Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

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.

Monday, October 5, 2015

These Fields of Gold

When I was young, I, with my sister and childhood friends, would pluck out some kuhol (snails) pestering the greening rice fields and earn some dough out of it. We were paid one peso per kabo (container) of kuhol. Yes, we were snailmongers. Those kuhol, especially their eggs, were such a headache, as they would proliferate in the fields like wildfire. Mom would always ask us to help every time kuhol were already eating up and laying pink eggs on rice stalks.

Dipping our feet into mud was, to us, just a game, not even close to a sore chore. I had always been with an army of friends -- the same children who after school would stay out on the street -- play all Pinoy games imaginable, and only tire out early when we had to do homework. Much more on weekends did we have to get extremely physical. Sweaty, soiled, burned, hurt. That was a part of our being hyperactive kids. We never really ran out of activity. No wonder I never had any obese friend back then.

If lucky enough, we could then catch halwan (mudfish) in rice fields. They are the kind of fish that hibernate during summer, burrow into mud, and stay there until the land gets soggy. They have an amazing ability to survive out of water for months.

I can recall the plowing and harrowing of rice fields with the use of carabao or tractor. Also, I can remember the incubation of rice grains inside a sack soaked in water. Placed inside an empty water reservoir, our kitchen would reek of urine or rotten fruit or the like because of it. After 24 hours or even longer, when the seeds had finally germinated, farmers would strew them all over a seedbed.

When the fields had finally turned gold, farmers would cut the stalks using a sanggot (sickle), place them on a mat where they would do the manual threshing with their bare feet. The grains would then be sundried for days, which would be spread on a trapal (tarpaulin) with a wooden rake.

I have very fond memories of rice fields.

Narrative: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines
Images: Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines

Monday, September 28, 2015

Davao Immersion: Lunar Eclipse and Gilded Mornings

It was the night when we patiently watched the lethargic, shapeless bakunawa (dragon) gorging on the hapless April moon, says a myth behind eclipses, that rose calmly over unmuffled waters around the island garden city of Samal. It was also the night when our big family gathered at the lone, doorless, beachfront cottage made of bamboo walls and seats, and aluminum roof. It housed the 'life of the party' -- the ever-present karaoke machine. We had required of its mic to be passed on to every single person seated in front of the cottage, leaving no dead air to fill in the night.

Beside the shelter, there we grilled pork and saba bananas -- all skewered in bamboo sticks. The gastronomical nature of the growing smoke that occupied the air, was only rivaled by the rising bonfire that fed on twigs and dead leaves. We conjured the boy and girl scouts in us. The night turned wonderfully warm and lit, even though the moon was waning gradually by the aging minute and the cool sea breeze was blowing off its mighty freezing faculties. We, too, had pancit (noodles) and grilled tulingan (tuna) -- our leftovers during lunch -- for dinner, and puto balanghoy (steamed cassava cake) and budbud balanghoy (cassava cake wrapped in banana leaves) freshly made from yesterday's harvest in the garden.

Full and reeking of San Miguel beer, a few of us rolled out the banig (mat) over short blades of bermuda grasses, lay spread-eagle on it, and gazed at the myriad emerging stars aided by the revived luna and clear skies. The others rested on two hammocks tied to the branches of an ancient sambag (tamarind) tree, taking turns.

It was already past midnight. Oh, night, I felt so home and free, and was just grateful for everything. I may be so far away from home, yet I was easily home. My own family had just grown bigger and happier.

The deepening night continued on with the family's minstrels singing nonstop, the ones having too high an alcohol tolerance still playing around a single glass, long catch-up sessions packed with amusing, though hummed chatter, and the ‘sleeping logs’ set at their dreamy comforts, probably thinking of an early dip basked in the gilded morn, again.


Before I flew to Davao City last summer, I had never been to Mindanao. If spending a number of days with relatives never had I met all my life, let alone on Facebook, should matter more, and not accounting the handful two days and one night I had stayed in the city to attend my dear cousin's wedding the year before, then I had never been to the country's second largest island. Without that trip, Mindanao would have been really a stark mystery to me. The journey was both a pleasing affirmation of Mindanao's hidden beauty and a discovery in itself, raring to be shared to the rest of the country and of the world.

Thanks to my auntie for inviting me to her hometown of Samal, an island in Davao del Norte. Prior to spending most of the days in Samal, I stayed in Davao City, her present abode, and she then brought me to Pearl Farm, a secluded beach resort (loved their buffet there), and the distant town of Asuncion whose banana plantations run opposite rice fields, just across the gravel road. I savored the countless hellos exchanged all throughout the experience and the lots of chitchats over beer that followed.

Catagman, Samal Island, Davao del Norte
Hagimit Falls, Samal Island, Davao del Norte
Kaputian, Samal Island, Davao del Norte
Waterfront Insular Hotel, Lanang, Davao City
Pearl Farm Beach Resort, Samal Island, Davao del Norte
Asuncion, Davao del Norte