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Cross marker at Lalao, San Juan, Siquijor

Read PART 1 of the story here.  
Read PART 2 of the story here. 

The following day, I went to visit my godmother. She lived in a modest stone house right across a convent. I used to join ‘Flores de Mayo’ (Flowers of May) back in my fledgling years here. It’s a summer flower festival celebrated by Catholic faithfuls in honor of Virgin Mary. Sad as it may seem, my memory didn’t quiet help recall who I was with in particular in that religious interlude 28 years ago. But I have this vivid picture that I used to climb a big Calachuchi branch at the sideyard of that stone house. I used to wobble hard the branches to let those pink and white delicate summer flowers fall to the ground. We would string them together to make a circlet and put it in the timeworn hand of the statue of Virgin Mary. 

Then after several songs and a good amount of time of restless listening, we would be given tickets to claim our afternoon nutri-ban and down it with a cold Santol juice which I just remembered we’re obliged to bring a cup of our own. We would play until the old church bell rung. That sound signaled it’s time to say the 6’oclock prayer – The Angelus. San Juan town is predominantly Catholic. The church bell, accustomed everyone that whatever you do, wherever you are – devotion should be put above everything and face the direction of the church to utter the supplication older than the prayer itself.

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San Juan, Siquijor Church

The house looked peculiar against the newly built dwellings nestled in the far end of the lane. Though the interior now looks a little modern with cushioned sofa and flatscreen TV against the wooden wall, but the old yellow and emerald stained Spanish floor tiles, the wrought-iron railings perched along the stone-tiered stairway, the Spanish wooden awning windows were still the same the way I left 2 decades and 8 years ago – quaint, worn out by time. A prospect of antiquity that articulated a thick and rich history of the house and those who lived there. 

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Huge Acacia Tree fronting the convent (right)

My godmother in her prime holds significant political and religious position in the island. And by that it follows that she also pool a repository of oral histories and stories of innumerable family and community events in the island. She didn’t recognize me. I let her remember by telling her who my grandfather and my father were. And then like a light bulb, her eyes widened in recognition and I paid my homage to a woman who once looked after me and took care of me. 

She’s now so old, so weak, and so frail but still has a command in her voice which I used to be terrified of. She sat on her old wooden rocking chair and told me she’s not pleased about having all these foreigners in the island. Most of the resort developments in Siquijor Island were partly owned by foreigners. As we all know they can’t solely own a company in this country, hence, they marry locals which become their business partner - in paper. 

My godmother was shaking while telling me that If only the locals would listen to her, they should not sell their land because in the long run, they’ll have nothing if they’ll forego the legacy of their forefathers in favor of the luxurious development that is now spreading like wildfire in the shores of the island. Even in her limp tone she keenly told me about one incident where the fishermen protested and threw stones at one resort owner. 

The resort owners along a certain stretch of white sand shoreline won’t allow the fishermen to berth on their fishing boats anymore. They become eye sore and their livelihood litters were not pleasing to the eyes. Every word she said came with pain and inescapable regret, a harrowing prize they have to pay in exchange of the ‘haves’ luxury not even few of the ‘have-nots’ tried and experienced. 

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