Monday, April 11, 2011
MY CELLPHONE DELIVERED its message at four dawn. It woke me up! It is cold and it is November 17, 2010. Gotta go and catch a fastcraft for the port of Ormoc and an overland trip to Tacloban City in Leyte. A package laying idle in Ormoc City for two years needs to be delivered to Tacloban ASAP!
It is raining and I don my windbreaker. I went to the Supercat Terminal in Pier 4 carrying with me my Baikal backpack. The 'Cat leaves at 5:45 AM over the wide Camotes Sea and I heave a sigh of relief as the sun rises on the horizon dissipating the gloomy atmosphere. Read a book – Into the Mountains (Hostaged by the Abu Sayyaf)1 – but an action movie competed with my attention and I ditch the paperback.
Arrived at Ormoc two hours later. When was the first time I was here? I think it was in January 1993 when I climbed Mount Hanagdan with the Cebu Mountaineering Society. More than two years after that Great Flood that claimed thousands of lives. Back then I could still see the waterline of the flood up on the walls of houses and buildings six feet above my six-foot frame.
I walk the streets of Ormoc once again hunting for an early rising out-of-the-stream restaurant and found one after a half hour. Organic vegetables and small clams became my breakfast. Catch a tricycle after the meal to Punta, claimed the package and tricycled back to the city center for the terminal.
Seated myself inside the overcrowded vehicle-for-hire and the van leave Ormoc at 10:30 AM for Tacloban on the other side of the coast of Leyte Island at 106 kilometers distant. It traveled over a beautiful two-lane highway that pass over the towns of Kananga, Capoocan, Carigara and Palo. The sides of the highway are dedicated to the planting of rice while faraway are the different mountain ranges.
It is my second time to pass by this concrete road. The first time was in August 2005. That time I raced with time for my late grandmother's funeral in faraway Calbayog City in Western Samar on a less-than-a-shoestring budget! I missed the burial as I got delayed by erratic schedules of buses plying over the worst highway that I have ever seen right after crossing the San Juanico Strait.
At exactly twelve noon, I step on the pavement infront of Robinson's Place, cross the street, go inside the mall and leave the package. After that, I scanned a second-hand bookstore looking for a cheap book and found one having an unusual title – Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure2. (Laughing).
After an hour inside the mall, my stomach yearned for a refill and I look for something exotic outside. Took a public utility midget AKA “multicab” for the downtown area. Disembark somewhere near the Divine Word University and I scout for my lunch and found a stew of goat's innards which we Cebuanos call as paklay. This food is something of a specialty among the Warays of Leyte and Samar and I eat it with gusto.
Since I still have a couple of hours of spare time, I decide to visit instead the Santo Niño Parish nearby. The original structure have since been replaced, damaged by one of the most gruelling phase of the war in the Pacific during World War Two. About two kilometers away, I presume, is Red Beach, made famous when the “I shall return” phrase of General Douglas McArthur became a reality. Only the bells survived and it is decommissioned and made as an attraction on the side lawn.
Nearby is a vehicle-for-hire terminal and I snuggle inside one of its parked vans. Leave Tacloban at 3:45 PM for the return trip to Ormoc and then to Cebu. Dark rain clouds dimmed the sunny allure of the highway and it rained in Carigara and partly in Capoocan. Arrive at 6:00 PM and too early for the 7:00 PM departure for the port of Cebu. Resumed my book reading after another meal of paklay, this time that of a bull's.
Before I leave Ormoc one more time, I bought for the kids a native delicacy made by Tita Tatta and three ripe canistel fruit, locally known as tisa, for my wife. I arrive on the port of Cebu at nine and walked the distance from the pier to my residence. Along the way, meet two of my uncles. I toast my chance meeting with them with a bottle of beer each and talk of the good old days.
Document done in OpenOffice 2.1 Writer
1Authored by Jose Castro. It tells of the martyrdom of Claretian priest Fr. Rhoel Gallardo and the kidnapping of teachers and students by the Abu Sayyaf of the village of Tumahubong in Basilan.
2Written by Giles Foden. It records the never-heard series of naval battles in Lake Tanganyika during World War I.