The eloquence of forgetting: Apo Island, Negros Oriental-A A +A
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
THERE it is. A sudden jolt. An undefined sensation. Quickly, you try to grasp the missing fragments like a computer scanning for misplaced files. Is something amiss?
Wasn’t I supposed to remind myself about whatnot? And even before hands touch space where mass should’ve been, the mind has already realized it. You’ve forgotten. Something.
The jolt came in the car a few minutes before stepping into the scheduled bus. The notebook, a new one with a watermark of a compass and the wisdom of the ambiguous saying “Travel the World. Your dream begin like a flower,” has been stranded at home.
The notebook is to the forgetful what ammunition is to a soldier. I counted the minutes it would take to turn back. But the designated driver was dashing off to a dawn marathon, and I to a leaving escape vehicle.
The bus ride to the South was ridden with familiarity. “Nothing new to see,” I tell myself, the route a rerun of a well-loved film. Paused in some parts, fast forwarded the next, it’s been played a hundred times over since childhood when summers were for fleeing to sleepy hometowns. One town after the other and the sway of trees begin to blur into a single montage. Nothing new to see, I affirm, before dozing off to sleep haunted by the forgotten.
How do you remember Sensation—sight, smell, feel—when not recorded? How do you remember where you were? How you were? More importantly, who you were, when reminders are scarce? Today, when senses are victim of overload, recording becomes a necessity.
If only to evaluate afterwards, what Sensation has brought, or left behind.
One must remember to remember.
North is never North
Dumaguete, though, makes this a challenge. The whole city is a microcosm of change. At foresight, one can easily distinguish whether a part has been destroyed, rebuilt or built. New cafés pop up every other month. Bars catering to the influx of Expats—Australians, Koreans and Americans mostly—change just as easily. And at the city’s center are thriving commercial buildings—Lee Plaza, the only staple among them—that still maintain a close tie with siestas, bartering profit for extensive lunch breaks.
Places should be walked to. For it is the easiest way to spot the novelties of “progress” in a city still confused whether it wants to hold on to its provincial vibe or drift elsewhere. But even then, you still ask yourself as I have several times, what was here before again? The details vary so often. Stores are rebranded. New ones erupt. Signage installed, taken off or transferred that one starts to think that in Dumaguete, it is not the “where” that’s important but “how long” one has the opportunity to enjoy it.
“Tour us around,” a new friend from Iligan requests.
“Yes, please do,” her Peace Corps companion, seconded.
The request was given to a native of Negros. Unfortunately, the native just happens to have a defective navigation system. North is never North. And even landmarks are deceptive, its proximity too near or too far than actuality. After an hour following the wrong roads, asking strangers every second or so, and trying to find restaurants that are never where they’re supposed to be, our Peace Corps companion remarks, “I’m starting to think you didn’t really grow up here.”
I smile sheepishly. “I forget easily,” I tell him.
But whereas cities are all about change, islands have a different persona altogether.
On islands, there is singularity of direction. Residents either go to or come back from. There, nobody is ever lost, or rather; one allows himself to get lost, knowing sooner or later, he will be met by the comfort of the recognizable, as the island called Apo will quickly show.
Swimming off to calmer waters
On the shores of Zamboanguita, 45 minutes from Dumaguete, are a string of boatmen who sell anduhaw and sulig while waiting for customers to cross to Apo Island. Beside their kawayan table set with fresh catch is a lone man climbing from tree to tree, dropping coconuts until they form a neat pile on the ground. My companions and I watch them fall, taking our minds off the horizon which still seemed confused whether it’ll succumb to heat or rain. It seemed we had all slept the night before wishing for the sun, some whispering a prayer before sleep, others a firm affirmation. In the early light, the island was still a hazy patch of blue.
“Unsa diay pangalan ninyo, ‘noy?” we ask the two boatmen assigned to us.
“Panny,” the Captain replies.
“Marly,” the other answers.
Panny and Marly. The duo sounded like characters straight from a comedy skit that we silently decide to call them just “‘noy” from there on.
If only Apo Island was met with a silence demanding of its dignity. If only there were Gregorian chants illuminating the awe of an island that greets visitors with 20-foot rock formations like a hand extending a “Hello.” Instead, it was met with the whirring sound of the motor and the splash of choppy waters that as soon as arrival broke off our boat’s rigger.
“Makauli pa mi ani, ‘noy?,” we ask the Captain jokingly. The island was a mere 20- to 30- minute ride from the shores of Zamboanguita but the growing swell of its waters made it look more isolated from the rest.
“Naanad na mi ana, Ma’am, oi. Parte ra na sa among panginabuhi,” he answers all too seriously.
Part of the beauty and crux of isolation is the predictability by which way of life is measured. Even something as unpredictable as weather can be prepared for. And for those who visit the singularity of this life, you are almost always sure of what you want to do, which part you’d want to go to and mostly, what romantic notion you want to buy into, part of the lure of travel, really. In Apo Island’s case, the choice was apparent, so applauded has its reputation been as a successful community-based marine sanctuary. (Johanna Michelle Lim)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 21, 2013.