Day 3 (Friday)
“Spend the afternoon, you can’t take it with you.”
I woke up to the chill of dawn, but soaked in sweat, with beads still forming in my forehead, my hands clutching my chest for breaths. What I had last night didn’t feel like sleep at all.
It was still dim, so I went back to sleep. In the room, the heat stood like invisible walls closing in on me, but then turned into icicles at dawn. I was freezing and sweating. The remnants of the nightmare still stuck in my head like grains in the corners of the teeth the tongue can’t reach.
After I finished my coffee, I went to the port, my favorite place here. It was a ten-minute walk from the house. Looking at the sky, no wonder it was cold. The sun was still nowhere to be found. From the way it rained last night, I thought that it might rain too this morning. The sea breeze lulled me into sleepwalking. When I got near the end, the changes started to register: The trees looked either dead or dying. The remaining leaves were under the mercy of the gray sky. Last year, their bushes were a thick green, and when you come close, you can even hear little birds singing inside.
I saw one that looked like it was inches away from being ripped off. All the trees were standing as if off-balanced, their almost empty branches struggling to grow back what was lost. I thought again about how much damage that bitch Yolanda had done. The ground seemed to have lost its lively color, as if grieving for the trees. The lampposts were destroyed too, most had missing light bulbs. All of them nothing but dead pieces of metal. Even the stone benches which were seriously heavy to lift were thrown during the typhoon.
On my way back to the house, it was only then that I noticed how much trees were destroyed after the typhoon. The thick foliage were now gone. The island life I used to experience had changed. I wasn’t even able to eat a lot of fruit and fish throughout my stay, as the whole island was still recovering from the ravage of Yolanda. From what I’ve heard, only one died, an old lady who wasn’t able to run away in time from a falling tree. But still, the damage to the trees and properties were large splinters to the heart. Bit by bit, one by one, time will pluck them out.
That afternoon, the weather got better, so I borrowed a bike from my relatives. Last year, I biked around the island, passing around 12 or 13 barangays, from Lower Poblacion to Cawit and back, which, in total, was approximately 24 kilometers. And that was done from 9 am to around 3 pm under the scorching summer sky. Had I known the symptoms of a heatstroke, I can say I almost had one. I was just using an old bike, even minus the brakes, on typical island rough roads, which gets rougher the deeper I enter the heart of the island. It would still be tomorrow when I’d do it again, so I spent the afternoon getting ready for the next day. Along the way, I was starting to feel my skin burning from the inside; my skin became so sensitive that it even stings when I sweat. I thought I got it from Danao Port where I was in a long line waiting for the gate to open for the pump boat, with the sun above and a few minutes away from its zenith.
Along the way, I found out that the school was in ruins, including the rooms that were newly constructed. Quite ironic because the new rooms were completely destroyed, whereas the decades-old ones seemed to look almost untouched at first glance. The rusty roofs and the creaking floors and windows, all of them were almost intact. Talking about wear and tear. When I went near the white rooms, I was doubtless it was due to the substandard materials used. The dangers of it. It was painful to look at.
Afternoon was about ripe into a cool, refreshing dusk, so to welcome it and to end the really sad day, I ran back to the house and grabbed some beer, then reloaded my pack of cigarettes, but almost forgetting the essentials: the guitar, pen, journal, and book, as I was too excited get drunk there, write a poem of hope and recovery, read passages from Hemingway, play the guitar and sing my heart out to the grieving sea. But once I got there, an assault of wild sensations rushed into me and filled my guts. Then I noticed that my breathing had changed, like I was suddenly freed from something I could not name.
The afternoon brought the wounded dock back to life. Illuminated its lost blood. Colors I had not seen that morning caressed my eyes. They appeared as fresh as daylight. I was awed, stunned by unexpected feelings. I then ran to the building, the salty wind against my whole body, feeling the spirit of a child, an inexhaustible glow of a smile, and was once again freed from the learned loneliness and sterility of city life.
I went down around thirty minutes later, as the wind had gotten too cold and strong. I was having chills despite the beer. I was sitting now in the stone staircase which led down to the seawater. The sea was just a step away. The salty breeze cleared my lungs, leaving an aftertaste in each breath. The beer was not enough to warm me anymore, so I decided to finally lit a smoke for good measure and put it in my mouth. I lost my lighter the night before. Luckily, when I turned around, I saw a middle-aged passerby, with a cigarette hanging in his mouth. I looked at him as he passed by, and seeing the unlit stick in my mouth, he went to me and handed me his half-smoked stick. I offered him beer, to which he refused. He was an Iglesia. They don’t drink beer, he said. But they were allowed to smoke. He was a carpenter from Bukidnon and was assigned here by their group to repair the roofs of their church. He then talked about how religion changed him. How God changed him. Then he told me he should be going,. We shook hands and said good-bye. The sun was falling down; the sky was getting shades darker; the temperature dropped gradually. Evening was approaching. I finished my cigarette and beer, then walked home. It was great afternoon.