For Georgia: An Ode to Bukidnon

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It’s a toss between Savannah and Manhattan. Who’d ever want to leave Savannah, with its plantations and idyllic country life?

You wake up to the sound of the birds chirping at your window and to the smell of freshly baked bread wafting from the kitchen. The sun’s already up high at 7am. The cook’s knocking softly on your door and you know breakfast of eggs, toast, and hot chocolate is waiting. The cold water you used to despise when you were still little Michael Darling who had to be carted off to the tub by dear Nana becomes a favorite playmate to fend off the summer heat.

Never mind that the town is a bit farther than it once was – you don’t mind hitching for a ride nor do you mind getting behind the steering wheel this time. You’re all grown-up and you have your license to prove it. Never mind that life is slow-paced and people would raise their eyebrows if you step inside the bowling alley and gasp if you ordered a light beer at any of the town grills. You know you have to live with their stares. Your girls will have to, themselves, when the time comes. Coming from an established and conservative family denotes pros and cons, and it’s either you conform to the structure of your family’s history or dye your hair red and cackle with glee while playing pool. Oh your dad will curse you if you ever choose the latter – but you won’t, of course. You’re too traditional. You suit your Savannah.

That’s why you love it so. The lake is minutes away from your country house. You like it there – the sun’s reflection on Nazuli’s face, the peaceful rippling of the water, the leaves floating along the edges, the rocky bottom, the trees that surround your secret place, the kids and the teenagers with gold hair and bright blue eyes who swim like merpeople. They’re so different from you and yet you both love the icy water splashing against your faces. You don’t know how to swim but that’s the last thing on your mind. Who cares if you dive in and never live to see the surface again? At least you’re within the tranquil fort you dream of owning someday.

Though your Savannah sun gives you practical leeway to get out and smile, it also turns against you at times, scorching your hair and drying out all your enthusiasm. Close proximity to Heaven does that to you. And just as the sun can harshly lap at your face and never tire from doing so for hours, the rain can also be unforgiving. You remember having been stuck at the state college one bleak summer afternoon. The rain had come pelting with such intensity that you feared the roof of the buildings would give in to the tremendous harassment. You know that there are times when the rain would break and hit the rocks and the roofs. Hale. Your neighbors tell you to be thankful for not having experienced being hit with icy drizzles on the head while running through endless rows of pineapples. They sting. You had thought they would, naturally, but being the curious, crazy kid your father always complains about, you always go outside and smile up at the clouds, hoping with all your might that Heaven would throw you even a tiny icy dot. It never did; you liked getting drenched in the rain, though.

You have so many fond memories of rain here. It had brought love at first sight for you and your friend’s older brother when you found yourselves under the same umbrella. You had been 14 and he, 18. He had thought you were at least 17 and had been enraged when he found out you were a baby. He had been so afraid that your dad would kill him. Worse, he had been hurt when you had to go away. Age had become just a trifle thing. Status had taken its place.

Rain also gave you and your cousins a moment of bonding and adventure. (Actually, it had been you, your two nieces, and the first cousin of one of your nieces but you called each other “cousins” anyway.) You had gone around the city in search of something nice to do: you had hung out at the pizzeria, the hotel, the high-end boutique, and even to the drugstore; still, you were bored. Rain had suddenly whipped your hats away. Your clip-on earrings had fallen into the muddy heap and had floated along the canal. Your summer outfit had stuck to your body and everything felt good. The four of you had laughed, skipped, danced along the street like loose, drunk women. You had had the time of your young lives. Rain always teases the soul of your Savannah.

And of how you had been teased not just by the rain but with the sweet words of men. It had always been a reciprocal fever: flirtation and naivety had chuckled and blushed between both of you. You had always been fond of playful talking, of sweet verbal brashness. But like your Savannah, you had gone home every night and had spent every moon on your bed – dreaming alone.

You want everyone to be enamored by your simplicity, subtle wit, and understated enthusiasm for all things wonderful without expecting a dangerous ride. You nurture them – their thoughts and their pains. You like it when they go home to you, their true north. And if they ask for more than what you give them, you shut them out.

Dusk turns your home into a quiet sanctuary of warmth. Laborers go home, tired but in high spirits still, just like how they had been yesterday and the day before. Farmers return home with sacks of corn and rice from the mill, with their horses, with their hearts. Late nights are for the restless and the debutantes. There are small bars and your neighbors’ houses for that. But for you and everyone else, nights begin with the discovery of home. Once you find it, it’s yours forever; but the magic of its discovery lives on, teasing you always as the sun sets behind the Blue Mountains at your backyard.

You had made your discovery here. Now, you watch as your tears melt with the rain, nourishing the grass under your feet. Naked, you are full of promise, seductive yet serene. Your smile will go to seek certainty. Your smile is wistful and knowing: you are about to live an adventure yet again in an altogether different place. Far from here, you will go to seek certainty. You will go up the steps of imposing buildings, flash your ID at the security guards and officials and walk among the crowds in the busy avenues, indifferent and anonymous. You will wake up thinking about the eggs you’d have to cook for breakfast and sleep, wondering if you still have eggs in the fridge for tomorrow’s breakfast. Soon.

You smile and feel the wind caress your cheek. Manhattan has always been kind to you. It has given you much – even more than you had ever asked for. You love its notoriety, its vivacity, and its flair. But you are soft, so unlike the severe portrait you flash at others. You discriminate and hate; you throw your head back in laughter and gasp at surprises. You cry in silence.

You are the flat stone that boys send rippling across the water, the coffee bean that awakens the writer’s senses in the early morning. You bow your head in sadness and the forest takes you in her arms. You cherish promises and nurture friendships, you embrace memories and more memories, and you treasure your home. Try as it may, the rain can never dampen your spirit, nor can the sun ever burn your hands. You are Savannah. And this, this is home. (by Anna Leah Tabios — you may read more of Anna’s works in her BLOG )

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