Transients, Pilgrims, Seekers (7)
Field Notes N12
To navigate between Dipolog and Dr Jose P Rizal’s city to the west, Dapitan, you have to pass through policepeople and people in fatigue.
These are the same people mandated to provide security to the populace—at whatever cost, if they have the right gadget, the right shoes, the right mindset.
In that short stretch between these two cities there is that palpable police and military visibility you knew about during the Martial Law days, when checkpoints were normal, and roads without checkpoints are not to be passed by.
There could be danger lurking somewhere, as in the case of a load of soldiers killed along a highway somewhere in Bicol, when you went on excursion to that region, up to Sorsogon, to get familiarized with the national situation as a prospective missionary person of God.
You remember you were a busload—eager-beavers all and rosary-wearing and breviary-bearing young people, many of you teen-agers and thinking about giving up everything and serving God.
You went throught the works, from your base of a seminary (the stylish way of calling seminaries in those days was ‘formation center’, as if really, seminarians could be formed).
You all called it otherwise, of course: ‘deformation center’, what with the rigor of academic life, the rigor of studying Italian and Latin, and the rigor of making you forget who you are.
You all thought you all ended up being deformed, with English the only language allowed to live your everyday life.
Never mind if your English was of the ‘barok’ kind—or what young people of Dipolog as the ‘nosebleed English.’
Your formators—priests in-charge of your soul and body—were Italians, and their English, one they learned in England or London or Ireland, was as ‘barok’ as yours anyways.
So there, barok English times barok English: it is riot, and it is deformation just fine.
Of course, there were other languages allowed. In principle, these were Latin and Italian, but who cared about these languages when all you have got in your young head were declensions and conjugations of other required languages such as Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish—all memorized.
Yes, you were never allowed to learn your language, which sucked.
Yes, you were allowed to study Tagalog in the classroom, which also sucked. Big time.
In the end, of course, you were one tattered man, as tattered as a bad Ilokano quilt, with the ability to say just a little of something of all these languages that were rammed into your throat.
It was Hebrew you liked best, and you fell in love with its consonants and its vowelless characteristics (you hated vowels, you!) and its curlicues intrigued you so.
You permitted others to copy from you during your Hebrew examinations, two of those who copied from you eventually becoming priests, one ending up a criminal, and languashing in a federal prison somewhere in the East Coast.
The other one has left the priesthood after many years of perseverance, and now married with a beautiful daughter to boot, and now counting his Australian dollars from his labors, not from officiating a Mass attended by the mass of Catholics.
You started the trip from the Quezon City base, from that center located among the richest of the rich in that part of the city.
And then you moved up to the south, navigating the ‘Bituka ng Manok’—a chicken intestine kind of a road that zigzagged like a python in Quezon.
Soon you hit the first Bicol province pretending to be Bicol but in reality more Tagalog than Bicol.
That is your Northern Camarines, one of those seedbeds of Catholicism in the past, and which, on its shore are islands belonging to the Paracale where gold was mined—and still being mined until today.
If one were aware of the Atimonan 13, those mix of massacred businesspeople and their associates including an environmental activist, the story goes that they were to go to Paracale to make a gold-buying deal.
And then the massacre happened.
In those times that you went there, the people led wretched lives despite the gold around them.
You remember that you had nowhere to go to eat, and there were about 40 of you, priests with aquiline noses included, and so you had to set up shop, and together with the older members on training to become God’s soldiers, you began to cook your lousiest pinakbet. Ever.
But they liked your cooking, these 40 famished God’s soldiers.
From there, you moved up to Buhi in Southern Camarines, and then to Naga, and then eventually hitting Mayon Volcano, that beautiful maiden—Daragang Magayon—of a raging volcano with its perfect cone, if one believes in tourist brochures.
You took a bath by Tiwi Hotsprings, basking in the warm water, and awed by the capacity of some red shrimps to survive in a temperature that is close to simmering.
You hit Sorsogon and you fell in love with the province’s old churches, testimonies all of a glorious past, but a past that includes as well the wrath of hell—the stories of friar abuses, of psychological blackmail about an Inferno, of not being able to get to heaven when you die when you do not confess your sins to God’s representative on earth, the priest.
And when you made that turnaround—on your way back to Manila—you passed by these dead bodies of soldiers ambushed just minutes before you hit the same spot.
You look around you and you have face of cliffs from both sides, a perfect position, indeed for an ambush.
In Dipolog, you heard of security advisory: that if one can avoid taking that 8-hour trip from Dipolog of ZaNorte to Zamboanga City, that chartered city sandwiched between ZaNorte and Zamboanga Sibugay, please, please avoid.
You cannot stand Dipolog any longer. You were considering going to Zambo City, and hear Chavacano once again, or perhaps make a deal with a South Sea pearl diver.
Dipolog is a city of chaos, and your pensione room J, at an exorbitant price, is windowless.
You wonder what on earth has happened such that a room without a window in a pensione house has been approved as a room for transient people like you.
Unless, of course, it was passed off as a detention cell, or a solitary confinement, hence the signature of the city engineer granting a permission—or is it a reprieve?
Even after you complained of Flood Number 4 on your doorstep because of the leaking water from the airconditioner, the only thing done was a rubber footpad to wipe the dirt on your soles, or to leave behind your rage.
So on to Dapitan, and in between are the checkpoints to weed out all the terrorists in this heavenly world.
Some talked of a group of scalawags, a breakaway group of a breakaway group, and the military and the policepeople are after them, and that the checkpoints are necessary even if Martial Law was a thing of the Marcos past.
Ah, checkpoints, here you come, here you go.
At an Island Filipinas city/
June 5, 2013