Puerto Galera during the Catholic Holy Week is a sinful beach island!
At 3:30 Holy Maundy afternoon, the huge Comandos ferry boat docked at White Beach, which is full of ladies and gays in bikinis and lads in flowery shorts, either walking along the shore or sitting under the umbrella-covered benches and tables filled with grilled meat and fish.
The whole stretch of the beach is crowded with Filipinos and foreigners who do not share the same faith with millions of Filipino believers who, that exact time, must be silently praying in church or whiling away quiet hours at home.
Advertisements took advantage of summer in this part of Oriental Mindoro. One pan of view shows banderitas of telecommunication companies, booth for free taste of a new soda, huge tarpaulin of the largest beer manufacturer in the country, and the products themselves in variegated packaging.
Different stalls. Same goods and services to offer.
Party music greeted me.
Young adults in bare flesh look at me (who wouldn’t? I was in tight pants, cotton shirt, and wedge shoes – in Galera).
Heterosexual couples sport couple shirt; homosexual couples sport couple shorts. Henna tattoo designs are displayed after every five food stalls.
Bars and restaurants serve halohalo aside from alcohol and meals.
It’s the cheaper and nearer Boracay.
I was alone walking like a lost dog – bitch, to be gender-sensitive – waiting for the text message of my friends who went ahead while I was taking an exam. If it wasn’t for the fun times and cool seminar class on Folk Literature at SM MOA this semester, I wouldn’t take the exam which was scheduled last holy wednesday–the official start of holy-day.
When walking and the curse of solitude pained me, I sat.
While watching people watch each other, I remember classmate Cory persuading me to follow my friends on vacation. So was Galera worth the solitary travel?
Not after seeing the White Beach.
I took a seat in one of the food shops, ordered spaghetti and beer, looked at my cellphone, texted, and watched voyeurs and posers pass by my quiet little place facing the sea.
Why is it possible for me to consume meat and alcohol one day before Christ’s death?
Penance is a symbolic activity, I reckon. Like what we have taken up in the MA course I mentioned, religions are rich in signs and symbols: the cross, the statues, the worship house, the dress code, the songs, the prayers, the scriptures, the priest/ pastor/ minister/ babaylan, and the Christ. Penance symbolizes a lot of things.
Unfortunately, I got lost in the signification (signifier-signified process, or what signs mean according to convention) that I considered other sacrifices as my form of penance.
And so I allowed myself to be left in Quezon City, answering questions about folk literature and the discourse of human liberation, while friends in Los Baños were already having a dip and banana boat ride in the blue-green sea.
Since there was a communication problem among us communication arts alumni, I headed to the main road, past a hundred beach resorts, then rode a tricycle to Talipanan. There I found them in the neat Bamboo House.
The next morning, I thanked the gods and goddesses for bringing me back to the birthplace of my father, the setting of my best childhood days, Oriental Mindoro.
Talipanan, Puerto Galera makes me proud of growing up in the Southern Tagalog region, which used to be the most powerful area before the Spaniards ruined the culture of the entire province of Katagalugan composed of (now separate provinces and city) Pampanga, Laguna, Manila, Batangas, Quezon, and Mindoro.