By Richard A. Giye
I AM glad you allowed me to tour you around the city after a three-year stay in Cambodia. Being an OFW helped you not only to see places, but capacitated you too to pay for your brother’s heart surgery. He did not have a heartbeat you said.
You said your brother’s heart had the sound of a gushing river. A vein that remained open had complicated his heart and this had to be closed.
After the successful operation, I brought you here to the Warrior’s Nest Park because you wanted to forget the warm and humid weather of Cambodia. The pine trees cooled you down and hopefully will bring new strength to your tired body. “It’s like an elementary school,” you commented at the entrance of the park and we laughed full heartedly at the painted rocks saying ‘I heart you’ and ‘Will you marry me”’ We did monkey climbing, tried the see-saw, and ate in the tree houses like nipa huts. We took photos from the infinity view deck and sat under the gray rainy afternoon.
When we returned to the road, we visited the Igorot Stone Kingdom, there we saw the landscapes and microcosm of an imagined world. But indeed, there are many accessory booths, food stalls and displays put up for the tourists.
I like it when you take photos for memories because in a month’s time, you will go back to Cambodia. This time you will save up for your dreams. You want to save for a place to stay, your own kingdom probably or business like those food stalls would be a good investment for you to retire.
“You know the government wants us OFWs to save up for our Insurance, I already have one, but if your Insurance doesn’t appear on their list, you have to avail of another. So now I have to pay again so that I can go out. Being an OFW nowadays is difficult, we are paying for this country – they are heartless you know.”
I was astounded to hear this from you and the burden you carry on your shoulders. Suddenly, the million rocks at the Stone Kingdom were like piles of debts to pay and like the hungry mouths of the many millions of children to feed or like scattered stones on the face of the earth. The rain would come heavy and flash floods strong like that of Banaue flash floods and it would come tumbling down, ruining us all.
“I too have an OFW brother,” I responded. “When he came home from Riyadh, he too had an eye operation. The doctor needed to clean up his left eye and remove the dark mantle that obscured his sight. He is partially blind, he got it from an accident when a shard of stone hit his eye when they were playing stones with our eldest brother.”
“That wicked stone!” you said in between our conversation.
We went uphill through the stonewalls of the Igorot Kingdom, on both sides, the path made of stones, the other paved with indomitable defenses and when we reached the summit – our heartbeat skipped a little. “It looks pretty up here don’t you think? Those tiny people are like ants moving those stones, piling up somewhere and here we are as tall as the pine trees,” you said, dreaming while saying this.
“How I wish I could have the heart to leave this country – just thinking of it brings tears to my eyes,” I said.
“Your brother cannot see half of this world’s splendor or dark and light at the same time. I cannot bear to hear the blood gushing at night and a stomach growling at day.
Without a heartbeat, without an eyesight, without money in this country- we found ourselves leaving.”
We returned to the road and watched behind us the closing of the gates of the Igorot Stone Kingdom. (firstname.lastname@example.org)