Monday, May 26, 2003

Cagayan to Camiguin

5/9/03 Friday. The second the plane stops, the chimes and beeps of dozens of text messages ring across everyone's cell phone. Americans are too lazy to bother tapping out a message, we like to talk. Txting is a way of life here. I heard someone say, "even the house boy's house boy has one." It's the only way to find people really. You can choose between the Globe service and the Smart service. Civilization is measured by the number of cell signal bars on your phone.

Cagayan de Oro airport is a simple place. One terminal. You walk down steps and across the tarmac towards the terminal. They hand you umbrellas for both sun and rain. A man outside the terminal, holds a sign carrying my name, I acknowledge his presence with a look, a nod, then point to say I'm waiting for my bags. I've learned the best communication has no words. Though I know people can smell a Fil-Am, the writer in me steps back and keeps to the side to observe. It's easier this way. I only understand Tagalog and everyone south of Luzon speaks a variation of Visayan. They tell me it's easy to learn. I forgot to pack my Cebuano phrase book.

By the time I get my two bags, another man is carrying my name. He leads me to the first guy, who happens to be Tito Guy. Merci and the clan are having lunch at the restaurants nearby. I see Merci head our way and my mind shifts to the Philippines database of names. Often my memory of people is linked to location. These people live in the US. These people live in the Philippines. When one of these people changes their standard location, it takes me a moment to reorder. There's a brief surreal moment of not knowing exactly where I am. It's good to see Merci again and her kids.

Tito Guy offers to wait while I get something to eat, but I know there's a drive and ferry to catch. I have the momentum of movement with me, it's best to just keep going. I'll eat when we get to Camiguin.

We ride an air conditioned minivan. The sounds bring me into the Philippines: beeps, buzz of engines, sheets of rain. It's 45 minutes to Balingoan, the ferry port to Camiguin.

I take notes of the images along the way. A friend of mine is from Cagayan de Oro, but she hasn't been back. Her mother says it's too dangerous. She has asked me to tell her how it is.

notes from Cagayan de Oro to Balingoan, Misamis Oriental

-"Nothing is as lovely as a tree" poem written on signs coming from airport
-"a fool like me can write a poem, but only God can make a tree"
-banana trees amongst coconuts
-laundry dries along concrete river banks next to properly penned, "Advance the People's War through CPP-???-NPA"
-Faded murals, graffitti even on old cemetery tomb stones
-astig: we cross a narrow bridge, a tricycle chugs slowly over while two large jeepneys ride his ass, waiting to pass
-and now the rain comes, there goes the laundry
-What is "fighter wine"?
-a worn out parol still hangs in May
-an older woman walks with a metal wash bin balanced on her head while the rain accumulates in the bin
-"I'll never be the same without your love" plays on the radio
-for a second the world disappears behind a gray sheet of water
-"when you get caught between the moon and New York City..."
-beach resort for sale/lease

We're here in the Balingoan port. The 2 o'clock ferry is on final call. We grab our bags and go. It's one of the smaller ferries. 45 pesos to cross. There's a leaky tarp covering the second deck of wooden benches. Merci txts Don that we are on the ferry and yes, I am with them. Fortunately, I'm a water person. I love riding on and being in water: sailing, ferries, swimming. I never get seasick and only really get motion sickness in cars. Others on the ferry are not so lucky, they rest their head on their knees and try to sleep. One and a half hours to Camiguin.

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