The Martirs

By: Michael Galvez

Bump, bump – ouch -, another bump…its rocky and dusty but the ride comes to a complete stop. Off goes Velina and Kaitlyn, they will live here – Where are we? Dazed by the rurality of the surroundings, the multicab creeks on…but stops just a little further up. John and Ricky shuffle out but are stopped. The other house is more preferable for Ricky, whose work is nearer. Back on goes the two and off goes Horace and I, in front of this eye-catching blue shelter to which we were going to call home for the next 3 weeks.

G0010027.JPGAirish Jay Martir

Although many may find it hard to throw the label ‘home’ around so easily, reserving it only for the most comfortable and familiar of places, it is difficult not to fall for the homeliness and feel a sense of belonging here, most especially at our place. Having been in Guimaras just over a week and a half now, I can describe these experiences as snapshots in one 24-hour day:

12am onwards – The hot itchy nights I spent at first wriggling around in bed, trapped and surrounded my the swathes of green mesh, or your best defense against those annoying creatures we clap at to pancake them between our palms (mosquitoes – excuse the extended analogy); “pitter-patter” drops of rain dance gracefully on the tin roof before breaking out into a drug-induced rave, in which the night becomes alive, the endless storm with bullets of rain attempting to pierce the tin sheets separating myself from the rainstorm, ready to swallow up the house and everyone in it.

G0140195.JPGAttempting to capture the lightning storm

4:30am – There is a eerie but surprisingly soothing quiet. The darkness still obscures the fresh life brought about by the rains, the dampened earth, the moisture still clinging onto the foliage. Flashes of lightning continue and as I drift back to sleep, the roar of an engine signals the start of the day for our host dad, whose truck chuffs away towards the farmlands.

6:30am – I’m weary but the kids have to start their day, done with music and the clatter of plates, shuffling of feet, movement. The sounds reverberate throughout the whole house, seeping through the thin wooden walls that merely section off each of the rooms. A rooster crows and the insects are singing.

7am onwards – This is my window to wake up (7-8:30am). What I wake up to is surprisingly, a rare silence in the house. There is breakfast on the table, sitting under the rattan food cover shielded from the menacing flies. Horace wakes just a little after me. We sit at the table and while we eat breakfast, the finality of the morning is symbolized by our host mum as she gets ready to leave the house. We clear up, ignoring her pleas to leave our dishes on the table for her to clear them up. The house is now silent as our now, our day begins. Our host mum is doing laundry as we leave for where we need to be.

Midday/Afternoon-ish – These have rarely been spent at the house. Its too silent and the sun beats down on you, although if still there by midday (12pm), a lunch of clear soup with fish, fried fish and rice seems routine. The house is surrounded by farmland, vast plains all around, dotted around it are the 27 windmills across 4 Barangays in San Lorenzo, kept together by a vast blue sky. It has rained a few times, but the rain refreshes everything and afterwards you can’t help but look up at the blue again behind the now parted clouds.

GOPR0110.JPGEndless windmills

5pm – “Shot” – this is the call to gather on the porch. “Ice” – our host dad calls out to which his sons obediently run into the kitchen to get. “Tubig” (Water) – to which another darts into the kitchen for. As the glasses come out, so does the bottle of rum or brandy, and so does the drinking begin. These moments are not heavy and rowdy but rather, according to the locals, a time for which the farmers to relax and unwind after a long hard day on the fields. There is an unexpected silence that one does not expect together with alcohol consumption. Their sons are close by, playing around on their rectangular devices with bright screens and cool-sounding beats blaring from these devices. Their youngest son is a cute menace. Only 2 years old, he knows no fear, for his toys are anything from saws (yes- the ones carpenters use) to…actually anything that activates any of the 5 senses – he particularly enjoys putting things that he shouldn’t in his mouth. He keeps the house alive, sounds and words that don’t yet seem to be proper words, but his attempts to form these phrases and sentences are cute.

7pm – Dinner, food food food. To which is enjoyed now, as opposed to earlier, by the company of most of the family (In the beginning, Horace and I would eat separately and by ourselves on the dinner table). We’ve had great conversations, our host mum acting as the translator to the father, whose endless stories and chats are shrouded in the Ilonggo dialect, of which I don’t understand.

8:30pm onwards – The day has ended…wait what? 8:30pm?

……….

Yes thats right…Im showered and in bed this time, frantically moving things like laptops, phones, wires, water etc. between the confines of my mosquito net-protected bed and outside. The brightness of my laptop is blinding as I struggle to read the words as my eyes start to become heavy. I turn from side to side, the cool air from the fan against my hot, sweaty back is as comforting as the silence of the house once again. The time check is around 10pm and in two hours, the day repeats, albeit with yet a different hymn to which the insects sing, a different time at which the rain may fall, perhaps a different food to excite my senses and a different sight to see and experience.

 

 

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