Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gallivanting in Gandara

Greetings Gandara #philippines! So I silently said as we crossed the highway walking towards center of town (I think). Happy I was doing this since I did not have any idea what might be worth my while in this town – reason why it is not listed in my itineraries! But as I always say, throw me anywhere in this country and I will surely see something interesting to do or watch or marvel at. First catch, a manong in his habal-habal carrying a big roll of ‘abaca’ (yep, Manila Hemp) and a bundle of firewood. Immediate question: was he delivering those or did he just buy them from the Gandara market?

I could not of course holler at the man to stop him, only for me to ask a question. But things ran pesky in my head, iike “if they make abaca in this place, where would that be, how do they do it, which plant is it really” and many other similar questions. Interesting to one day stumble upon a place that’ll help me answer those questions, right?! Ah, let’s just hope it will be soon! The firewood was next in my brain. If he was delivering, ang konti naman. Just a bundle? How much would that earn him?! If he bought it, ang sosyal naman nya! Where does he live anyway? Are there no fallen trees for him to pick there? Hmm, puzzle puzzle. But I know I’ll have answers when I come back to this place. Hopefully soon!

The church. Ah, from the outside, it does not look anything special. Even too squat for me. But it does look and feel airy cool inside. The paint and decor are fairly new I could not even trace if there is still any ancient memento about this place just covered by modernistic adornments. Then again, maybe this church is after all not that ancient. Hmm, something to research on… if they have this fairly new church, then where was/is the old one? Was there? If none, golly why? Remember what I learned about Marabut? Where the big church is not even catholic because Catholics go/went to Basey for that? Maybe Gandara is the same case, I better know soon!

More surprising still was that lone marker/dedication on the inside wall. Weirdly, it departs from the common that we see everywhere like the “blah blah blah of the people” and a litany of priests and bishops who made it possible. Here, the marker reads like an epitaph hehe! Am not joking! It starts with “in loving memory” of a former mayor. And dedicated by his children – some of whom were also former mayors. So, I get it that they (the children) probably built this thing without help or assistance from anyone or anywhere. Mighty! Mga rico! At least the last line mentions that it was blessed by Julio Cardinal Rosales sometime in September of nineteen seventy-something.

The friend says this is the St. Michael the Archangel Parish, and the simple but tastefully decorated altar tells me priests in here must be very lucky. The fragrance of fresh flowers lingers everywhere in the altar down to the front pews. Those flowers you see everywhere in that altar? Believe me, those are ALL real and fresh – including the leaves and ferns! Well, the friend told me, “it was fiesta in this town yesterday”. Oh, no wonder! And yes, no wonder there seems to be a fiesta hangover from some folks living right at the very perimeter fence of this church. Not sure if that place is a convent, a pastoral office or a residence, but the one thing undeniable is that their karaoke singing reverberated through every little nook in this church. “Ang galing, galing mong sumayaw, galing mong sumayaw, bibong bibo gumalaw…” that was what a man was singing. Gosh really!

Anyway again, we walked from the church down a row of era houses though mostly spruced-up to modernize with the times. And our destination was one of these houses – the residence of a Monsignor, who the friend was meeting for the errand. The monsignor belongs to a church in another town, but this is his family home, so he was around for the fiesta and more. Another learned reality… this monsignor is not as old the way I thought of all of them Monsignors I have come across so far! He is probably just in his late forties or early fifties. And he is a practicing OD. I asked what it meant and I was told that means “optometrist”! Whoa! I do know some priests who are lawyers, or lawyers who are priests, but this was my first encounter of an optometrist high on the canonical hierarchy too!

I wonder now if there is a priest who is also an OB-GYNE hehe! Just wondering!

Food. As everywhere in Samar (or probably this whole country) once there is a visitor, food is the very first thing that is offered. The monsignor and his family is no different. He excused himself from some meeting with another person and led us to a buffet table in their ancestral house just beside his. Buffet? I secretly asked the friend why so, and why were there visitors enjoying the buffet other than us. Oh, it was the day after fiesta. Fiesta hangover of sorts hehe! So we happily ate and I discovered something else new. In Gandara, their brownies are wrapped like “food for the gods” or that “butterscotch thing”. I picked 3 from the buffet, thinking it was the latter. Awooo, when I later opened one, it was brownies! Yep Joana, naalala kita you choco-addict! And who said brownies need to be square and in a square box? Not in Gandara!

