Sunday, February 10, 2008

the curse of jeanette

After weeks of planning a trip to Siquijor, I bailed out on Jeanette and went to Casaroro Falls instead. "Dili feel" is a reason as good enough as any, I suppose, but I still felt guilty. I was also a little afraid: Siquijor is home to many mangbabarang, and I was afraid Jeanette would be angry enough to enlist their services.

A drizzle greeted us -- Brian, Tonette, Anning, Jouie, Dr. Amasula (a.k.a. Chona) and me -- when we arrived at Forest Camp. While we had a lunch of roasted chicken and liempo, I noticed a guy fanning what looked like raw fish on the outdoor grill despite the rain, and I commented, "Kaluoy pod ana niya oy, naninguha gyu'g sugba bisa'g nag-uwan." We all broke out in laughter minutes later when the guy approached our table and we realized that it was Dr. Aplaon, an orthopedic surgeon at SUMC, unrecognizable in a shirt and shorts.

Different locals had different opinions as to how far the falls were from Forest Camp and how long it would take us to walk the entire way, but everyone thought we were crazy to attempt it. Pride, however, urged us to panindigan what we started. We therefore spent over an hour walking uphill, all the while trying to catch our breaths and trying not to mind too much the screams of pain from each and every muscle fiber in our lower extremities. Moreover, the skies were an angry grey, and it looked like at any minute the rain would begin again.

The curse of Jeanette, I thought. Soon we would be feeling piercing pain all over our bodies once the mangbabarang starts on our voodoo dolls.

When we finally made it to the entrance of the falls, we had to make our way down some 300 steps to get to the river bank, and then we had to walk a few yards more to get to where the falls dropped. I was filming Anning using Brian's camera and failed to notice the falls when we got there. Brian and Tonette laughed when, after putting the camera away, I was suddenly transfixed. Before me, dropping from an impossible height and surrounded by deep green foliage, was the most beautiful waterfall I'd ever seen.

A wizard of words might be able to describe just how amazing Casaroro Falls is; I can't. You have to be there to understand the awe I felt. The falls is framed by rugged black stone and drops from a height of a hundred feet into a basin of ice-cold green water that laps against huge stone boulders. The whole area is enclosed by lush foliage, dark green because of the limited sunlight that gets past the towering cliff and overhanging trees. The roar of the water is majestic more than musical, and you get the feeling that you are encountering nature as it should be.

In the end, Jeanette turned out to be very gracious about my decision not to go with them to Siquijor. My thighs and calves no longer burn with pain. All is well that ends well enough. But in my mind's eye, I can still see a waterfall; in my soul I feel the majesty of its Creator; in my heart I feel His love and mercy. If there was anything I'd learned today, it's humility.

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