Once upon an island!

By Jing Villamil


IN these grim days of quaking bursting flooding crusting earth, of abusive corrupting power, of hunger and thirst and neglect and never-mind-them, of viruses and men gone deadly haywire . . . she had not forgotten the many a lifetime she had spent on this, their island. Where quiet is the word; and colors spoke more than prolific!

Of darkly bluish mountain tops, shedding the blue, shading lighter to teal while sloping sliding down to coconut fronds; of rice fields, emeralds then golden browns in flatlands, and; green snakes sashaying their slim graceful poisonous length round boys’ necks.

Of white pebbled beaches peopled not, but with grayish greenish rocks – their proud watchers, their soldiers more ancient than everyone or everything else thereabout. One stood on the rocks’ topmost ledge and voila! One’s cellphone shall work! Beats saddling a horse or horse-riding a Honda to the nearest Smart or Globe tower lots of kilometers away through narrow crumbly stony footpaths!

Those island days were spent mostly in idle contemplation – of the sun, the sands and the sons of man – fishers of fish, fishers of souls, and the rest of the folks living by the shores gripping handholds up down the tricky tipsy fisher’s line.

And in-between the shameful idleness, she and her cousins gorged on endless broiled fish, octopuses, highland shrimps, coconuts, pineapples, and the occasional shark fin that failed to fin-is on board the Japanese or Taiwanese fisherboats.

And gorged, too, they did on the tales bound to those rocks, those shores. Tales that flickered with the fireflies lighting up the current-less dusk to dawn. The cousins and their sleepless older or younger kins surround a flickering tree and the tales of myth and truth Sensurround until the hyped hypnotic roaring of the sea lulled them to sleep, pebbles poking and sand bugs feasting on their soft backs And arms and legs. No dengue there; only malaria.

Sometime though, they interrupted the idyll and hopped on an old stainless jeep that had been brakeless for long knew when. The machine though was kept clean and oiled and purring. She would take on the wheels, she would let the jeep hug two-wheels up the mountain edge for brakes. It was that or they would plunge down the embankment and the rocks and sea waiting below. Otherwise, the 30-minutes to 1-hour trip was a noisy trip but lots more fun with the never-ending screams of Hala! and Ay! and Kapit sa tenga! They would follow the scent towards civilization. For a bottle of unimaginably chilled cola which bubbles a-biting a-curling down the throat; for a plump bowl of halo-halo with ube and pineapple mixed outrageously for ingredients, or; a five-peso worth of videoke girly coyly singing of smiling though one’s heart was aching, breaking!

It was there where she lost a precious bit of her heart, when a true son of the island threw her a farewell glance of the most love she had ever felt and seen. And the most pain, the most tears not seen but knew had been shed nevertheless. He was not seen by her, ever again. Not a touch shared; only a bit of air breathed together a distance apart, once in an island.

How many lives must one live before one leaves this life? Fools seldom brake to count. They rush headlong to God knows where. Bog.

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