Catharsis-A A +A
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
ABOUT this time, last year, I was walking the streets of my hometown in Masbate. It was my first homecoming after 15 years and I was surprised to find that so many things have changed about my town and still so many things have remained the same.
The high school stood on the same lot fronting the sea, an old structure that in the twilight looked like a desolate widow pining for happier times. I had hoped to stand in front of the flagpole where we once were made to line up, not unlike a bunch of convicts facing a firing squad, on periodical examination days when our parents couldn’t pay our tuition fees and scream out all the unexpressed anger that I carried to that day. But a forbidding-looking gate stood in the way.
Bugang was where I was born. It is a small barrio nestled up in the mountain from where, on a clear day, you can see the beautiful island of Bugtong and farther away in the horizon, Leyte and Samar. This was where my younger sister and I foraged for wild root crops when corn was not in season. This was where I first learned that life can be unfair when my partner in the “exchanging gifts” did not show up at our Grade I class Christmas party.
I was already a young lawyer when I met my teacher, Mrs. Penagunda (God bless her kind soul) again since grade school but she still remembered that day and how I bawled out in the corner until she gave me a piece of budbud which she wrapped in red papel de hapon as my Christmas gift. I was only five years old then but the hurt cut so deeply in me and the scene that I created made such a lasting impression in her to make us both remember the incident many years later.
But Bugang was also where I had Papi, my pet dog. I do not know how he got his name.
Maybe, it was because he was a puppy when we got him. I do not even remember how I ever came to own Papi, to the exclusion of everyone, including my little sister. But it was only I that Papi allowed to ride on his back although not for long because we’d soon find ourselves tumbling to the ground, with me screaming in delight. If Papi was hurt by all the grappling, he never whined.
It was with Papi I spent most of my childhood with because the adults in the family were busy tilling the farm. I walked with Papi to the well and, more than twice, I saw him scaring off a snake with a sound that he probably intended as bark but came out more like a yelp. You see, Papi was small.
But Papi was big in loyalty. He never left my side. When I was sick, he always sat nearby. Then one day, it was Papi’s turn to get sick. I didn’t know how sick he was but I heard my father mention rabies. Not long after, Papi disappeared, never to return again.
At dawn on the last day of my homecoming, I went to the beach, took off my shirt and, lying on my back, waited for the sun to rise from behind Bugtong. The rough sand had a painful but sweet feel to the skin and the smell of salt floated in the gentle breeze.
A flood of memories gathered, a cacophony of emotions ready to burst: the shame and anger of being made to line up, the pain of being poor, the warmth of feeling loved, the gift that was Papi and the sheer joy of being alive. Then, I laughed and screamed.
I had planned of passing by our high school again for the chance to take a look at the hated flagpole. I did not anymore. I already had my catharsis.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 05, 2012.