In Jomgao, people call the river “salog,” (sa-log), pronouncing saaa with a drawl before dropping fast the “log.” Saaaaalog, not salog, the Visayan word for floor, which you pronounce by dropping the two syllables very fast, one after the other. As a five-year-old arriving in my mother’s hometown for the first time, I was met by the sight of an enchanting white rock, partly covered by clinging green vines, hovering over the river. An older boy cousin, excited over our arrival, pointed to me the river, told me it was the saaaaa—log.
But I was enchanted by the white limestone rock hovering over it. I had never seen anything like it. It was a rock the color of old cathedrals. Its sheer beauty stuck to my mind, populated my dreams. Salog, for me was not the river but that white limestone rock hovering over it, a sight so enchanting, I could never, never get over it.
So, every time I go home to Jomgao and get lost on my way to the Aunts, I’d ask people where the salog was, hoping to recover my bearing. They would point the river—any river—to me. But no—I meant the salog, the real salog, that part of the river in Jomgao, where an enchanting white promontory hovered above, where I imagined Mangao and his wife Maria Cacao discreetly passing by on a stormy night, aboard an obscurely small boat full of chocolate bars.