Friday, February 16, 2007

Living With The Sea

Lianga, like most coastal communities, has its origins and its history deeply rooted in its intimate relationship with the sea and the bay that bears its name.

It was born because of the rich fishing in its shallow coastal seas and eventually became a business and trading center by taking advantage of the shelter and refuge it provided to boats and ships seeking protection from the storms and bad weather that regularly visited the area.

By the time I was a small boy, Lianga had began to decline in importance as a shipping and trading town as the focus of trade shifted to other more accessible towns and cities in Northern Mindanao. And the town returned to be what it really was when it came to be, a quiet and sleepy, coastal community lazily basking in the warm winds and blue-green waters of the Pacific.

As a small boy growing up, my life was intertwined with the town's fascination with the sea. Waking up was opening your eyes to the sun rising in the eastern horizon, the golden hues dancing in the waters while the rest of the world remained dark and gloomy. Playing meant jumping into the warm waters just off the sea dikes beyond the town market for hours of frolicking and swimming. Clear and sunny afternoons meant fishing with homemade lines for small fish at favorite fishing spots or wading through the tidal marshlands during low tide while hunting for choice shellfish, sea urchins and other exotic yet edible treats.

Even less maritime pursuits for fun and relaxation were colored by the relentless presence of the nearby ocean. The strong yet cool breezes from the east, particularly in the afternoons, were great for kite flying and during the kite season in the midst of summer, the often dazzlingly blue skies would be marred not by clouds but by colored wisps of color shifting to and fro high up in the heavens which were actually flying machines of paper, bamboo sticks, glue and twine controlled by frantic hands on the ground.

Kite fights would often erupt suddenly and for a while the violence in the air would be matched by the air of urgency and frenzied activity below. Then the dénouement would come, the losing kite would flutter helpless away, its lifeline cut and its fliers below would shrug their shoulders and dejectedly go home vowing revenge and retribution on the ecstatic victors. Then the calm would return until the darkening shadows of the evening and the dying breezes would force even the most hardy souls to roll up their strings, pull down their flying machines and return to their homes exhausted and sunburned yet satiated and pleased.

Or on hot and humid days, one can just pull up a comfortable chair or lounge on a hammock in the early afternoons and laze the hours away dozing while cooled and refreshed by the wafting breeze. There is a salty tang to it and the flavors and aromas of the open ocean that are relaxing yet invigorating. No wonder so many outsiders come on weekends to enjoy the town's many beaches and try to capture some of its magic.

Like those who have grown up or lived in Lianga for years, it is a magic I know well and I am thankful for it. The ocean and the town are old friends and will be forever linked to each other. And I intend to reap the benefits of that friendship as long as I stay here.

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