Sunday, July 15, 2007

Marinduque Island



I love this island. It is the ideal volunteer site. And a nice break from my site.

A fellow volunteer, Kristine lives across from the beach in a house surrounded by a white picket fence. The neighborhood is a patchwork of family homes surrounded by fences and low bushes growing in the sand somehow. A neighbor's chickens and family dog freely roam about Kristine's yard in search of crumbs. Inevitably, a cluster of young children peek through the sliding door at us. The children climb all over a taller male volunteer like a tree and finding his surprise entertaining, persist. Another female volunteer and I teach them "ring around the rosie" and "shake it seniorita". My cheeks hurt from smiling so much by the end of the day.

The following day, a group of ladies came over bearing baskets of flower petals and sang/danced a traditional folk song native to Marinduque. The song is always sung to honor a person on their birthday or a guest to the island. After they finished the dance, they showered Kristine in white, pink and green petals and placed a wicker crown on her head.

At night all you can see is constellations like rice scattered for the dogs across the blacktop, the cool air, the sound of the crickets and occasionally the rank and rush of the water pump beside the house and the ravenous bite and sting of a millions mosquitos from the rice field in her back yard.

The next day, in honor of Christine's birthday, the neighbors came over carrying baskets of flower petals and a guitar. The ladies danced to a traditional folk song used to honor visitors or locals on their birthday. They placed the crown on her head and showered her with the petals at the end of the dance. There was a great deal of picture-taking with the guest of honor after that....

My trip was great until I made the unfortunate decision to take the smaller speed-boat back to the Luzon Island.

Imust have already been a little nervous because it was the boat company's maiden voyage after being closed for unknown reasons for a few months. As a passing squall tossed the small boat with way too many passengers side to side until I saw water covering the port holes, I started to regret my decision. Suddenly, I was grateful that I'd carried my Peace Corps-issued life jacket in my backpack. I was glad that I hadn't needed to use it, though.
Sayaw in the barrior, Mabitiac

After going to a wedding reception at a “resort” or private pool/outdoor lounge area with a restaurant, I piled into the Dance Instructor's car, the matriarch of the Dance Instructors, a tall extremely thin man with a slightly hunched back and a cigarette in his hand whenever he isn't on the dance floor but an impeccably graceful man who always seems to move effortlessly.

So, the bacla, several senior citizens, my female dance instructor friend and I traveled to a a barrio, or rural neighborhood in Mabitac. We passed several rice fields before entering a heavily wooded area without streetlights. We arrived at a fenced in concrete block being used as a basketball court. There were multi-colored lights, a DJ and people lining the fence waiting for the dancing to begun. It was meant to be for the youth but the DIs
took over the dance floor as there was no one dancing yet so far. WE handed them our discs and glided around the floor to disco (swing) and salsa music. We attracted a crowd, especially me. I sat back down on the two tiered bleachers and was instantly surrounded by 12 7-9 year old girls asking me a million questions a minute. They all wanted me to perform “Boom, Tarat, Tarat”, kind of like a Filipino version of the Macarena. I humored them in the beginning but that got old quickly. Eventually, I got tired of answering questions, heard a modern song come on and coaxed the girls out onto the court. I felt like a giant on the dance floor for the first time in my life, but I had a blast binding with the girls and they were very good at the popular dance moves in the Philippines, something that looks like a hop kick, swing your foot behind in front kick again for of move done at a rapid speed. The faster, the better.

Being there reminded me of high school and middle school dances and how hidden in the semi darkness under the glamorous glare of the pink, green, blue revolving blubs, the smell of stale sweat still radiating from the gym floor, a little girl can feel like a star for an evening, effervescent and free...Maybe that's why I like dancing even if I'm not great at it...I love the freedom to express myself without a care in the world for just a few hours.



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