This tunnel of lights, of hearts, of life
By Jing Villamil
SHE wished for a symbol that would again awaken her people’s hearts, their hopes and sights. Because, for the recent past, their collective hearts had throbbed merely to survive; and their hopes and sights had merely peered round the corner to an impermanence beyond.
Her town cannot be this hopeless; it cannot be this hapless and, surely, not this sightless. It used to be most admired! The heartiest, bravest, fightingest town and people in these parts when it came to setting sights far towards the future. So dreamer that she was (is!), she thought: I believe all my people need is a rallying sign, a symbol! To ignite the now-timid fire in their hearts, to unite them once more, to light and guide their way onwards! Our way! We have stumbled so many times.
A spark! On the first of December 2019, Mayora Emma Zosima Chan, of the Municipality of Pozorrubio, Province of Pangasinan, switched on the sparklers of the town’s first ever Tunnel of Lights! And they who had always been one with her (staff, friends, supporters), and surely even those who were not . . . they saw the Mayor was more than right!
The Pozorrubians flocked to the tunnel, curious at first, then proud – singly, as couples, in groups, families, barkadas, alumni batches, balikbayans, bara-barangay, etc. Pre-season, throughout Christmas and New Year, Fiesta 2020 and their 150th Founding Anniversary! The walkers, the strollers through the tunnel were urged to hang their own decorations, cards, messages for a more personal touch! They learned: “this tunnel was planned, made for us. By our Ina! This is ours!” Big eyes, awed mouth, tears in their eyes! Smiley pictures were taken, sent to forever saved. And shared to all corners of the world, where they whom they loved and who loved them more, began again to not be afraid, to not lose hope for their town, their families, their people back home! Not all is lost manaya.
On Valentine’s Day, the Tunnel of Lights was again ablaze! This time, up there with the sparklers and crawling along its kukuti-kutitap length were hearts of all sizes and designs and colours! To welcome lovers and all! And a photo booth to boot!
And then, they sighed. All is not light and love. COVID-19 did not spare them; it dropped like a bomb in their midst, and their lives will never be the same. Now they wage this most serious, very unfair battle with an unseen who turned their world upside down, their just re-awakened economy frozen in time, the children’s education on hold, so many unemployed, transportation reduced to walking, etc. They were locked-down, locked-in, home quarantined! And death does not choose which door to knock.
After personally overseeing the daily, weekly distribution of rice and food to feed the increasing numbers of the foodless among her people, their Ina looked around. “There is this one more thing to do . . .”
The tunnel of lights, of hearts (dismantled and stored for the next holidays), is transformed to a Tunnel to Life. It now holds up, supports the walls to house Persons Under Monitoring (PUM) under the guardianship of the Mayor’s Office, DOH, Rural Health Center, PNP. These are her people, too; they who cannot be quarantined in their own houses for lack of isolation room or space. For lack of a house or a family.
The Tunnel of Lights, of Hearts – which had called on the people to smile and to hope again, to see and rise beyond their selves, and to work hawak-kamay for a revived, better Pozorrubio . . . calls out to them once more, its arms of pipes and tubes, seeming to say . . “now, let us save lives. Yours, and those you love.”
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