Friday, April 27, 2007

Slowing Down The World

One of the better places to watch the day end in Lianga is in the municipal park just directly adjacent to the parish church and only a short distance from the choppy, blue-green waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Once in every couple of days, I make it a point to bring my niece and nephews there just as the day is ending and just as the sultry heat of the day fades into the coolness of the evening. So far I had no regrets doing that.

The park is just actually a small square of fenced-in greenery right smack in the middle of the town. It is slightly elevated and access to it is through concrete ramps on the eastern and western sides. The center is marked by the requisite monument to Jose Rizal, the national hero, and surrounded by four concrete circular rings that used to be fountains throwing water into the air many decades ago but now just filled with earth and planted with ornamental plants.

In fact, the base of the pedestal of Rizal's monument is hollow and used to house the water pump that serviced the fountains around it. The rest of the space is filled with concrete benches and cemented pathways bordered by plants and open spaces covered by bermuda grass.

A recent addition is a community stage on the northern end that is the venue for many forms of public entertainment, government programmes and, during election time, political rallies and gatherings.

As the sun sets, the park becomes crowded with people, most of them children playing in the grass or chasing each other through the concrete pathways. Teenagers huddle in groups around many of the benches gossiping or just fiddling with their cellphones. The rest are adults either watching their kids, simply stopping for a breath of fresh air on their way home from elsewhere or carrying the occasional infant or toddler while strolling through the park, occasionally sharing the latest gossip or simply chatting with friends and acquaintances.

There is usually a soft and cool breeze that wafts through from the ocean which is a welcome relief from the searing heat of the afternoon. As the day cools and the shadows lengthen, the gathering darkness in the eastern sky is offset momentarily by the sudden burst of flaming colors in the mountains beyond the western mountains. It is a sight I never get tired of. And as the sun sets in the midst of fiery colors and hues, a rich yellow light floods through the park, seemingly for a moment, coating everything in glowing gold. Then it is gone and darkness swiftly falls.

The sudden and mournful sound of the church bells tolling the Angelus at exactly 6 PM is the signal to go home. Parents begin calling their children who with great reluctance heed the summons and dejectedly abandon their unfinished games. The teenager crowd usually linger a little bit longer still talking and giggling among themselves but they too soon are soon gone. So too are the bystanders and passers-by. The park is soon deserted as evening comes swiftly.

When I was younger going to the park would not be on my list of fun things to do in the late afternoon. Now I would put it near the top of my list. After all, in this fast and hyperkinetic world, what would one lose by pausing once in a while, slowing down his pace through life and taking time to sit in a park bench, relax and watch the scenery of the world pass him by.

After a while he can get up refreshed, renewed and ready once again to confront and challenge the vexations and frustrations of this world.

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