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August 9, 2012     Times
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August 9, 2012

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19 ALONG THE SILK ROAD - Vol. 18 - By Scott Tate The sun shining on the side of the mountain was reflected in golden aura from the deep snow accumulated from the departirig winter. Rarely vis le due to the dust and smoke trapped in this inverted valley bowl, the scene was even more pro- nounced due to the visibility scarcely pres- ent here. It was a May morning in Kabul, shortly after sunrise, and the scene was so breathtaking it was a common topic of conversation that day. One of those moments so unusual and so captivating that it touches your soul. Regardless of your beliefs, you come away with the feeling of a being far greater that ' makes your own issues seem miniscule. Moments like these stir the embers of your faith restoring their flames and you walk away knowing no matter your situation that you will persevere The sun and snow on the mountain was a reminder that during winter, s peak I was able to escape from winter's grasp to another place where the warmth of the sun accompanied the beauty of its glow. The New Year started off with me in the Philippines, burning off the balance of my vacation. Landing in Manila, a connect- ing flight took me to Cebu, where a prear, ranged van waited to drive me three hours south to my final stop at Moalboal. Moallboal lies on the coast of one of the southern islands. After miles of hills and them where to find me and to look for the man with the long hair. I was the only one of my kind there, imagine that. Like many small towns, most everyone is related somehow and everyone soon kne v my name. I was introduced to three different sets of sisters who were all cous- ins. Later I met a few brothers, nieces, nephews and their friends. Within a few days people I hadn't met were calling me by my name. English is required in the schools here and communication with the people is fairly easy. Other than a few breakfasts in solitude, I never ate alone. I was always accompa- nied by a few sisters and their cousins. They would eat sparingly and then ask for approval to invite their other relatives to eat the balance, or take the leftovers to them. Life is tough in this part of the curves through the lush green tropical foli- age associated with the mention of south- world and, meal to meal survival is the east Asia, the jungle stops just short of the pattern. white sand beaches for which the area of Generosity is ingrained in them and Panagsama Beach is known, sharing is part of their nature as is man- Small resorts have sprung up through the ners and caring. Sure they like material years that are more like ranch style motels things and have want for them, but their with open air corridors no pool and pos- circumstances and culture have taught sibly an open-air restaurant that opens them people are important, not things. late ai ernoon. The one where I stayed Several afternoons of thunderstorms had no phone, no TV; and the water was left several of them with head colds and warmed by a tank on the roof heated by coughs. They were deeply touched when the sun. However, it had a private veranda I bought them medicine. A gesture many that opened right on the beach and other would take for granted. than the crashing of the waves offered the One of the cousins, Margie, was turn- solitude of a rural country home, And like hag 21 and had never had a birthday cake. a country home, the housekeeper would We traveled by motorbike to a jungle take dirty laundry to her sister and return house, where a lady made cakes for such it the following day with all spots cleaned occasions. Margie would only tell me she and folded with the love of a mother. And wanted a mango cake but not the size. The like the love of a mother the place ema- lady baker eventually pulled me to the nated a feeling of safety and security and I side and explained I had to pick the size slept at night with the door unlocked, because it would have bean considered The town itself is a fishing village, where impolite if Margie made the choice. many still earn a living from what the sea From the cake baker we traveled to the has to offer. These men are like the fisher- local market and bought fresh fish, fresh men of old and paddle kayak type boats pork hanging from hooks and varieties of into the water and catch fish with hand fresh fruit. The menu was completed by a held baited lines while viewing the depths 40 pound bag of rice. with a snorkel mask. On a good day a fish- The festivities were held at one of their erman might catch enough to earn $80 US jungle houses. A thatched house on stilts, dollars, but good days aren't a given, it had a tin roof and openings in the walls One of the main attractions here is the for air movement. A small electric line deep sea diving. A French dive instruc- powered the lone light bulb that illumi- tor with the patience of Job coaxed me nated its ground floor living room on dirt. through m}; certificate to dive to 100 feet They had few plates or utensils and sex,- during my stay. It was because of the eral were purchased during our shopping diving, the beach and its convenience from trip that day. Water was dipped from a my part of the world why I came here. barrel of r "amwater to wash our plates and Coming off the dive boat one day I heard prepare our food. The fish and pork were my name being called by two local women smoked over an open fire. I had never seen. Their English was good Since I was the guest, I and two of the and they explained my friend had told girls were allowed