Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Alma R. H. Reyes


January-February 2014

As the Snake of 2013 hissed its way ferociously from one catastrophe to another, now the Horse of 2014 gallops briskly on rocky paths and fallen debris of bloodstained horrors and memories of the preceding year, as it clears the misty air in anticipation of hope and positivity.

Because the horse is a symbol of transportation in the Chinese calendar; therefore, it provides a steady ride to people’s destinations—a carrier for travel and speed. During the 5th century, special Japanese folk rituals sacrificed white stallions, which were symbols of the sun and rain. Every year at the Ise Shrine, sacred, white horses are led to the divine gods in worship of the sun. Horses in Japanese tomb paintings were believed to possess supernatural powers, such as having the ability to communicate with gods and humans. In Shintoism, horses are vehicles for deities and messengers between the earthly and heavenly worlds. One of the most famous Japanese tales, the Tanabata (meeting of two stars every July), depicts the “mukaeuma,” the greeting horse, which is now a straw horse ornament hung on gates and trees to welcome visiting gods.

Those born in the Year of the Horse are said to be competitive, and self-determined as leaders and freedom-seekers. They pursue to win in battles, rise in nobility from a distance, and are conscious of their appearance, speech and stature. While horses are intelligent, they need to be tamed by humans. Therefore, they need to be guided and groomed as they may lose their way.

The horse’s guidance is probably what the Yolanda typhoon victims needed when the horrific storm surge gushed across the entire province of Leyte. In the opening issue of Jeepney Press this 2014, many writers will be talking about the Yolanda typhoon calamity, the wreckage, the despair, the disbelief, the suffering, and the displacement of souls, of hopes, of dreams…

Citizens will be uttering (as they already have) sour grapes, mockery, insults, frustrations, disappointments, anger, remorse, and endless blames, for every misfortune plucks a bitter mouth.

Yet, looking from above, there are still but a handful of ancient churches, unblemished tourist spots, and majestic coastlines that will always remind us of these sacrificed cities’ priceless jewels, frequently explored by nature lovers.

Leyte, as we know, is a fertile, agricultural land that is not only remembered for Magellan’s first sail to the island of Limasawa in 1521, and the first American landing in 1944, but also for being a major forest reserve that produces sweet bananas, potatoes and coconuts.

Tacloban was originally a barrio (village) of Basey, Samar. Fishermen used bamboo trays called “taklub” to catch fish, crabs, and shrimps, and the place where they fished was called “tarakluban;” hence, the formation of the town’s name. Several outstanding landmarks will always be treasured in our memories: the Price Mansion, Gen. MacArthur’s official headquarters and residence; Redona Residence, official residence of President Osmeña; the MacArthur Leyte Landing Memorial, with the panoramic horizon of the Leyte Gulf and Samar islands; the Battle of Baluarte Marker, significant spot of the historic war against the Japanese Imperial forces; the Palo Metropolitan Cathedral built in 1596; Sto. Niño Shrine and Heritage Museum that housed important paintings and relics by renowned Filipino artists—these, and more precious gems should inspire us to rebuild and restore the glory of the city.

On the other side, the unimagined earthquake that shook Bohol on October 15, with a magnitude of 7.2 also leaves us with agonizing scars. With over a thousand recorded injuries and more than 70,000 structures destroyed, the intensity of the earthquake was believed to be comparable to thirty Hiroshima bombs. We will always remember the 1,260 exquisite cone shaped Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier trail of one of the world’s oldest monkeys, the Baclayon Church built in the 18th century, Loboc Church built in 1683, and other numerous historical watchtowers and monuments. Most of all, our eyes will always feed on the marvelous deep blue sea, and spectacular marine life that Bohol has always been popular for, to divers, surfers and regular tourists.
Souls have perished; hearts have been broken. Mending these sunken wounds, re-hoisting the banner of hope, and reconciling with our unselfishness and honor may feel like a lifetime mission…but the torch is ours to bear, to give Courage, Comfort, and Light to those who seek it.

Shin-Akemashite Omedetou Gozaimasu!

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