, April 24, 2024

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View from the Hill

  •   3 min reads
View from the Hill
By Marne L. Kilates

Go up the hill. Take a breather. Clear your mind. Take in the view. This is how I’ll try to shape things in this little piece I intend to share from my corner of the Net, Our neck of the cyberwoods, so to speak.

In my hometown I used to live on one side of the hill that everyone should know and have climbed at least once in their lives. This is the hill where the church of Our Lady of the Gate parish was and is perched on top. My hometown is Daraga, in the province of Albay, and it is famous partly for this hilltop church. Whether you’re Catholic or of other persuasion, you would have gone up this hill for some event or occasion–-a baptism, wedding, or funeral–-if not for just some quiet moments.

The other thing our town is famous for is that it is one of the thriving towns surrounding the Volcano, Mayon. Daraga is contiguous with Legazpi City, the capital, with almost no noticeable boundaries, except the customary markers put up by local governments. Otherwise, you could say the two are twin cities―not of sin―but simply because of their geographic proximity (oh, the two in fact stand shoulder-to-shoulder, cheek-by-jowl) they share many things.

I mention Legazpi because I consider it my other hometown: I spent half my lifetime there, going to high school and college, many of friends live there, learned to sing and get drunk there. But that’s a story for later.

From the hill one had what is usually called a “commanding view” of the surroundings. If one faced south, one looked down on the town población, and beyond, the Kimantong mountains and the road to the next province, Sorsogon. If one faced north, one beheld the magnificent cone of the Volcano. To the west loomed the Quidaco hills stretching to other barrios; to the east shimmered the Albay Gulf which opened farther beyond some islands to the Pacific.

That, in brief, is my little valley of a town. Circumscribed by hills and mountains, and a stretch of sea. Outside is the bigger world of the great cities, including Naga, my father’s native city, and Manila. I go up the hill to makes sense of the bigger world, to gain perspective, as they say. And maybe because of the solemnity of the church at dusk (organ music in the purple light), and the loom of the Volcano that is source or outlet of both violence and beauty (it has a purported 10-year eruption cycle), I should have perhaps enough humility and less arrogance in regarding things in general.

One other thing. My other source of both humility and a little pride is my small personal pleasure of writing poetry. I brought to the Volcano’s attention my inchoate verses during my adolescence (as an altar boy at church) and later my college years before I hied off to Manila to work. The verses I have shared in this social space since I joined Facebook, including announcements about the latest at my website. But my musings I hope to gatecrash into your unguarded moments occasionally. As Paul Simon sang, “I have my books and my poetry to protect me.”

Well, to some extent, yes. But more because in my mind at least I could always climb up the hill of childhood and my errant later years. I could always ascend a hilltop and look back, look up, look down, and look around (and in the process look in to oneself). Hopefully clear-eyed. With bracing fresh air. Maybe with a smattering of something new every now and then. That would be my view from the hill. But always making sure only after I roamed downtown. On asphalt and dust. And picked a few things here and there.

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