Saturday, August 11, 2007


Sumaging Caves, Sagada

I was a child: grasping, touching, reaching, climbing through every black opening ahead, any unusual surface I saw and wanted to explore. No space was prohibited, no path too narrow, steep or ledge too high, none unconquerable.

There were caves so slick with cream colored calcium bicarbonate. My mind was tricked into seeing human inner space, and I was gliding along a tunnel of twisted tendons and stippled fat. It felt so natural to be in the caves, crawling and crab walking through low tunnels. The cool temperature, the gentle dripping water and the darkness lulled me into awe, into solace. I could have stayed there all day and just soaked my feet in the glowing green pools, lit by holes beneath the surface.

I imagined my ancestors’ lives to be like this: living on the rock face, swathed in damp clothing from walking/crawling through the cave to the family camp site. I saw the nightmares a lifetime in caves might have plagued me with as I waded through shadowy passageways dripping with staligmites’ sharp, silvery points. There jagged teeth often creating a natural fence to the next tunnel.

Despite the slippery surfaces, the sharp cliff faces and the fast moving water traversed my first spelunking tour undeterred until we came to a narrow ledge with a sharp drop. The three guides, created a two hand holds farther down the ledge. The taller people went first by stepping quickly along the ledge and reaching out and holding the rock ahead of them. I saw how high these rock holds were and knew there was no way I could reach them. I could try to swing across and just hope I could hold on long enough to catch the ledge and get my balance, but I chocked. I could’ve took a deep breath and just trusted myself but I made the mistake of looking down at the rushing water swirling into the funnel-like bottom of the cave. The problem was, I had no choice, I couldn’t stay here alone. So, I moved forward with a little help.

A tall guide came back for me and stood in the icy water for me and let me use his knee for extra support in case I slipped as I walked along the ledge. I was grateful but embarrassed at how secure and close the cave floor actually was or at least the guide made it easy to stabilize his balance in. I heard earlier someone slipped and fell on this very rock face so I didn’t feel bad for being careful. I saw it as being a smart spelunker.


With Less than a year Left......

With less than a year left, I was at first both relieved and proud of myself. Then, I realize how comfortable I've become with my life in Siniloan and how close I've become with my neighbors. And I felt a little uneasy.

My States-side life on Friday nights went like so: walk to the gym from work for a 45 minute work out; call my friends on the way home to make sure our plans for the evening were set; run home eat, shower and change; and jet out the door for the bars only ten minutes from my front door for an evening that might not end until, well, it ends.

Now, I leave work when my co-workers go home or I get hungry and decide to cut our lingering by the covered basketball court or tricycles despite the children squeezing by us chika- chika short. I walk home, waving until my arm gets tired at students passing by on trikes and then nod and smile a lot and occasionally stopping to talk to groups of old men and women who congregate beneath awnings or tree-shaded front steps on plastic-molded chairs. I go for a run through the neighborhoods and out onto the highway, past the grain mill, past the rice fields, past the fouls and calfs still healthy and unscarred, graizing next to their mothers on the roadside. I wander back to my house to take a bucket shower, eat dinner and then wander over to my neighbors house to play Tongits (similiar to Gin Rummy), watch TV Dramas, run around the sala (living room) with the 5 (Dedette) and 7 year old (Ehlay) or just chika chika.

Sometimes, I wander over to my friend and co-workers house two blocks away. She is not always home but when she is, I always stay until we're both too tired to stay awake. She laughs easier and is always in a good mood. Her house seems the social nexus for students and young adults. There is a constant flow of children and neighbors visiting. They ask her for advice, she either gives it to them or finds a way to make them laugh off their worries. She is my favorite person and one of many people it will be hard for me to leave.

I really enjoy all the chats I have with my neighbors. We share books, our dreams, thoughts on religion, men, different cultures. Now, they even confide in me about their love lives. And I'm finding myself thinking about them and my other close friends at work long after I am by myself. I worry about them and feel attached as I do to my friends from home.

But I'll see my friends in the states again and I know that even if I worry about them they will probably be okay. I don't feel the same about my friends here in the Philippines. I will feel in a sense that if I leave I am abandoning them.

Maybe that sounds foolish. They are intelligent and competent people who will get by. that's part of the reason that I am friends with them. They didn't have access to the resources and support that I've been fortunate enough to have and yet they are successful, happy and confident people.

But people help each other here. If someone succeeds, it's expected that they will use their success anf financial stability to help their family. And my neighbors, my co-workers, my hosts families have become family to me. So, how can I continue to help them all in some way when I leave Siniloan in a year?


Blogger mary ellen said...

i know--lots of people will say that you should try to not to get too attached--but i think the affection we share with people is what like is all about. so--i'm from the philippines myself but i live in the us now (for 20 years)--maybe later on, you can send them those balikbayan boxes and fill them up with food that they cannot afford there? i'm doing that for christmas. i'm sending a box in sept. it will take a month to get there--just right in time for christmas. so they're excited. and i like that feeling of good excitement--even if it's toward toward conspicious consumption! they've never had pepperidge cookies so i'm buying them on sale for $2.00 a pack at target!

you're young and full of goodness. have a wonderful time!


12:47 PM  

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