The last time I traveled by boat was in 2002 from Bohol, Philippines to my hometown. I was with a new friend then. We were just getting to know each other, and he was really nice. So even if it was very dark, star-less night at midnight as we hung out on the stern of the ship, and all I could see was the white foam on the big waves, I didn’t want the evening to end. (I always find it interesting looking back how when I was younger, I was not easily scared by dangerous situations — bombings, typhoons, big waves — for as long as I was with a guy I liked! How silly was that?!)
These days I would rather travel by plane than be on a ship, especially if I have to travel in the evening. I don’t care if Bradley Cooper is on the same ship, I would never travel by boat at night.
Northern Mindanao, Philippines
Don’t get me wrong. I love the sea, the ocean. See, I made this watercolor because I really like this view of a boat sailing on the sea. When I made this, I was imagining myself being on that boat watching the horizon. But now several months have passed, and I look at this again, I’m thinking that can’t be me. I’d never get on a boat alone.
There’s chaos in some parts of Mindanao, but in some areas like Misamis Oriental where the airport is, there’s peace and calm and order.
I had asked the driver to stop at this spot. The farmer agreed with a smile when I asked if I could take a picture. My family and I were on our way to an airport hotel where we could spend the night before my flight back the next day. I didn’t want to miss my flight because of the curfew and numerous checkpoints (at least 6 during a one-hour drive, but the soldiers were all courteous and friendly!)
Being home and seeing how people were scared but were fighting their fear by trying as best they could to live as normally as possible, I was greatly encouraged, and I’m very proud of my fellow Mindanaoans.
Lohas Hotel, Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental
With or without Martial Law, life goes on in Mindanao. There’s still some kind of order.
I have to admit I am a little scared to go home to Mindanao this time. I actually cried as I was packing this morning. Living for so many years in China where the only explosions I hear are from firecrackers or fireworks, I have become too comfortable and a little cowardly. In 2001, when the government declared an all-out war with the rebels, I dared to go to Marawi to accompany my journalist friend who was going to interview a religious leader there. On our way to Marawi, we could see and hear helicopters strafing certain areas. I was scared, but also thought of it as an adventure, something I could boast about later on.
Then I left for China. Seven years later when I went home in the summer for a visit, rebels threatened to attack my city. It was the first time I felt real FEAR. Seeing my sister deathly pale and cold, watching my mother pray the rosary as we all huddled in the bedroom, I nearly went crazy with fear.
Now, I am going home again to a conflict-ridden Mindanao. I envy my fellow Mindanaoans , who do not allow their fear to defeat them, who continue to believe that this too shall pass. I have lost my Mindanaoan courage and optimism, but I hope to get them back when I arrive home. Soon.
These are photos of the two pieces of “malong” I brought with me when I left my country. A “malong” is similar to the “sarong” worn by other Southeast Asians. Though not as popular as they once were in the past, this traditional garment is still worn by some Maranaos (a Muslim tribe from our island of Mindanao) in my hometown.
I like the designs of the “malong,” and it is quite handy. I sometimes use it as a blanket, and as a blanket scarf! I’ve also had a skirt and a dress made from a “malong.”
Though the “malong” is a traditional garment of the Maranaos (who are Muslims), I think every Christian family in my hometown has always had at least one!
I was born and raised in the beautiful island of Mindanao where Muslims and Christians have lived together for hundreds of years. We have the same heritage.
It is a great mystery that though the human heart longs for Truth, in which alone it finds liberation and delight, the first reaction of human beings to Truth is one of hostility and fear! -Anthony de Mello