to eat first at the small wooden table barely big enough for the When the cockfights started we went to three of us. Food was shared from plates the ring where the handlers paraded their and drinks from glasses; known as Fili- feathered gladiators and moneyexchanged pino style. There weren't enough eating hands with the bookies amongst us. utensils to go around. A sharp curved knife was tied to each When the cake was served, the word rooster's foot near the spur. With every spread and the neighborhood kids lined contest, the battle was a short one made up. Cake is a rarity to afford here and more humane by the sharpened metal when someone gets one, they all share, spur extensions A rarity occurred when Besides the cake, Margie's other lone two white roosters fought tothe draw and request was for a karaoke machine. A call neither survived. Nothing is wasted here was made and before nightfall two stout and the losers end up on a dinner table Filipinos carted a glorified TV assembly shortly thereafter. strung on ropes from bamboo poles the There is something to be said for having long distance from the road to the house, your own personal tour guides. Treated as They love to sing karaoke here and it is one of their own I experienced a people easier to participate than deal with their and their way of life that I otherwise peer pressure. I sang a Happy Birthday would have never understood. They were solo to Margie to fulfill her last birth- amazed at how I could eat With them, be day request. Cases of San Miguel were understanding of their poverty and accept brought in and along with the homemade them as equals. I was in equal wonder that coconut wine, known as tuba, the festivity they welcomed me into their life. hit full stride. Even the grandfather of the Like them, my dad was from a large clan joined in with an all out performance family and grew up poor. Regardless of of song and dance, where he was, my dad had the ability to A good memory is a gift that lasts for- lie down and sleep as if he were in the ever and the party for what I received in familiar comfort and security of his bed at return left us all happy. I was brought back home. For years I contemplated this trying later in the week for another family meal to figure out his secret. A few months ago sans the party. I told this to my wife and with her ability Another party invitation went out for to see things in a different light she quickly an event a few days later. A local couple summed it up. "It's easy", she said, "it's planned a small Catholic wedding at the called faith and your dad had it." chizrch in town and afterwards a reception Well now it made perfect sense. Indeed in a small open-air restaurant where I had he did and so did my Filipino adopted many meals. We'd already made other family as like' my dad they are no strang- plans and couldn't attend. They needed a ers to hardship. Some learn faith due to camera for a few pictures and word was circumstances in which they are born, sent out they wanted to borrow mine. where going hungry and doing without Remember, money is tight here and no are a regular way of life. Then there are ATM's even exist. How could I say no? others like the guy with long hair who had We spent one day dedicated to Kawasan to travel halfway around the world, spend Falls. Again we hit the local market and two weeks in a country with people he stocked up on food, including whole had never met and ask a question about smoked chickens. Nine of us loaded into a his dad he'd spent his whole life trying to motorcycle taxi barely able to power itself figure out. much less its inhabitants. We traveled to Regardless of your faith, I hope you close to two hours eating our chicken don't experience hardship to get its mean- and rocking to the hills and curves on the ing or travelthe path of the longhaired man narrow road to the park. for it to make sense. I wish you a moment A walk along a jungle trail led us to the like that which comes from seeing the sun first falls, where we cooked our fresh pork shining on a snow covered mountain one and had another family style meal at an May morning in Afghanistan. open aired fall side pavilion. A few of us traversed the rock trail to the most upper falls and swam in its pool. Cold water Pul feeds this river system and made ot/r swim Mt. aski Times a short one. The upper pool is adorned with a Saint Mary statue, indicative of the . JSPS NO. 365-660 country's catholic influence. The park is is published semi-monthly mostly untouched in its natural state and (twenty-four times-issues) its surroundings almost surreal in their beauty, per year by Our motorcycle trike got us back to Michael Lakin, 311 S. Washington St Moalboal later that day, but not without Mt. Pulaski, Illinois 62548. Business and Editorial Offices: a breakdown that had us wondering if Accounting and Circulation Offices: another nature hike was in store until our Michael Lakin, 311 S. Washington St driver pulled out his tool pack and per- Mt. Pulaski, Illinois 62548. Calf 217-792-5557 to subscribe. forrned a 1Tlirade. Periodical Postage is paid~t Mt. Pulaski, IL 6,2548 A trip to this part of the world is not POSTMASTER: complete without a visit to the cockfights. Send address changes to: Not caring much for violence and having Mt. Pulaski Times, C/O Michael Lakin, a fondness for animals I was a little hesi- POBox 114-311 S. Washington tant, but it is part of the culture. It was a Mt. Pulaski, Inmois 62548 complete festival with food and drinks, musicandlaughter. I was even pulled into Office: 217-792-5557 a tent and volunteered to drop the coin in S/ fr0k -- a game ofchanceto wager on which side time it landed.