Late Tuesday afternoon,
walking down Mahogany Road,
beads of sunscreen and sweat collecting dirt and car exhaust,
I mull over the day's work.
It was a long day of interviews in barangay Carmen:
- the city police department
- the regional fire department
- sari-sari owners whose shops sport new renovations and fresh red and white paint courtesy of Coca Cola
- a drunk trisikad (pedicab) driver trying to score a free ticket to Canada
- a thoughtful young trisikad driver
(The latter two, survivors of Typhoon Sendong)
A lunchtime discussion with my translator about the confused reactions of the trisikad drivers when asked the pros and cons of their livelihood:
"Why ask such a question? It's a job. If we don't work, we don't eat. There's nothing to like or complain about."
And one interview in the downtown hub of Divisoria
There was a late start to the interview with the director of the Xavier Ecoville Resettlement Site;
A visit from Philippine President P'noy to the resettlement site takes precedence.
Back at the house, there is a request for roasted manok (chicken) for dinner ...
It is Tuesday after all and we only buy rotisserie chicken on Tuesdays
It just happened that way, and is now an unofficial house rule.
The chicken is on the other side of the highway.
I volunteer to buy it on the way back from a run.
It's my first run in a few days.
The summer heat, a persistent cough, fatigue from nighttime nursing, and long days of interviews and note-writing have dampened by enthusiasm for early morning jogs.
I turn left onto the national highway, away from the city and towards barangays of Agusan and Puerto.
The shoulder is uneven, a mixture of broken asphalt, rocks and litter.
It is shared,
- by overloaded transport trucks waiting for the magical hour of 5 PM when the traffic cops call it a day and stop issuing tickets
- by jeepneys, motorellas, trisikads dropping off passengers and picking up new ones
- by roadside vendors selling everything from mosquito repellent and bananas to fresh fish and hair ties
- by schoolchildren and workers returning home
But no other runners.
A few K later I dash across to the road leading up to a new housing development.
The road is paved all the way up to Teakwood Hills;
A project of Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, according to the billboards.
The pavement ends less than one hundred metres past the gate.
There are residential roads inside, but only two houses.
But lots of vacant lots.
Not unexpectedly, the road to Teakwood Hills is hilly,
steep in some parts and only a slight incline in others.
The road is marked with stations of the cross.
(Many roads branching off the highway and into the mountainous hinterlands are pilgrimage routes.)
By the time I pass Station III, my calf and hamstring muscles are burning.
A brief reprieve on some flats, where a group of children play.
Three boys and one girl are wearing only one slipper (flip flop);
The mates are on the road at varying distances from the children.
They play a version of bowling, in which the object of the game is to knock over a can with a pitched slipper.
Another dozen or so children watch.
One of the boys abandons the game and joins me, matches me stride for stride.
We run one station of the cross together, then he stops.
On the way down, I spot the kids again.
They have been climbing up the hill.
All wear two slippers.
The boy rushes out in front, I slip in behind, and the rest of the kids behind me:
A parade, a posse of runners.
The laughter is louder than the footfalls.
A "whoooooshing" sound interrupts, then clippity-clop, clippity-clop, clippity-clop.
A tall chestnut mare gallops into the fray.
Luckily for us, she stays on the opposite side of the road.
She carries no rider, only a frayed rope tied around her neck.
The rope undulates at the same rhythm as her captive.
The equine gracefully exits the run.
The children follow.
The return trip is quick.
I feel lighter, even laden with manok.