Friday, March 23, 2012

Imposing Or Imposition

If the Holy Child Parish Church is the traditional center of religious worship for the majority of Lianga's residents who are Roman Catholics, the new Lianga Market Mall, which is just a stone's throw from that church's main portals, is its new temple to local business and commerce. This recently completed two-story edifice of concrete, glass and steel stands near the center of the poblacion in a tight group together with the church and the public park and alongside the sea on the space previously occupied by the old town market complex.

The old market building, before it was torn down two years ago, was a long and rectangular structure of drab and weathered wood topped by a roof of rust stained corrugated metal sheets which had for decades been so much a part of the Lianga landscape that even many local old-timers could have been forgiven for entertaining the fanciful notion that the whole building had always been there since time immemorial. That it was already rundown, decrepit and long overdue for either replacement or, at the very least, some form of renovation or rehabilitation, was painfully obvious to everyone here even if for many long time residents of the town like me, it retained that sad, sentimental and nostalgic charm common to many old public buildings long past their prime yet gallantly putting up a brave front despite the threat of imminent collapse or actual demolition, whichever, of course, would come first.

The new market mall, on the other hand, has a youthful, brash and arrogant air about it as it proclaims its new dominance of the Lianga skyline, its clean, symmetrical and robust lines setting it apart from the old wooden houses and the far more modest structures that surround it.  It may be a minute fraction of the size of any of the giant commercial malls in the cities but, by Lianga's more modest standards, it is not only the "in" location for the town's more serious retailers and would-be merchants with the capital to set up shop and hustle up some serious business but also the place for the local population especially the younger crowd to go, meet up and do some local "malling".

Saturday, March 3, 2012


The Bretania Islands of San Agustin are best seen and photographed in their sun drenched glory.  When the sun is high and the sky is mostly clear and solid blue, the islands are in their picture postcard loveliest.  You can ask the increasing number of visitors who have been coming and returning to the islands for what they consider to be the ultimate experience in tropical island hopping and the chance to sinfully indulge in pristine white sand beaches, crystal clear seas and breathtaking seascapes.

But I have been to Bretania on less sunnier days and yet even under overcast skies and the mild drizzle of rain, the islands, as seen from the mainland, are still a wonder to behold. The mood though is markedly different.  Instead of the sharp contrasts and the warmly vivid colors brought about by bright and sunny summer days, the islands float eerily like ghostly wraiths or illusions on pastel colored waters under gloomy, menacing clouds.  Everything seems pale and insubstantial, the whole dreamlike panorama of sea and sky framed by the misty haze of faraway rain. (Click here for more pictures...)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gold Fever

There was a basic rhythm to what may seem, at first glance, a madness of motion. One man stood waist deep in a trench he had dug out of the wet earth, his upper body flashing up and down as he flung to the side on the ground above him spadefuls of what looked like wet gravel.  His partner, a short distance away, was sluicing pails of muddy water on an improvised water trough made of wood and sheet metal, essentially washing the gravel clean of sediment and dirt.

A third man squatted by a small stream, a small plastic basin on hand, both hands alternately dipping and lifting the basin with its sample of the same gravel in and out of the water while occasionally pouring excess water out to flush away impurities.  A small lad kept rushing back and forth carrying pails of exhumed earth, his bare legs sinking almost up to his knees as he trudged through mud and muck.

They were just one group among many scattered all over the ruined landscape which to my eyes seemed to be more greenish-yellow muddy water than actual land.  Clumps of scraggly coconut trees and low scrubs complete the whole scene but water dominated everything whether pooled in stagnant mud holes or rushing about in swiftly flowing discolored streams.