This morning, self wants to honor the trek she made last month, all around Negros. She pulls out the much-creased map that she used on that trip. Recalling her energy and single-mindedness, she can’t help being amazed. She knows it is unlikely that she’ll ever repeat such an undertaking. Not only is her energy flagging, but this is her second visit to Bacolod in a month. She’s beginning to lose a little of her “outsider” status. Before, one could think of self as an eccentric woman from California whose whims could be comfortably indulged because she was only staying a week. But, back again? That’s more than enough cause for closer scrutiny, for asking: What’s her story?
Truthfully, self doesn’t know what her story is. In Redwood City, California, where she has lived more than 20 years, she is a wife, mother, and teacher. In New York, she is a writer and an aunt to her Dear Departed Sister’s three children. In Manila, she is an ex-Ateneo and ex-Assumption Convent student. She is also a daughter and a sister.
In Bacolod, however, she is a woman traveling alone and exposing herself to all kinds of risks (Though there couldn’t be a more sedate hotel in the entire world than L’Fisher, self feels). She hasn’t bumped into many foreign men (It’s mostly male tourists one sees in the hotels here. Rarely does she encounter a foreign woman. Oh, not so fast, self! Don’t you remember once seeing, in the hotel in Dumaguete, a middle-aged American woman who apparently, like self, was traveling alone? Wasn’t this the moment when you began to settle down and relax?)
From her reading, self knows that the towns of Negros are very old. In 1571, the Spanish came and established an encomienda that became the town of Binalbagan. Ilog was founded by the Augustinians in 1584. Hinigaran was founded in 1765. The city of Escalante has been continuously inhabited “since 11th A.D.” (Info is from the official website of the province of Negros Occidental) Escalante was a scene of horror in 1985 : 21 people were killed by the town’s security forces as they demonstrated in front of the municipal hall, in the lead-up to the Marcos-Aquino presidential race.
A long time ago, self visited a chapel made out of cartwheels. She asked Joel, the driver she used last month, if he knew of it: he didn’t. Now, browsing the official website of Negros Occidental, self stumbles across an entry for the town of Manapla. Under a section called “Famous Landmarks,” she finds this:
The Chapel of Cartwheels is made of farm implements such as cartwheels, plows, mortar and pestle, margaha sand and broken pieces of glass of different colors. It was patterned like a “salakot” and it can be found inside the farm owned by the Gaston family.
Now self knows she wasn’t dreaming.
In addition, she learns that the town is famous “all over the Philippines” for its puto. There’s even a festival held every August to commemorate this iconic Visayan delicacy. During this Festival, which is called Pinta Puto, people paint their bodies white and green and dance through the streets.
August? Darn, self will miss it.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.