Wham! - Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go
my husband is from a town named Abuyog in the island of Leyte. Tacloban, the island’s major city, is thirty miles north. he and i met in Tacloban when I was in college doing overseas volunteer work; and he was in law school in Tacloban at the time. his mom has continued to run their family’s business, Abuyog’s main gas station, after his dad passed away last year. his sister and her son live there too, running the bar he opened in college.
we watched typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda hit Leyte and Samar last friday in increasing horror, and by the next wednesday it was clear that R had to return and tend to things back home.
it took him several days to get to Leyte, and when he did his mom was waiting for him in Baybay, a port town east of Abuyog on the other side of the island. she was looking to hire an electrician to fix the gas station’s pumps, which had been knocked out along with the rest of the town.
Abuyog, which was directly in the eye of the storm, miraculously suffered zero casualties, but the town was completely destroyed. most of the town’s women had left by the friday after the storm, but my husband’s mom and sister stubbornly stayed to run what was left of their family businesses.
R returned to Abuyog with his mom and reunited with his sister and has been working on beefing up the police force in the town, which has by many reports been ransacked by looters and escaped convicts.
a childhood friend of his contacted me on Facebook to connect a medical team from Manila with his family’s gas station so they could refuel once they reach Abuyog. hopefully they’ll make a connection.
despite his own and everyone else’s advice, he traveled to Tacloban to survey the damage and search for friends and extended family members. his family’s condos were completely demolished. he said there were still bodies lying in the streets, and everyone had a sad story. he didn’t have the heart to take a picture.
R and i were both able to locate some names of friends we were looking for, but neither of us have heard much from people we know in Tacloban.
thousands of refugees have fled to Cebu, Manila and elsewhere, and not many are likely to return.
he returned to Cebu to find supplies for his mom, then he’ll go back to Abuyog and stay for a week or more before going back to the embassy in Manila to finalize his US passport application (he naturalized last year, but hasn’t applied for a passport yet). there’s no cell service, or much electricity, just about anywhere in Leyte, so i won’t hear from him until he returns to Cebu or Manila. he’ll likely spend Christmas with his mom and sister while waiting for the application, which he plans on spending trying to convince them to leave and return with him to Manila and eventually the US, but that will probably be in vain, because they are “fierce”, in his words, and strong and independent and won’t leave.
honestly, if i were in their position, i wouldn’t leave either.
i heardan interview with a man who is rebuilding the frame of his house near the seawall from scraps of the rubble; he’s rebuilding and not leaving because it was the house where his mother and father were killed, and he couldn’t leave their memory. another woman nearby also refuses to leave. she is looking for the bodies of her three children, whose faces she needs to see.
after an inhumanely sluggish start, aid has started to trickle in to the island. military forces and aid organizations from across the world have arrived to help, most notably 9,000 US service men and women accompanied by the USS George Washington & co.
the aid pouring in to Tacloban, Palo and Guiuan hasn’t reached Abuyog yet, as far as i know, and it’s not likely to for some time longer because of its remote location.
Leyte will take a long time to rebuild.
i found this poem on a Facebook thread for those with loved ones in the Waray-Waray region:
A Father’s House
Tatay is crying
Like a real man
Walls don’t stand
Roofs don’t cover
He sees death
He smells death
Tatay is crying
More and more
He cannot find us
He cannot find our bodies
A poem by Hensley Banzales
the image cuts even deeper, if you have the stomach to click through.
if you’re reading this, please don’t forget to give what you can to the Red Cross.
as I know Tacloban, it is lush. and filthy. and filled of beguiling nooks and crannies.
there are colors, and shanties, and beautiful unattainable houses, and quashed kittens, and orphans, and mahjong.
there are mussels for sale 20p per bucket at the wet market, and the mangoes are to die for
families live here
where gangsters and children and hard, hardened middle class workers roam.
I am a tourist, uncolorful. and far too tall for a woman. bratty boys call me HEY JOE in the streets, like huge mosquitoes. it isn’t my home, I am a foreigner in it.
like a true outsider, I want to take a piece of it with me, always. the alluring mornings and house geckos, and my homestay mother’s lilting, educated english and the flock of children at the orphanage: I want to put them in my tote and carry it back to my senior thesis.
then a filipino at a party makes a pass at me by name-dropping Hemmingway, and life turns a different color.
for the first date, I sit at San Jose cafe waiting and he never comes. for the second date, we have coffee and he makes his pitch and I kind of like it and we go have drinks with people when we’d rather be alone. on the third date, I accidentally ask him to be my girl-group’s tour guide to a sexy overnight remote beach getaway. to be clear: we do NOT have sex. on the fourth date, he brings me to the remote, colonial-reminiscent Marjorie’s Gardens, because it bears my name, and because it has sleeping grass to tease.
on the fifth date, he invites me to his hometown. Abuyog, land of mighty bumble-bees.
his tiny, well-built house is separated from his mother’s ancestral house by a dirt courtyard, which is guarded by a chicken which will eventually be eaten.
he has exactly my taste in movies. his DVD stack has all the existential romances, and only a little porn.
he shows me the secret beaches, where I collect hermit crabs. people at parties stare at us because his hands are all over me.
when I leave, I leave with a K-1 visa application in hand, and a promise from the boy I met in Tacloban, and when I return to the States, I submit it. the visa blossoms in to a green card, solidified by marriage, and six years later it evolves into a certificate of naturalization.
atey Susan, my homestay mother in Barangay 64, has a baby a few years later who shares my birthday and has rare curly hair and Facebook-perfect features.
Tacloban’s many residents, and politicians, and orphans and quashed kittens and Abuyog’s mommy and daddy and atey go about their business without the boy I’ve plucked away.
Diana has a son she names Enoch. the boy and I fight, and make up, and make a baby, and fight and make up again. two parents die, and the sun in Abuyog shines but not with he and I and the baby, who are far away.
I know he always thinks of home.
land of the Bumble-Bees
the Bisaya, the fierce, the warriors who are above all others,
I know he misses them, his ancestral house, and Jonjon’s bakery, and his mother telling him what to do over and over and over again.
the secret places, the seminary in Palo. the smell of tides. the spring of the dirt under his shoes.
he holds it close in his heart, because it is truly beautiful, and fragile,
like the orchids
in his grandmother’s garden