spreading the sky

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Slanted Eyes, Smiling Moons

I went to Bataan with my Dad over the weekend. We went to the site of Bataan Techno Park which is around 300 hectres plus, plus. It is a beautiful plateau surrounded by mountains on all sides, very lush and very beautiful. When we went up, it was raining so the mist of the clouds literally blanketed the rolling hills. I have never seen fog so thick before. It reminded me of the misty mountain peaks in the old Arthurian legends.

But what was truly magnificent about this place is its history. Before being converted into a special economic zone, this plateau was once a refuggee camp for the people fleeing the Vietnam War. Thousands of Vietnamese escaped their small villages on nothing but fishing boats, and sailed to the nearest land mass they could find. It turned out that that land mass was a beach in Morong, Bataan. The Philippine government housed these refugees, and with the help of the United Nations created a community for them in the mountains of Morong. It was only a couple of years ago that the last batch of refugees was sent off to either the United States or Europe. Although they were all gone, I could not help but feel their weighty presence. It was in the white mist which hung over the mountain like fine Vietnamese silk.

These refugees left indelible marks on the land that will forever speak of their odyssey. As we were driving to the cottage we were to stay in, my Dad and I passed by several Buddhist shrines which blossomed like lotus flowers all over the forest. They were built by the Vietnamese during their stay here, and are still intact today. There were around five shrines which we visited, and all of them were tucked away in unassuming corners of the forest, as if they were part of the mountain itself. Looking at the alien shrines made me feel as if the refugees were still present. It was as if I was walking on a sandy shore, my feet filling up the footsteps which they have left behind.

After that, we visted the museum which contains all the testaments to these people's stay in the Philippines. I was surprised that one of the fishing boats they used to cross the South China Sea was still in one piece. At that moment, I was conviced that it was magic that brought these refugees here, since the boat itself does not seem worthy enough to withstand the harshness of the high seas. Amazing.

But what really got me rolling was looking at all the pictures of these people. All those faces communicated to me in a way that was inexplicable. There was one particular picture which caused my hairs to stand on end. It was a picture of two Vietnamese boys, around sixteen or seventeen, who were shyly looking at each other with dark slanted eyes---eyes which to me looked like smiling moons. I could feel a tender happiness between them, an innocent kind of joy that could have possibly bordered on love.

The Muse is strong in these mountains. I already told my Dad that I will return to Bataan just to breathe in the presence of these people. I look forward to the day when I can once again see the picture of the two boys, so that I may write about the moon that is in their eyes.


Post a Comment

<< Home