The Road to Pangpang
It's not that I don't have much to say. It's that I have too much to say and the nature of what I experience day in, day out, is sometimes too much to put into words for public viewing. Some of it can't be written down as the PC sensors may be reading.
But here goes. I road my bike the other day down the road that leads to the beach, where there is a small nipa hut resort for touristas who come six months out of the year to see the whalesharks or butanding here. Beyond the gate of Woodland Beach Resort, the road continues and is sometimes so muddy that it becomes impassable and you must take a boat to get to the communities that lie beyond. Last Sunday, my beach bike was a perfect match for the muddy road (it is only paved in patches) and I followed it, not knowing exactly where it would go.
Up over a hill. Okay, I had to walk the bike a bit! And then a cut through a mountain, around a curve and down a steep hill. I had the sense that it's not a place foreign tourists venture to often, if ever. At the base of the hill, I came upon Pangpang. The tiny barangay of nipa huts on the beach and fishing boats moored just off shore. Coconut trees dotting the shoreline. Men looking up from their drinking circle to stare. Children shouting "Americana, Americana!" and following along on foot or bikes as I passed through the village. A man grinning at the scene from his Sari-Sari store, where he sells candy, cigarettes and 30s of San Miguel beer and bottles of bourbon. A cool breeze blowing at my face and the tiny little waves lapping on the shore.
I felt a bit like Dorothy landing in Oz. Pangpang is not that far away, but it might as well be. No stores or tricycles or Jeepneys. Just little huts and simple people, passing the time of day on a Sunday afternoon. I stopped to talk to a woman and a group of children after one of the kids proudly asked in English, "What's your name?" I'm not sure they even know what they are asking half the time, but it's one of the sentences some kids here seem to know. That, and "Where are you going?" The woman didn't speak English and I used my limited Tagalog, but we ended up having a conversation somehow. She wanted to know if I was a tourist and explained that many tourists didn't come to visit Pangpang. When I explained I was not and that I lived in a nearby barangay, she wanted to know more. We spoke for about 20 minutes and laughed and the kids listened and giggled. And I rode off, back home, down the road to Pangpang.
There are moments, days like that, when I feel this is all worth it. To stumble across a charming fishing village in a foreign land and come out of it having made a new friend. It's the simple life here, on the off the beaten paths, where I find the most solace, the places where I feel most at home. It's the little things too that make me laugh when I'm feeling homesick -- like watching two men pull a goat behind a motorcycle. Slowly, of course. Our the thought that I am regularly eating squid, eyeballs and all. Or when the house helper, Edna, starts belting out "Nobody's Perfect" by Madonna in very imperfect English.
Okay, back to reality. I am working a lot at school these days and juggling about as many things as I used to try to juggle in my old life. So much for the laid back Peace Corps, right? I am busy and preparing to leave for two weeks of training in Manila later this week. We had a clean-up day at school today to try to get rid of some of the garbage. The kids have a bad habit here of throwing trash everywhere but in a garbage can. Much of my other work is planning for future workshops and projects. I have a girls' leadership camp when I return from training and some journalism workshops to conduct in the Schools' Division Office in Sorsogon, about an hour and a half away. I am also trying to make time to get the library project up and running. I was pleasantly surprised to receive two big boxes of books and books on tapes from my old editor at Scholastic, Inc. Thank you Elizabeth!! The trick now is to find places to put the books. We need to get shelves built, etc., and will have to fundraise locally to make that happen. I will write more on the library project once our local committee meets and has a plan. Stay tuned.