Adjacent to the house where I stay, is a blue cottage, somewhat humbler than this construction, but a bit more of a typical Philippine homestead in a rural setting. You might say, in comparison, it’s a little less finished! Therefore, it has no glass in the widows, though it still has the obligatory bars. The curtains are more or less, large covers or possibly blankets, all of which have nothing in common with each other, or don’t match like ours might do back in the land of floral matching draperies. (There seems to be a distinct lack of keeping up with the Jones. Get my drift?) ? A strip of weather beaten corrugated iron hangs over one widow to deflect the afternoon sun. One unfortunate scenario about all this for them is it’s a voyeuristic paradise for me. Better than watching TV, right? It is similar to most of the other homes around here, is the one level, and is isolated, set among banana plantations, Narra trees (the national tree of the Philippines) Mango trees, Gmelina trees, pineapple plants, Cacao tree (the chocolate tree) coconut palms, as well as many other plants I am yet to identify.
Free range chickens with their offspring browse the high grasses for free food offerings and scraps I have thrown over the hard core perimeter fence, they seem to like mango peel as well as watermelon. I hope though, not the egg shells, I try to hide them. The lane that services this house as well as ours is merely a track, though well maintained and oddly, like a lot of these lanes, there are peculiar parts that have been set in concrete. This lane for example, which is about 2 miles long, has 5 or 6 of these strips. As to why this is, it’s a mystery. I am mealy setting the scene. It is serviced by intermittent street lights of which there are light switches, and a guy who comes around via his motorbike to turn them on. I saw him one evening, whilst I was standing next to one in the rain. Sheepishly and sensibly, he pushed the switch with a piece of dry wood so as not to light up himself as well as the world around him.
My point being is, that the little Blue house over yonder! Is, a focal point. When the lights go out, it is the only light out there, otherwise it’s darker than a blind, black cat in a coal mine, the way it should be, which I happen to really appreciate. So, it is similar to viewing a TV set whilst I’m sat there with Mr Miguel and Mr Hendrix, watching from my watch tower, or in affluent suburban speak, from my veranda. It is now so familiar I have to describe it, they are probably doing the same as I speak because equally they stare this way? Last night when there lights went out I shared the darkness with a stray firefly, it was a special moment. Anyway, despite all the mod cons I have in my security compounded palace, what I don’t have that they do, is a community spirit. Some Kids come to my gate sporadically and ask me for food, water and now money, of which I have become a little bit skeptical of lately due to an increasing persistence, which at first I thought was a novelty. In recent times I found out its better to pretend I am sleeping when I hear my name chanted and the gates rattled. Call me what you want, it just a hunch that I have, as I have been there before. I prefer to get to know the local store holder who knows more than I as I tend to use his advice for inspiration.
The local store, or sari sari store (variety) is where I buy my beer and other needed necessities, I’ve got to know the guy who works there, and we often chat about the day and he is my reference book to fauna, local events or other pending questions I have thought up.
I digress. Every Sunday evening, this enchanting little cottage coverts from a family dwelling into a gathering of locals who use it to sing and chant magic spells in Christian tongues. It comparable to going from the adverts to watching a full feature, yes I am that sad! I have even been out on the road where I think safely I was disguised in the dimness, so I might get a nearer look. Now, it is getting closer to the holy of holy days, the most auspicious date in this 2000 year old calendar. (The turkey apocalypse) The enthusiasm levels are set to the max, where Mr cynical and Mr Miguel both scratch their heads, in their own solitary, self-pitying darkness. It’s actually pleasant and still comforting, to listen to the human voice in that way, and somewhere in the deep recesses of my memory stirs distant visions of how it felt to participate in a choir. Given the choice over the painful egoistically driven Karaoke I have heard, I know which I prefer.
Jesus’s birthday celebrations are begun here in September, they have the longest period for this celebration in the world, A 4 month Christmas special, imagine that, I have come to the right place! It just so happens I like bread and fish and a sing song, just not the dark glasses. There is a distinct lack of pine trees here, so plastic trees do the job aptly enough. Star shaped lanterns (The Parol represents the Star of Bethlehem) are the norm to show off your allegiance with your own decorative light displays, but all the other JC inspired paraphernalia is there too. Smoke and mirrors anyone?
I am becoming more acquainted with my existence here, as I have got used to the pace of life and the turning heads. The day’s routine too has become familiar, though still offers up surprises as I still find new locations and byways to move down. One of these repetitive, ritualistic practices does include sun worship. The heavenly orb in the sky, the giver of life, this paradox in religion, the real celestial ruler, this mother and its pathway to the other reality of opposition, the darkness, has provided me with some spectacular colour shows. When the rains were around and the accompanying skyline was equipped with clouds, these views where enhanced beyond belief. As if the big colouring canvas in the sky had been commissioned by some top name artist, or saint, who has painted these nebula forms in a never ending, transforming chameleon like way. I cannot recall having witnessed such a regularity of grandeur on such a frequent basis ever before. So much so, that every nights a winner. I am under a blood red sky, in the company of these vibrant dyes as the swallow’s come for their feast. Acrobatic assaults with such delicacy and accuracy taking the beasties of the dark from feasting on my blood. Ocean crafts are now returning from the far beyond disturbing the water in circular liquid vapour trails, bringing back the migrants or the transformed under water alien life forms to an oxygenated new world. All around there seems to be this stillness, tranquility, were water and air collided, merge then disappear. The show is over to the naked eye. I imagine the light switch man on his nocturnal tour, is well underway by now, as if by magic, artificial suns in human residences begin there shinning hours. The other world has begun, Spiderman time. This darkness is deemed by some still to be evil.
” But for believers darkness will be dispelled by the presence of the light of the glory of God (Rev 21:23-24 ; 22:5)” It says in the book of ”light?” A subdivision of belief, explained via man, of dueling realities, by the definition of light and dark that is so perplexing but yet is so apparent, still, out here.
Last night, after natures laser light show concluded, I pulled up the steed into the local market and the consensual browsing match began, where it felt more like I had just been dropped off by the “star ship Enterprise.“ As perhaps I viewed the variety of new fish in the same way they registered me. The catch was so fresh there they were winking at me as I passed by. I bought myself some Danggit, (rabbit fish) and/or Kitong fish (larger version of the Danggit) took them home and along with some wine and bread …. Sung without the words.
The kids came back, and sung me some Christmas carols. They were unfamiliar to me. (The carols) I paid them with peanuts, literally and I heard them later shouting from the lane, thanking me. Shitmas, it might be to me, but I know it’s an exciting and exalting time for children. I remember it fondly. Then the world is a different place, much more magical and mysterious though, where superstitions are handed down and formulated.
The veil of night is a vast expanse of this beautiful, understated solidifying colour, with countless tiny holes punched in it that reveals the seemingly small expanding and contracting lights, millions of potential Bethlehem’s looking down on me, making me wonder how really we could come up with such crazy ideas of a one man ownership status. Back on native soil that sickly orange glow that radiates across cityscapes blots out this creation, and I ponder if somehow we are being deprived of such a wonder.