Alumni Homecoming and Old Gandara. What has those two got to do with each other anyway, right? Well, during conversations with the Monsignor, he intimated that what was keeping him additionally busy that day was that they were having their alumni homecoming in the evening – and he is president of the association. The topic continued until he excused himself from the many guests in their house to take us to the elementary school across the street where they have a new alumni association office. Nice one, even tiled floor like the living room of many houses. But what caught my attention were some paintings on the wall that portrayed the old Gandara township other than its present location. Saw things there that all the more prompted me to list this as a place to return to and explore!

Municipal Hall. Ah well, like the church, it is nothing fantastic compared to many similar edifices in this country. Simple really, even with signs of decay here and there. But I like the 4 pillars and the balcony. Must be quite a negative study for architecture students hehe. If I were to write a book about this particular aspect of the building, the title would probably be “The Disharmony of Form and Function” hehe. Which mayor would dare use that balcony to address his people when those four pillars would be hiding him/her from most everyone hahaha! Anyway, I saw that there are upcoming constructions in the area. Let me guess – a legislative building! It’s a fad, right? The vice-mayors and councilors all over this country trying to separate themselves from (and probably emerge more powerful than) the mayor. Right?

Anyway, I mused at that big pile of ballot boxes basking bare under the elements and in various stages of decay and degradation. So that it will be easier to mangle them open when someone wants to cheat in the elections? Probably! For if those were trash, why are they not being thrown away or ipa-kilo at some junkshop? Ah hehe, the things I see when I roam. Incriminating! Okay fine, after ogling at that municipal hall, we saw that the multi-purpose hall just a few steps across was abuzz with activity. Hmm, the alumni groups decorating the place for the night's big event!

But I gravitated towards the water’s edge and asked my friend that we go there. Hmm, another find, Tambo! Yep, the plant (am not sure if those are called leaves or fronds whatever, but I am very sure those are the main materials) that are made into your ever reliable “walis-tambo”. They were strewn to sun-dry on one side of the street, in the commercial center of town! Just one side, because the other side of the same narrow street is also lined, with copra similarly being sun dried! Do you know what copra is? Ah, just google it cuz am not telling here! I really wanted to ask more about the “tambo” (called “tangbo” in Samar, I think) but the friend is a respected officer of a nearby city, and might have looked silly accompanying a Jap-looking me with so many ridiculous questions! So I desisted!

The river. OMG the river! It opened something for the roamer in me. It’s a big river where I saw and learned something new! Folks there told us this is where boats going to Matuginao emanate from. Whoa! Matuginao is a really really hinterland town of the province, and I think I probably know only 2 people who have ever been there! And the boats have no wings! I mean the outriggers are missing, yet they’re all motorized and they zoom fast on the water. Duuu, wouldn’t those tip over if passengers kept moving while the boat sped through? Katakot! Then again, if people, young and old, male or female, may ngipin o wala, ride these boats, then they’re probably safe enough. Probably hehe! Another addition in my “soon to see and experience list”! Make that two – Matuginao and the boat ride from Gandara. Kulba!

Okay, one last thingy. This habal-habal passed by as we walked from the river towards the bridge/highway. I quickly snapped this picture, I hope them ladies and gentleman won’t mind! As it is not very clear, let me just describe the passenger load; There’s a boy in front of the driver (I think you can see him). There’s a girl between the driver and the woman in white pants with a bag on her lap! That girl is holding the green balloon (above the woman’s head) and she’s being carried on the right hand of this woman! The woman holding that plastic bag of soda (coke? or pepsi?) on her left hand is also holding a baby on her right arm! The big blue bag (that looks heavy) is hanging from the same woman’s shoulder! Whew! Oh, the last person in red shirt? Is also a woman! At least she is not carrying anything. But couldn’t she help at least the woman in front of her? Anyway, the pink umbrella with white polka dots is not part of this ‘set-up’. It’s being carried by a girl (pedestrian) walking behind the scene when I snapped the photo hehe!

Hey, about this mode of transport. The new trivia I learned is that this is what Samarenos call “habal-habal” – the bike has a roof. If it does not have a roof, they call it just “sing-gol” (single) or “motor” (pronounced in the speed and accent as you would say “adore” “before” or “garage”) or at times just “honda” – even if the brand is a suzuki, kawasaki or yamaha!

Okay, we continued onwards and up the bridge and unto the highway to wait for a ride back to Catbalogan. But something played in my mind, I said, let’s go onwards to Calbayog first. And so we did hehe!



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