The measure of a life-A A +A
Wrapped in Grey
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
ON THE edge of picturesque Lake Mainit in Surigao del Norte, in the town named after this beautiful body of water, on the street whose end can be seen the glistening water of the lake changing hues of silver and gold in the late afternoon sun, is a nondescript beige bungalow where an elderly couple resides.
It is just like any well-kept home in a small rural village, the gates are low and the front doors are open. But in the small garage of the humble abode, visible to anyone who walks by, are shiny colorful things that are sure to catch anyone’s attention. This is the home of Herculano Añora and his wife Luz and on display are seven of his handiworks built in a span of 20 years.
Stacked on one side of the garage are hand-built and hand-painted miniature replicas of buses that plied the once dusty and now paved roads of the provinces of Surigao and Agusan from 1959 up to the present. These are not the small little matchboxes of old that forego important details of vehicles they are based on because of their diminutive sizes but large imposing replicas the size of Tonkas built from wood and painted with great attention to detail.
The proportions are just about perfect – from the size of the headlamps relative to the windshield, and the number of windows on each side, to the sloping curves of the hood and roof of the buses of old and the box-like configuration of the more recent iterations.
Manong Añora faithfully reproduced every line and curve of these mechanical workhorses that transported people and goods from the once dusty roads of this part of Northern Mindanao in the last fifty years. You have models of the American-built International log haulers converted into buses for human transport by now-defunct companies such as the Agusan Surigao Bus Company (ASBUSCO), Rosales Transport, and VP Buslines. These buses have steel frames and underchassis but have improvised wooden cabins and chairs to transport people instead.
Why would anyone take such trouble and what is the motivation for such labor of love in creating these wonderful things? My companions and I briefly interviewed the creator and he revealed to us that he was a bus driver for most of his life. In fact, from 1959 to 1977, he commandeered these exact vehicles he recreated, transporting people across the provinces’ dusty and winding roads until he moved on driving dump trucks. But it is curious why he did not build replicas of these trucks that transported things instead of people and why he continued creating copies of buses that he never drove.
Then it occurred to me that these great works were not about a fixation over machines but a proud and eloquently display of one’s life-work.
If you peer inside, there are rows and rows of seats painstakingly built to fill the cabin. It is easy to imagine them to also be occupied by cramped passengers with their baskets and chickens all the way to the roof, the topload of people and produce bursting like the petals of a flower slowly-swaying with every gaping pothole on the roads of long ago. It is also easy to see at the helm Manong Añora keeping the steering wheel of these trucks steady, serious in his task of bringing people safely to their destinations.
These works I realize are works of art that expresses his pride in having taken part in people’s journeys day-in-and-day out. He knew every line and curve of his buses because the machines helped him fulfill his mission. And with every block of wood that he slowly fashioned to become these amazing objects of art in a span of two decades, he also recreated these memorable journeys and the important role he played for many travellers.
What is the measure of a life? Is it the pot of gold stashed in some vault of some bank? Is it the accolade of the multitude? Perhaps not. In that brief encounter with Manong Añora’s wonderful creations and knowing the story behind them, I was humbled by the proud labor of this simple man from the working class.
I am reminded once again of a line uttered by a character in one of Eddie Romero’s classic films. To paraphrase, happiness is not gained from the mindless accumulation of objects and things. But it is when one discovers his or her usefulness to others will real joy and pride be finally attainable.
There was a glint of joy and pride in Manong Añora's eyes as he handed to me, a stranger who just happened to pass by and admire his creations, one of his works without a hint of hesitation. I was deeply honored in receiving a proud measure of a meaningful life.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 26, 2014.