Williamsburg, Have Come, Am Here

It comes straight from a Jose Garcia Villa piece, its exuberance an exact imitation of the original, this one more of pride than being youthful: Williamsburg, here I come.

Or we can rephrase it by plagiarizing Villa again: Have come, am here and into your bosom you take me, take me, take me. I suck the marrow of your bones, I suck the marrow of your past, your present, your future.

Finally I am here with much trepidation.

The reasons are as complex as a Rubric's cube or the Saduko fad now, squeezing grey matter--or whatever is left--between the ears.

I am jolted by the elegance of the city, its imposing brick buildings, its architecture of magnificence I have seen in old Europe particularly that area that borders the culture of the proud Romans and the equally proud Greeks in the Mediterranean.

This is old Europe, this Virginia of old and this Virginia standing proud and tall in the present, this present peaking to its 400 years of existence next year.

I imagine the celebration: a fireworks display of all things Virginian including its ugly colonial past, in two counts: its confrontation with the native culture, and its obssession with slave labor, the labor many times over taken as if this was a commodity in the market to be sold and resold and disposed.

There is no way by which we can ever stand before the scrutiny of history except to be be honest with it.

This is what this city of trees and quiet and solitude is doing: to be authentic to itself.

When I got here in Williamsburg on a late Sunday morning, I had looked for a church.

From the transportation center where I got off from the third Greyhound bus--no, they call it 'coach' here, not 'bus'--I took in Richmond, VA, I had hoped I could bump into a church and pray.

But then I remembered two things: that I carried two bags and that I had to keep pulling my earthly belongings that consisted of the more formal things that I would need to face up to the scrutiny of my bosses and colleagues at a federal center where I would have to serve as a consultant for a federal program we cannot divulge. There is an oath here--and security is necessary.

There is another fact, of course, that I have to contend with: that Virginia, according to a colleague's husband, is proud of its more than 6000--read: more than six thousand--religious denominations. So many confusing ways of calling out to the same God of all humanity!

So ok, let us grant that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had an audience with Pope Benedict and that the pope told the president she is doing fine with her triad of programs that included the no-divorce teaching of the church, the no-to-death penalty (read: this is also contentious because the well-connected and moneyed rich do not ever land in death rows but are always given some chance to have a quick conversion and they become proponents of healing and deliverance and fellowship and become leaders of foundations that are meant to alleviate the sufferings of the pooor, ahem-ahem!) and the 'preferential option for the poor, a copycat of Medellin Conference and liberation theology and even Vatican Council II.

What has this Arroyo visit to the Pope mean to my trip to VA?

First of all, you are pissed by the fact that some members of the Tuazon and Arroyo clans are candidates for beatification.

Come on, leadies and gentlemen, this is a holy sickness and this Virginia country has not been a protestant country for nothing. This is what the Arroyo camp is drumbeating, this sanctity and holiness and heavenliness of landlords and beneficiaries of Spanish conquest and evangelization.

Come on, ladies and gentlemen: there is no way landlords, a.k.a. allies and appendages of the colonial and imperial project can ever become saints and holy persons, whatever charity to the poor had they demonstrated. You get tired and get sick of this bribery even to the halls of holiness.

Stop it, I would say, stop this blasphemy.

I keep saying this, with some sounds in the beginning as if talking to the wind from the Atlantic and goes through the West Point and the Naval Academy and then eventually telling it to the raging rains.

And then my persoanl rage becomes one of silence.

Here in Williamsburg, I cannot even find a Catholic church building here, just a church building, if you please so I can at least try to pray for the pretenders of pontifical blessing.

In the heat of the Sunday sun, I realize many things.

We look for God in our deeds.

In our hearts.

In our souls.

The red-brown brick churches are ok for their 'homeyness' but other than that, the church is in the heart.

So in the heat of the summer sun, I had hoped for a cab ride in the Greyhound, to bring me to my Fairfield suite down on Richmond Road towards the southeast part of the city.

No cab.

No bus.

No nothing, dear God!

I get nervous: I look for the mapquest on my luggage to figure out where am I.

I am miles away from the Fairfield and the streets are not kind to pedestrans, at least in Lafayette, the same way jeepney drivers in Manila have declared that they are kings of the streets.

I survey Lafayette again and fear gets into my heart: there are no pedestrian lanes on this part, the lands end in this so you have to go around that parked car but before your do that you need to stop, look, and listen for incoming cars.

I am frantic now.

There is no cab, there is no bus, there is no nothing.

There is only this eternity of waiting for something you are not even sure of.

I have my feet.

I tell myself: I might as well buy a veggie Subway, six inches, with all the olives I like, with all the tomatoes I like, with all the greens sandwiched in all the cucumbers and lettuce leaves and carrots.

And the cheese.

So I decide: walk and get that Subway veggie sandwich.

So in the heat of the noonday sun, I walked the stretch of Boundry, down onto South Lafayatte, down onto West Richmond.

I do it once in while, this walking.

But this time around, I am not even sure if in this noontime sun, the east that I know is the east that is real and the west that I am going, presumably, is the west that leads to Fairfield.

In the morning, the directions are easier: east is where the sun gets to start to warm our cold hearts, remove the estrangement in our view of things, and welcomes us into the home of the sun's rays, the home in the fields, the home in the green, verdant leaves of tall trees, some of them pines that remind you of Baguio, Kalinga, Apayao, and Nueva Viscaya, the very places where pines grow in wild abandon.

But I take the chance, as I always do.

A man in bike is at my back and I muster all the courage to ask him: I am lost, can you help me figure out where Fairfield is?

Come this way, he tells me, his accent Irish, or Scottish or plain Virginian, I do not know. But it is not the kind of English people of Los Angeles speak.

I am looking for Fairfield on Richmond.

Oh, Fairfield on Richmond?

Yes, the inns and suites?

I thought the time-share.

No, sir.

I do not know where is that. I have lived here for a long time but I do not know where it is.

Oh sorry, I say. Thank you for your time.

So one baggage on my right shoulder, the other baggage my left, the biggest of them all pulled on the street pavement, I take N Boundry, make a right on Lafayette, and make another right on Richmond.

I do all these past houses with no people in them, trees in their summer grandeur, and vehicles wheezing by, speeding off to the horizons I do not know where they end.

Walk, I did, with some pauses to ease my shoulder.

I have not carried so much weight on my shoulder for a long long while except that of the weight of running a paper for immigrants, a paper that went defunct.

I take one step at a time, believing honestly that I am taking the right turn in all these streets that I am taking.

Once, I had to pull my luggage with wheels up on the ground, away from the pavement because a car was speeding by as if its driver is immortal.

Halfway through my right turn on Richmond, Fairfield looms large.

I get past all those eating places I am familiar with, in California and elsewhere including my colonial and colonized country.

For the first time, I feel the pangs of hunger after going through four days of living on food sold on vendos and traveller's cantinas.

A. S. Agcaoili
Williamsburg, VA
June 25, finished June 26, 2006

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