IN this room in Tagbilaran City in Bohol, I muse about the adverb, “where.”
It is three days before Christmas. Signal no. 1 in the route of typhoon Vinta in the country has led to the cancellation of trips leaving and going to Bohol.
While waiting, I get to know this city again. I was fresh out of college, working for a poverty alleviation project. Tagbilaran City was the jump-off for project sites in Bohol.
In development circles then, Bohol was the scrappy rival of Cebu.
In the fast craft leaving Cebu and at the Tagbilaran City pier, there were several foreigners. Of tourist or backpack, I don’t catch a sight of while walking along C. P. Garcia North Ave.
Perhaps the tourists are all in the nearby islands or towns, with more allures to offer than the hordes of tricycles and motorcycles descending up and down the main thoroughfare.
It is just as well. I like that Tagbilaran belongs to the locals.
In my pedestrian explorations of this part of the city, where a shop selling fishing implements is next-door to a mall with generic fast-food offering, I am reminded of downtown Cebu except that Boholanos are more polite and mild-mannered.
They make easygoing parents. Toddlers and even infants outnumber adults at the fast food joints. Unlike in Metro Manila and Cebu, where both kids and adults are glued to tablets and smart phones, the children here run and horse around, driving adults crazy.
I witness one domestic havoc after another, which proves that some things remain the same from the time I was a child, hell-bent on squeezing in as much play in the waking hours.
“No you can’t go home yet/ but you aren’t lost,” wrote Adrienne Rich in her poem, “The School Among the Ruins.”
My hand clasps the sharp corner of the table just as a girl slides perilously close to it. Her smile trembles on her lips, but it is chased away by her playmate, a boy whose roar is outsized for his age. It is a marvel the pasta they serve here ends up on plates, not on the floor.
Being part of and being outside these fast food family vignettes, I wonder if, given a choice, I would stay put, become a grandmother, and watch children and cats the whole day.
Or if I would, in an alternative world, look for a notebook and write down thoughts about going away.
Of all the adverbs, “where” seems the most diffident until you are off-kilter. Then it can be as piercing as “why”:
“Why does the outstretched finger of home probe the dark hotel room like a flashlight beam on the traveller, half-packed, sitting on the bed face in hands, wishing her bag emptied again at home” (Adrienne Rich, “Tendril”)