My friend, in the most perfect Waray, asked the ladies behind the V-hire counter why our van did not yet depart as scheduled that morning. An interesting exchange then ensued, of which I understood only a few words. I noticed too that they spoke with such fiery passion, but my friend assured me that they were not angry at all. A few minutes later, our assigned driver emerged out of the small office. He then signaled to us and to the other anxious passengers to quickly board the waiting van for Guiuan, a small municipality in Eastern Samar.
A few minutes later, we breezed through the majestic San Juanico Bridge, basking in the soft glow of the new day. We also glimpsed Basey and its famous karst formations, some of which appeared to be lonely sentinels of the sea. At this distance, I could still make out the Tacloban cityscape, although it’s just a blurred dash over the horizon.
The other scenes that unfolded in the roughly 4-hour trip reminded me of my parents’ hometown in Mindanao – vast agricultural fields, near deserted roads and a few farming villages in between. But at the back of my mind, I know that there is more to Eastern Samar than these. The province, in my opinion, is still among the underrated tourist destinations in the Philippines.
As soon as we arrived at the town center, we hopped on a potpot (a local pedicab), that took us to the The Church of the Immaculate Conception, one of the tentative extensions to the Philippine Baroque churches inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The church’s massive front doors was shut closed that time, so we asked a staff if there’s another way in. Maybe she was amused by our explanations as to why we visited Guiuan, that’s why she also accompanied us inside.
Like most 18th century Spanish churches in the Philippines, Guiuan church’s interiors and retabloare intricate and grand. I looked up and marveled at its beautiful painted ceilings. Perhaps the local artisans back then did not know that they were actually implementing Baroque aesthetics but using locally available materials – corals among many others. The baptistery was unfortunately locked so I was unable to see its interiors, which are said to be adorned with all kinds of seashells.
We then bade our impromptu guide goodbye. But as we are about to leave the church, she handed me a photograph of the baptistery that she took out from one of their file folders. I refused of course, but she insisted that I take it with me since they always see the real deal every day. It was a magnanimous gesture that I would look back now with much fondness and gratitude.
The staff’s name is lost to me by now. I just hope that she, her family and everyone else in Guiuan are accounted for as I write this blog post. As you may have heard in the news, it was devastated by Typhoon Hainan (local name: Yolanda) over the weekend. There are just no words for the onslaught that the destructive typhoon brought not only to this small community, but to that of Tacloban as well, and the rest of the Visayan islands on its path. There are simply no words.
As I reviewed the timestamps of my photos, I realized that we only spent around 30 minutes or so at Guiuan. When you consider the long travel time we took to get there, you can say that it was indeed a rush, mad adventure. So if given another opportunity to visit this place, I’ll stay for the night to get to know it a little bit more.
Here’s then to all our shared hopes and prayers that everything will get better there in Guiuan, all in good time.
If you’d like to volunteer or give to the Yolanda Relief efforts, infomation is provided in the ABS-CBN Sagip Kapamilya site. Rappler also has a comprehensive list of other NGOs and drop-off centers here.
This is my entry for the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival with the theme: Memories of Visayas. This month’s blog carnival is hosted by Grasya of this Grasya on the Road of life.
For previous PTB Blog Carnival editions, please press on the PTB Carnival icon on the right.