I’m breaking Asgad into two segments. We took a day trip in, spent another night in Salcedo, then returned for 3 nights in Asgad. This is the day trip.
My writing will go into more detail about my wife’s home town. She has one story after another; they are truly fascinating to me. The gap between her past and mine is huge, there is not really much common ground to compare. It’s humbling to think that we got together across over 5000 miles of ocean, difference in cultures, and years of time.
I was uncomfortable driving a strange motorcycle around a strange area. The roads are rough, and I don’t know my way around. So we hired Dolores’s brother Lando. He lives right across the street and it seemed appropriate. In retrospect, I’m glad we did that. He is a nice person and very handy to have around. My everyday skills as an American are not of much use here.
We also wanted to make sure that we had a place to sleep. There is only one jeepney trip a day. So if we went in and the house wasn’t comfortable, we would have to walk 4 miles back out. IF we could even get on the jeepney. Not a big deal, except there has been regular heavy rains and the weather is hot. To bring in our gear means to reserve a seat on the jeepney. And then reserve another seat when we leave. Complicated; we have, again, a lot of baggage. Praxy sent three CRX boxes to Salcedo ahead of us and two needed to go to Asgad. More on that in the second post!
So, out of Salcedo and down the highway for a few miles. Turn east on a narrow cement road and climb up over a steep ridge. That is what makes Asgad remote, the difficult terrain. Asgad sits on the opposite side of a five mile long ridge, all of the little towns over here are cut off from the main stream. The road is being improved, but it is seriously rough and muddy. 24 hour electricity is a relatively new improvement to the area. Cell service is available out on the beach. Our hosts have one of the few satellite TVs in the area.
After a 40 minute ride, we were there.
This is her (our) little house. I was mistaken earlier. The house is right at the edge of the beach. Our little house bears the full brunt of typhoons from the Pacific ocean and it is needing some TLC. Windows, doors, roof, and handrails, all are being eaten away by the salt air. Luckily, the foundation, walls, and floors are still solid. A cousin and his family are living there. Turned out he was the conductor of the local jeepney and we made reservations for the following morning.
We left and walked around town, slowly. Praxy is related to almost everybody and knows most of them. Everyone said hello and we spent a lot of time talking with the locals. We stopped by a cousin’s house
and she invited us to spend a few nights. Their house was off the beach and in good condition, we accepted the offer. We were also invited to lunch at another house. Lucky for us, we had forgotten to bring anything to eat.
Praxy got thirsty and asked one of the locals (a cousin of course) to climb a nearby tree and retrieve us a few coconuts for a refreshing snack.
No problem, he shinnied up and we had coconuts in a few minutes. Lando opened them with his machete and we had our nice cool drink.
We wandered around waiting for lunchtime and took in the local Catholic church.
We went inside and looked around. It was beautiful, walked up into the balcony. I felt a little uncomfortable, I was wearing a tank top and tennis shoes, but no one was there to mind. Off to the side was a strange monument, and I had to ask what it was. This led to a great little story about Praxy’s childhood.
This is an old harbor buoy, painted and mounted statue-like in concrete. I asked why it was there and Praxy had no idea why anyone would have bothered to make it a monument. “That is one of our toys from when I was a child”, she said. The kids would play “King of the Hill” on it and “Tag” and roll it all around town. She said it was all that she and her playmates to do to move it when she was five years old. They played on it almost daily for hours. On New Year’s Eve, everyone would join in and push it around town, using it as a noise maker, beating on it with sticks and pipes. Every night, someone always brought it back to the church and it would lay in front until someone was ready to use it again. She commented “I can still remember that dent!” as she pointed to a dimple in the orange paint.
It had drifted away from who knows where and washed up on the beach in Asgad sometime before she was old enough to remember. The town folks pulled it out and had no idea what to do with it. Kids, being kids, had figured something out where the adults had failed.
Two evenings later, I talked to her 86 year old aunt at the dinner table. The old auntie said that the buoy was around before she was born and it was immortalized in 2009 on it’s concrete pedestal. So this buoy was here in the 1920’s! She described the games of tag and the like that her generation played on the town’s odd mascot. The buoy now has a great view of the ocean from where it once came.
Slightly askew, it watches over the ocean and the eastern side of town.
It won’t be too much longer and the history of this towns unusual courtyard “icon” will be word of mouth.
“Oh, it’s still here” she said as she started to walk away. “What is still here?” was my reply. She pointed and another story emerged.
Just this side of the blue wall is a little bit of concrete with a hole in it. Turns out, that was where the outhouse stood. The outhouse from her original home when she grew up in Asgad. She said “This is where our kitchen was” and stood in the spot while I snapped the picture. And she gestured and sketched out the area of her home while I stood and watched and listened. This house was made of nipa and palm. The typhoons would come and destroy the house. And everyone else’s house in the barrio while the residents fled or huddled in the church. Nobody died. Afterward, all the residents would get together and rebuild everything and go back to fishing or farming or tending goats. The rebuilds didn’t take long, just a few days. Everyone was cheerful about it, it was their way of life. She said it was a happy time for her, the typhoons. I wonder if the adults felt that way!
I asked about her farm, the coconut farm. So we loaded on the motorcycle and went for a short ride. Her memory was sketchy, not surprising. She was so young when she walked to the well frequently for water for the family. The family tried to collect rain water, but that wasn’t enough for so many people. The well was about 400 yards or so away in the forest at the edge of her coconut farm.
The people would draw water from the concrete well in buckets for drinking. Or for washing cloths on the rocks nearby. The children would play in the pool or help with the clothes. She said that the pool seemed so much bigger when she was young, it looks tiny nowadays. Her brothers said that very thing as well. I laughed and pointed out that the pool is the same size now as it was then. A child’s perspective carried into adulthood.
“See this scar on my chin?”, she pointed. “I slipped while pulling up the bucket and fell on the concrete right here (on top just about where she is standing) and split my chin wide open. I bled very badly!”
The well is still used by some of the locals. There is a couple living in a little house on the farm that makes a meager living harvesting and processing the coconuts. This is about the only industry in town. The couple draws and boils water every day for their personal use.
We returned to town and ran into the local grade school principal. I asked if I could visit their school and I was welcomed. As soon as we stepped foot on the school grounds, pandemonium erupted. The kids got super excited that an Americano was there to see them and their school. The teachers gave in and I tried to organized some pictures of the school, faculty, and buildings. Not easy with 103 excited kids.
Time to go and let the teachers try to restore order. Also time to find the lunch to which we had been invited.
We got there and found out that there was a celebration going on. Actually, two celebrations. A birthday party and a one year memorial for a death in the family. All the family had gathered for a feast.
We sat down to a delicious lunch of rice, fish, and seaweed gelatin. The seaweed doesn’t have any flavor, the agar in it serves as the gelatinous binder. So much for our forgetting our lunch!
Back to our little house, it was time to give away Scott and Leslie’s childhood toys. This opened a tremendous can of worms as word spread of the giveaway. Kids came from everywhere and soon the toys were gone, amid much excited fuss. Lucky for the kids that missed out, there were a bunch more toys coming the following day.
After toy giveaway, we returned to Salcedo with a quick side trip to Guian. I took several pictures of Guian, but I’m not going into detail. We have a full day coming up in Guian and I’ll mention that small city in a later post.
A lot happened that first day and I’ve got a lot more coming in the second Asgad post.