Lugar Lang | Rest from labor in El Nido

KNOWING that this piece will come out on May 1, Labor Day, compels me to write about issues like the failure of Pres. Duterte to deliver on his promise to end labor contractualization, which is the highlight of the multi-sectoral rally held today. But allow me to write instead about rest from labor, which is an aspect of the dignity of work. By law, qualified workers should have various types of paid leaves. e.g., sick leave, vacation leave, etc. (that contractual workers do not enjoy). On the other hand, with wages barely enough to cover daily needs for survival, most Filipino families must forego real vacations.

I do not take it for granted that my partner and I can afford to take our children with us on holidays. We hope they don’t either. We hope they were truly joking when they said, “Can we cash out?” when we told them how much we were spending on our Palawan holiday. When I was a child, my mother, who was a single parent most of her life, never brought us beyond Pagsanjan, our hometown, although I did enjoy our summer outings at Puerto Azul beach resort.

From Coron, we decided to travel down to El Nido via the Montenegro ferry to make the airfares from Davao to Palawan worth it. On the way to our inn at the seaside Barangay Corong-corong, I sighted a rare Palawan hornbill (talusi) on a cliff. I was thrilled and felt it was a good omen for our three days in El Nido. I suppose it could still be interpreted that way despite all that happened next.

The very popular Tour A did not disappoint: the lagoons and beaches were as picturesque as promised. Then when we got back to our resort, I slipped on the wet tile and fell on my butt, and stupidly broke my fall with my left hand. I was glad it was not injured, but it was only the first of a series of unfortunate events.

On the second day, we chose the less popular Tour B, which features visits to two caves. I was glad to find mostly Filipino tourists in our boat, unlike in Coron. I usually don’t go inside caves because of claustrophobia, but Cudugnon Cave is wide and has openings on its high ceiling so the light (and air) entered easily. Those of us who crawled through the small tunnel opening were rewarded. It is actually an archeological site where pottery from the Sung Dynasty had been found. Historically, they say locals used it as a hiding place from the Japanese during World War II.

While tourists took turns taking photos, I heard a painful grating behind me. A foreign male was scratching the cave wall with an aluminum soda can, trying to vandalize it. I immediately asked him to stop it, saying he was destroying the cave. He angrily threw the can and raised his voice at me, arguing that this was the first time he had ever heard that one could “destroy an inanimate object.” Even though I didn’t understand what he meant by that, I raised my voice even louder than his and continued to argue against vandalizing a natural treasure. I told him we were all only visitors here and we better respect what is not ours. Nobody intervened in our altercation, so I called out to the man’s tour guide and complained.

The tour guide pacified his guest, who I presumed was an Arab, but I could be wrong. And it really doesn’t matter, except that I think he was particularly angry at being called out for wrongdoing by a woman in particular. Later, the tour guide apologized to me for failing to orient his guest. Of course there was existing vandalism on the wall. This boor was not the first to want to make his presence permanent in the cave.

The cave is an archetype for the womb. Thus, I felt like my defense of it was an extension of my feminist ideals. What I wish I could have said to the man inflicting violence on the cave was, “Kung ikaw hindi Pilipino, p*** ina mo! Do not f**k with me. Kasi wala kang karapatan, turista ka lang!” (If you’re not a Filipino, f**k you…Because you don’t have any rights, you are only a tourist.) But I will not stoop to the level of Pres. Duterte lambasting the missionary Sister Patricia Fox even in my righteous anger. Nobody deserves that kind of language or treatment because everyone has rights.

As a final misfortune, my family, except for our daughter, succumbed to terrible food poisoning on our last evening in El Nido, but was still grateful for the lovely time spent together in the paradise of the Philippines. When you come, just say no to the ice.


Follow or message me on Twitter @jhoannalynncruz



Posted in Opinion