The plane landed at past 5 in the afternoon. Would you be needing a wheelchair, sir? How far is the arrival area? It is near the plane. Indeed, a few more meters and the tip of the plane would have grazed the roof of the airport terminal building.
There was, indeed, no need for a wheelchair. My blue steel—electric blue—walking stick, I believe, glistened in the sunset, revealing flamboyance than helplessness. Oh, well. This was my first travel out of home, a move certified no less by my cardiologist and endocrinologist.
I would not miss a trip to Leyte, or Samar. The Film Development Council has invited us three: Emman de la Cruz and Mike Sandejas, both filmmakers of note, and this critic. It was not exactly a common or ideal team. We were there to hold a forum called “Planting Seeds”, a program to focus on film as a tool for education.
I was there on a secret mission: to look for Manong Palabyo. He is a character in the song “Lawiswis Kawayan”, who is lost in the translation from Waray to Tagalog. In the Waray version, he is an itinerant vendor who sells viands especially cooked. Where Manong Palabyo is, there is also the pikoy na waray batasan—the bird with no manners. I woud use the song and its images as metaphors to explain the gap between how Manila, the central world, imagines those in the periphery. But the teachers who participated in the forum that was held in close cooperation with the local government of Burauen were visibly amused with my search.
I would soon find out that there are more to be found and to be lost in Burauen and, for that matter, in the other parts of Samar and Leyte.
Upon arrival at the airport, the vans hailing passengers were all in need of passengers bound for Maasin. The young man beside me was going home to Guian after being away for 15 years.
I was going to a town, visiting this place Burauen after being away from it in terms of histories, economics and cultures. The town is lost amid the popularity of Palo, where
MacArthur landed. It is landlocked, and there is no sea around it to welcome intruders and tourists.
The charm of Burauen lies somewhere else. It did not lose the meaning of its name, which is derived from many words to designate spring. It has a hidden lake, a dormant volcano and cold, as well as hot, spring. My guides—Ivan, Kai and other active members of the newly constituted Tourism Council—always downplay the beauty of the springs found in their town. They took me to one, where the light blue color of the water was all of its own. My young tour guides were trying to persuade me to climb to a higher ground to see more water holes, ignoring it seems my flashy cane. But I told them, for someone who comes from the big city, where rivers are dying, the sight of rushing, white water almost feels like religion. From the natural pool, one can go near an embankment to look down upon more curling cold waters rushing into dark green paths and be lost in the beginning forest downstream. From above us loomed more green trees.
Its geography has kept Burauen away from rugged development. But nature unspoiled is difficult to cover in the world where surroundings are being destroyed. But if I were from Burauen, I would keep my springs and my rivers and my town unknown for some more years. Or I could teach others how to keep the land pristine and pure.
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