for liwa & mira araos
the sky above wore summer’s sheen
while the heat choked the breeze,
brought out the childish desire
for a cooling splash
after the heavy noon repast
of steamed rice, fried milkfish
& a potful of kare-kare
it is a tradition of sorts
to proclaim to all we’re going to bathe in Batchelor
where the fresh bubbles beat
the hoity-toity’s regurgitating Jacuzzis in the
frenzied pummeling of knotted muscles
the flattening out of balled-up nerves
told that swimsuits were disallowed
(too showy for the local oglers, they warned)
we changed into old shorts & shirts
for our hour with the turbulent currents
from a mountain river displaced by the’92 quake
& now trapped in a cement box
elsewhere in other sitios where the river runs
women soak their laundry,
boys give their carabaos a washing down,
farms are fed, jeeps are cleansed in
this unconscious communal ritual
of expunging grease, stains, dirt, dust
& the tortuous heat.
Originally published in Philippine Graphic magazine
Photo sourced from http://www.panoramio.com/photo/13122953
A note about this poem:
In 1997, Jerry Araos and his two daughters happened to be in Baguio City while I was there, too, for a long weekend break from my Manila job. I paid them a visit at an inn in the city's outskirts. He invited me to join him and his daughters for a Pangasinan outing because he was breaking in the green Defender, a new vehicle that he had just bought, or, in more likelihood, swapped with his furniture or sculpture.
He brought us to a part of Pangasinan where we soaked in very clean, warm and gurgling waters that were "dammed" after the 1992 earthquake rearranged the river. Jerry dressed down to his briefs while the girls and I wore our shorts and t-shirts with bras underneath. Mira is the fairest of the Araos girls, skin color-wise, a trait she took after her Ama. People know him as dark of skin but that was actually from too much exposure to the sun--his legs are as white as labanos.
Anyway, Jerry kept his distance from us as he also enjoyed the soak. But whenever boys and men would whistle at the sight of Mira, he walked towards us, hovered protectively and gave Mira's admirers The Look.
So this poem and recollection in tranquility are also for you, Jerry.