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Friday, June 15, 2012

A Slow Motion Incursion to Basey, Samar


I woke up with runny nose and a slight chill brought upon by a night lacking in oxygen, reduced to inhaling the cold fake vapor of the air conditioner inside the small room I rented. I thought about sleeping till early afternoon, I felt weakened by a virus I caught somewhere. The urge to cross San Juanico Bridge into the province of Samar seems like a decision that has already been decided. For good or for ill, I must make the crossing, as I have planned it many times, walking back along the whole 2 kilometer stretch of the bridge from Samar and back again to Leyte.

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I dragged my butt out of bed and into the hot shower. Dizzy spells and all I grabbed my backpack and headed to the main terminal and boarded a van going to Basey, Samar. I sat beside a young woman with a boyish haircut, she seems new to the place like me. She spoke in Tagalog when she asked the driver certain directions. A few minutes later, the van was filled with passengers. I sat at the back with just enough leg space for me to feel a protruding piece of metal pointing sharply at my knee. 

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As the van rolls along I could see the imposing steel structure of San Juanico Bridge from a distant. My jaw dropped as I stare at the impressive structure which was then above me, as the van stopped near a checkpoint outpost manned by members of Philippine National Police. The young woman with the boyish haircut got off the van and knowing I am a traveler passing by told me to "enjoy your trip". (You'll find out what she does on this post) The trip lasted at least half an hour and soon we were driving along a sleepy town with old houses on both sides, and unto the van terminal at Basey, Samar.

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I was starving so I decided to look for a cheap carinderia when a group of tourists asked me if I want to be a part of their group going to Sohotan Cave located inside the Sohotan National Park. They offered me to pitch in for the total cost of the motorboat rental, guide and entrance fees. I would love to go with them because it was an opportunity to visit the place at a cheaper cost, but I was feeling too sick that time so I politely said no.

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After I ate a small serving of pancit, I dragged my feet around the place. I saw the old church of Basey (Saint Michael Church) which was locked from the inside that morning, so I just circled it and proceeded to walk the side streets passing by rows of old houses and found out that Basey is popular for its handwoven mats. I stopped by a random bench and sat beside an old man facing a health center. There was a long line of people by the entrance, most of them were young mothers carrying their babies and an old woman stone faced with watery eyes staring blankly at a distance caught my eyes. 

Just like on cue, the old man smiled at me, I told him I'm tagalog and was just passing by. I asked him while pointing at the queue of people "libreng pagamot?" (free medicines?) He nodded and said, "sa tanda kong ito ngayon lng kami nag ka ganyan dito, programa ni Pangulong Noynoy". (at my age, we only had free healthcare just now, because of this program by the Aquino administration)

We talked for a few minutes before the old woman from the line called his name. He excused himself as I was left to ponder how critical I am of the present administration, for all its shortcomings I've realized that in a random municipality such as Basey, it is making it's presence felt. The health workers who are volunteering to the government's health program are really helping this nation move forward. Sadly, these government programs and heroic efforts by volunteers often goes unnoticed by mainstream media. In today's burning issue of using funds for bogus NGO's, the one I witnessed in Basey, serves as an example where taxpayer's money should ought to be spent. 


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