Thursday, June 14, 2007

consciousness like continents

TO RECLAIM SPACE is to reassert one's place, according to poet Mary Oliver, "in the family of things." After a month of taking a detour from my comfort zone into the uncertainty of an alien landscape, what a relief to return where mind and heart limbers up in the light of the familiar: a chance to continue touching base with my place of origin and pivot for return, at least through my regular op-ed corner in Sun.Star Cebu.

Published last June 12, here's a reprint of my first column after a month-long absence in the spell of readjustments en route to retracing the tracks of my byline:

Sheltering under the same sky

It does sound like a broken record, but “to find one’s place under the sun” is here to stay. Indeed, it’s enough of a record-breaking feat to steer clear and weather away the burning temptation of a cliché. Or the cold comfort of familiarity.
True, strangeness becomes me where the pastures are not only greener but also wider. But here in the city of Topeka, the capital of Kansas, there’s no trite notion I find easy to engage in and try to dispel than displacement.

But now that the age of dotcom renders distance just a click away from the computer keyboard, nothing else make me feel at home than harping on variations on a theme.

Connectedness, for instance.

Reckon how reverie veers away like ripples in a pebble-stirred lake, concentric from where consciousness sprawls out between the navel of the Philippine archipelago and the heartland of America.

Where I’m aiming to keep alienation at bay, waves of familiarity are also up my neck with a recent online report just enough to strike a sensitive chord to this true-blooded Cebuano who, despite shrinking in the shadow of toxic fumes from news at the homefront, can stand tall about its guitars and singers.

According to a Yahoo dispatch, more than 1,680 guitarists gather in Kansas to tune up and take part in setting a Guinness world record for the most people playing the same song—Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water—simultaneously.

Never mind the smoke of politics in Cebu hot in the heels of the elections on top of the water-logged news to flush one’s summer thoughts down the drain: overflowing creeks and sewers, flash floods in the streets and mudslides in the mountains.

Nothing new under the sun, right? Then again, just when summer in Kansas rouses a riot of colors and fragrance from its galaxy of gardens, something of a novelty nudges my nose not to smell what the flies revel in Taboan as I sniff stardust out of Mayor Tomas Osmeña’s seemingly spaced-out scheme.
Never mind if the mayor doesn’t have the heart to prop up a school building in Lahug as long as he has the lungs to whoop out a wizardry: To carve out a river right in the middle of the city’s clogged roads.

Come on, the Yellow Brick Road may be a universe away from Cebu, but it smacks of magic for the mayor to conjure “street rivers” where traffic and floating rats render it cool to hitch a ride on a witch’s broom above it all. Quick, go notify the authorities at Guinness!

In the face of formidable odds, any Cebuano worth his pride of Lapu-Lapu’s legend is no stranger to the struggle of holding his ground. As if conquest were a congenital blessing, if not a birthright.
Like water, there’s no stopping back the Bisdak’s knack for survival. Or his free-flowing instinct for finding a way out of dire straits.
And for the throng out to find a foothold to the future in alien shores, uncanny as well how they might feel no farther than the plight of Cebu City’s squatters to keep their heads above water as the tides of progress sweep the metro like a Kansan tornado.

A relocation site is up in the pipeline, assures Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who plans to pave a road from the SRP to Poblacion Pardo, where he will build a “new barangay” of squatters uprooted from various parts of the city. (No, slum dwellers won’t be cast away like garbage under the bridge because they are potential voters, remember?)

Strangeness is a state of mind, indeed. And like the brain-like formation of clouds, the sky stays—wherever we go and raise our stakes—always overhead. That, at least, can never be relocated.

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