Saturday, September 06, 2014
On the Road to Boston, Davao Oriental
That day, we took the road that diverged from the highway in Trento, Agusan del Sur, cutting through huge swathe of plantation area that would later give way to the long stretch of land where nothing much seemed to be happening after the trail of the typhoon. The road brought us by midday to a torn bridge that connected the land of Agusan to Surigao del Sur. I was alarmed to discover that the British-Indian (or was it Indian-British?) humanitarian aid worker knew the area better than I did; she said she spent her Christmas there, she flew in after the devastation of Pablo, which hit us on December 4, 2012; I felt awkward and embarrassed when I realized she had been elected as our guide for this trip. No one knew the area better than she did and she had several local contacts. So, I pretended there was nothing unusual or extraordinary about that as I sat next to a British communications officer, spending her last weeks in the Philippines before flying back to London to wait for her reassignment to South Africa. Who are these people, I asked myself. Wasn’t it a bit insulting for a journalist—who grew up in Mindanao all her life—only to be guided by a foreigner from the other side of the world in her own territory? I was thinking then, this might be a new kind of conquest, something that is designed to make you feel totally emasculated, helpless in your own land? She was a sweet, handsome woman, bubbly with a lot of sense of humor. I was reading Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure” at this time, its paperback copy, I secretly sneaked into one of my backpack pockets, but I refrained from asking her about the place where Hardy used to live and the places he wrote about; most people in my circle thought Thomas Hardy was the author of The Hardy Boys, but I realized I did not want to spoil my T.H. pleasure with what I might discover.