In the year of my 40th birthday,
I would make my maiden voyage to The Philippines.
To the place of my mother’s making.
And her mothers fathers brothers and sisters.
My first time leaving the country.
Lola - not my Lola, my Lola’s sister, also my Lola -
was heading home for 2 weeks and suggested I join her.
Unemployed in the throes of divorce I’m like of course.
And no greater way to pop the cherry on my passport
than a trip back to the source.
So I prepared as per google:
sunscreen, pepto, and bug repellent
Then, I prepared as per Earl:
fresh condoms & dollar bills.
Tagalog phrases for gringos - Kumusta ka?
Mabuti po. Saan ang banyo? Putang ina mo.
Opting not to bring my Mac due to presumably
wack wifi I said bye to mi corazón
And alighted. 12-hour flight kid.
Ancestral time travel.
The distance is about the same between my name
and the knowledge of where it came from.
PAL plane from SFO nonstop.
The bombest Flight Attendants I've ever seen
2.5 meals and a real hot washcloth to wash off
the coughing of the inconsiderate seniors.
The best quality bootleg movies
No leg room tho. Packed. We like
The Asian Amistad in the air
going back to the kingdom.
Infinite Patience, anak.
Aquino airport. Sunrise to sunset incubating.
Waiting with an iPhone recently upgraded for storage
now staggering along power down below 10% voltage difference incompatible. Global charger adapter courtesy of Tita Mae packed in my checked bag. Different flight. Drag. Time to buy something. Time to try something new. Math. Pesos to dollars. At the writing of this poem, the rate was 49.5 to the US Washington radically reaffirming the fact that the S’s in United States are indeed dollar signs.
Same night zip South Zamboanga from where we’d catch a ferry in the morning
That night tho I’d hit the streets with Lolo Boy, Nonong and Allan sipping San Miguel for balance making Engelbert Humperdinck and LL Cool J on the vidyoke that much easier. We wouldn’t stop until the rain did.
Borracho despues I watched the day break for a thousand power-line perched sparrows outside that 4th-story window. My 1st ever ever-so-moist morning in this place was something to behold. Everything rinsed, glistening brightly with the first light and a renewed sense of hope.
Further south Day 2. Isabela City. Situated on the northwest corner of I think the southernmost province just between the Sulu and Celebes Seas these waters were the wellspring of our offspring. Offering myself completely to the old gods. I felt grateful.
If the Philippines were the pistol, Basilan would be the bullet fired in honor of my maternal great grandparents Pascua. My grandmother who delivered a hundred babies there where my family name was synonymous with crazy there even to so-called terrorists who's right in that fight yes no maybe ... there was no actual fear.
But a self-awareness fsho. And hopes that perhaps my dark skin and newly shaved head would hide my valuable chitown swag long enough for me to fiesta and fill in some blanks. It was beautiful.
When they’re introducing you as
apo de raquel and anak de kambal.
You’re greeted as blood should be
me practicing blessing for the first time.
Refreshing connecting the first lines
the front lines the balance of rain and
the sunshine makes mud.
Makes the sign of the cross. Makes a plate.
Makes baon. Busug.
Then as the sun sets just watch the butiki.
Sleep til rooster crow. Cosa gayot the roosters!
Fighting cocks oblivious to both
my masculinity and jet lag.
I believe they are reincarnations of lovers who were silenced in a past life.
Days 3 & 4.
Tito Tiny kindly arranges travel to and fine hotels in a few touristy destinations. 1st stop - Iloilo - Dinagyang 2017 also known as “shake it fast warrior child” wildly choreographed colonization in all the colors of heaven and earth set to the drums of which dreams are made. A story about an evolutionary trade: native tongues for the king’s speech and Negrito Golden Brown for the Christian crown. Down the line, Heads bow or heads roll.
Let’s ride. Road trip. Roach. Our expert driver in a surprisingly nice ride takes us north across the island bisecting two-lane insanity hella fast along provincial roads barely paved passing thru a valley of shanties. Mahirap na man. Pero bonito
Boracay. To the beach (accent) Beach. Where Tito's high standards would prevail. Availing itself to me. A spectacular site. Hues of blues and a cool breeze beyond breathtaking. Warm waves breaking actually shaping the meaning of paradise.
Maraming tao. I recall being proud to see myself getting pissed about the abuse of the natural majesty of the land and sea. This has to be held sacred. Watching the sunrise alone on the east side of these ancient islands was baptism.
The next week was a blessed blur.
From ziplining to snorkeling
With whale sharks to waterfalls.
From propeller flights to tricycles
Volcanic lakes to mega malls.
All balled up in a fistful of
barely enough time.
I’m forever in your debt.
For everything that you are.
Rich and beautiful.
I topped off the trip with a case of travelers diarrhea via flu-like symptoms on the way home.
Culminating in bubble guts on a whole other level.
Didn’t settle for two weeks at least
My very own bacterial pasalubon.
Rica nursed me back to health
the pouty baby I was.
Having, at last, the strength and patience to process the concept of this life changing experience...I wrote the following.
Colonial patriarchetypes please remove the blade of the spear of destiny you plunged into my heart's heritage, twisting my family’s faith, turning a profit. Extract the shrapnel of bullet steel ball still lodged in the form of poverty consciousness and commercial sugar enslavement. You left it there intentionally to rot to insure your safety from yet another bloody revolution. No worries. Filipinos will not riot. Instead, we will refuse contraception and raise our children to get educated, get paid, and get us (the fuck) out of here.
Humble yourself enough to help make this nation as you would make your own bed. I beg you. Address an economy that has been bent over backwards by the burden of and commercial sugar enslavement brainwashed in to wanting to leave in order to achieve better. I've never been much for violence. But at what point in the process of being beaten is it ok to say stop?
The Philippines is an eden. As I live and breathe in its balance of natural beauty and compassion,
notes to self:
Dr. Jose Rizal said, “the tyranny of some is possible only through the cowardice of others.”
Tyranny has no place in love.
500 miles north of the equator