I was born a lagalag.
This has been pre-ordained by Lakay Burik’s generation who fled Piddig and found haven in Bayombong; and confirmed by Lolo Porong’s nomadic search for the holy grail of the good life that brought him to Obando, Umingan, Santiago, Sta. Ana, Guam, and Davao before finally coming to a dead end in Bambang. And I who was born out of their itinerant loins have been marked with the memories of distant places where I grew up: the big river in Naguillian and the image of Rosendo rafting down in a bunch of water lilies, Angalakan Beach in Mapandan and the joys of a thousand forbidden swims, a piece of broken glass in a creek in Paniqui shredding my sole as we forage for sugarcanes, our refuge under the bridge in Alicia where we spent our Sabbath days away from the self-righteous enforcers of the faith. And of course the magical barrio of Almaguer where our story merged with that of the bassit and dacquel nga carayan.
Today, I am in a continuum of these travels as I swing from one old church to another having been, to date, to 513 towns and cities in 43 provinces of the Philippines and 9 countries of the world . I will be forever grateful to my employer, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), who unknowingly nurtured my passion as it sends me to assignments across the country; and to Social Watch-Philippines (SWP), the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1), and the Alternative Network of International Financing Institutions (INAFI) who have been the generous but unknowing sponsors of my most interesting trips.
And as I look back into my personal Book of Travel Records, two significant entries of this unending saga jumped at me. The first one extended my journey to the sea, and the second one to the sky.
I was selected to represent PRRM’s Nueva Ecija Branch sometime in 1995 to participate in the Education for Life Foundation’s DAUPAN --- a gathering of popular educators from all over the Philippines held in the coastal town of Gasan in Marinduque. The ferry trip from Lucena City to Boac was slow and uneventful. In Gasan, I hooked up with a comrade from the Bukluran para sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isipan at Gawa and stayed in an old house with lots of old things. “The children have decided to settle either in Lucena or Manila,” our foster parent told us. I saw Mayor Vicky Lao Lim leading a clean up the next day. We later had a big solidarity party where I recited some lines from a Tagalog poem of the brokenhearted as part of the Central Luzon presentation. I smelled of the roasted beef in my pockets that I smuggled from the kitchen for our pulutan.
Diarrhea hit me during the ferry boat ride back to Lucena. It was not seasickness; it’s the sugpo our foster parent prepared for our send-off lunch. Having no tissue paper for sale at the ship’s store and bottled water still many years away from being a fad, I bravely scooped the water from the bottom of the toilet bowl and placed it in a plastic bag. I washed myself with it but it was not enough. I smelled of shit. Then we rode on a painfully slow air conditioned bus to Manila where every stopover is paradise for my constricting insides. We finally reached the city by dusk. By then, I have egested all the shit I have. I was back in Marinduque this year where I had the chance of shooting its colonial churches in Boac and Sta. Cruz. And I again met reelected Mayor Vicky Lao Lim of Gasan last July during PRRM’s 55th anniversary celebration.
It was I think 1997 when I had my first plane ride from Manila to Davao City to attend a PRRM program conference. Before that, God knows how close I am to punching our Assistant Branch Manager in the eye for playing on my emotions. He knew how excited I am on the trip and joked that I would not be coming after all. In Davao City, we stayed in a resort near the dirty beach in houses that looked liked concrete mushrooms. The bar has a videoke with a giant screen where I sang John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and Radiohead’s “Creep” after 8 bottles of beer. I tasted my first durian and brought 2 boxes of Davao fruits (durian, pomelo, marang, mangosteen) for the girlfriend back in Nueva Ecija (she will eventually marry me).
The flight back was delayed so we have some more beer. I was drunk, it was cold, and very dark during the plane ride back to Manila. But I did not sleep. After that trip, I will return to Davao City many times and this year, I went looking for Jacinto Street where Kid Buntal and Uncle Andring stayed sometime in the 1950s in a place where the earth trembled every now and then. I found a wide and concrete street. I gave P200 to a trisikad driver to take me back and forth from both ends of the street until the sun set and the rain started to fall.
These are two of my most memorable journeys. But they won’t be making it to the Lagalag Notebook.
PHOTOS (top to bottom):
(1) BOAC, MARINDUQUE. The church was first built in 1792 and has served as a fortress against the raids of Moro pirates' attacks.
(2) STA. CRUZ, MARINDUQUE. The evangelization of what is now the town of Sta. Cruz started in the 17th century. It was established as an independent town in 1790. The church was probably built afterwards.
(3) DAVAO CITY. The first church was built in 1847 upon the arrival of the Spanish colonialists led by Don Jose Uyanguren. This has been replaced by the modern structure but the original altar has been preserved and displayed at the right wing of the cathedral.
Davao City’s San Jacinto Street from the (4) corner of Magsaysay Avenue and (5) from the trisikad perspective.