaked by super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda). And the world had sympathized and was quick to aid. The city had found hope.

The city is scarred. But life goes on -- thanking life and god, laying their hands on what remains, and asking for help, still up to this day.

Monday, October 26, 2015

San Juanico: Emerald and Crimson

Five years passed before I could return, and it meant repeating myself trying to cross over San Juanico bridge riding on seismic waves left by vehicles, big and small, zooming by.

The first was a huge letdown when I later realized coursing through the full span of the iconic structure was water and sun to a plant. I did half-step. It was in 2010, a futile attempt at smuggling myself into the provincial border of Leyte and Samar. I had to leave Leyte for Samar that day, even for just a short while, like a commuter on some hurried lunch break, yet on foot. That was the bravado of the then-youngish, amateur traveler.

Regrettably, I did not make it, as I succumbed to the sweltering and parching afternoon, the audible gusts with which I wrestled every second, the approaching produce-laden trucks on convoy, or the packed fears with nameless triggers. I listened to my instincts, and stopped mid-bridge. I couldn’t go on with a mind grappled with doubts, even though the heart was pouncing hard on the former for me to reach the finish line.

The traipsing redux was a stark 180-degree turn, poised at the other end of the bridge, ensuring that I would be at the gate of Samar, first second, no matter what. So, from a Tacloban jeepney, an hour prior midday, I alighted at the Samar side of the bridge.

I asked permission from the officers stationed at checkpoint, all three of them, if I could pass under the bridge, to the land jutting on my left. I was curious to know what lay there. One of them retorted with an enthusiastic yes. All dressed up with a self-styled adventurer look -- accessorized with grimy rubber shoes, soiled cargo pants, dri-fit singlet, backpack sided with bottled water, and camera hung from my neck -- nothing was thought of as suspiciously terrorizing of me. I guessed I just had the right ingredients.

I walked over a cemented path. I had realized then that the bridge coated itself with crimson paint, for better or worse. It was never painted last time, or not that I know of. But if you ask me, the cloak change complements perfectly with the emerald waters of the strait and the lush green landscape set as backdrop; red and green are the color pair that makes us all merry. The bridge looked fiery arching over the narrow gap between the two islands.

The bank of the strait exploded into life as I drew closer to it. Bursts of laughters saturated more the already breezy, cool air down low. Mothers, fathers, a grandpa, and over a dozen children, young and old, went for a dip, cooling themselves down and asking me to take several snaps of themselves. Those children were especially calling my attention here and there, posing for my camera. Anywhere in the Philippines, cameras are indeed notoriously kid magnets.

Climbing back to the threshold of my rambling, a whiff of déjà vu penetrated my senses. I thought I felt a familiar baggage of fears resurrected itself. But it’s all imagined and no mistake. I put on prudent eyes, swift hands, and stealthy feet amid distracting grinning and waving bus passengers, Korean tourists stopping over, expectant tremors, and spastic winds.

I walked and walked and walked until I reached Leyte.

No half-step no more. I had San Juanico bridge ticked off, at long last.