photograph by Totomai Martinez
“Do not ask for whom the bell tolls--it tolls for thee.
I’ll never forget
the weekend I spent in the
town of Hilongus, on the southern
end of Leyte, in the Philippines, facing
west toward the Camotas Sea,
not far from where the Battle of Leyte Gulf,
perhaps the largest naval battle in history,
was fought in WWII.
I was fascinated with Hilongus,
because even in this day & age
it remains more of a large village, with
a spirited population of 50,000, more than
half of which seemed to be children, as
the 38,000 Catholics enjoyed being fruitful. There are
no shopping malls,
no big banks,
no big city amenities.
I happened to be there on the weekend
just before Christmas when they held
their Annual Town Fiesta, lots
of fire works wheels, fire crackers,
parades, street vendors, & music everywhere;
with a lot of drinking, gambling, & cockfighting going on.
I came specifically to visit
Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Church,
a grand tourist attraction,
& an important symbol of civic pride.
They adore sharing the legend of Mama Mary,
whose apparition, they say, once stood holding
a flaming sword to protect the church from the ravages
of the pirates of Mindanao.
Actually, I am a church bell tower fanatic,
& the great octagonal church bell tower there,
constructed by the secular patron
Don Leonardo Celis-Diaz, is now
re-plastered with Portland cement. It stands alone,
separate from the other structures in the complex.
At three stories high, it is reputed
to be the tallest bell tower ever built
by the Spaniards. The tower belfry sports
eight narrow arches, some with doors
on them, as ivy & sapling trees sprout
from the centuries old cracks.
The tall cross atop the tower dome,
is but an outline of a crucifix,
its holy center open to the sky.
The beautiful church itself was
completely rebuilt. Its huge front door
used to double as a gate to a bastioned
Spanish fortification. Behind the church, some of the
old fort’s walls, & part of an ancient convent is extant,
& it is now converted to a tourist’s Devotion Garden--
reminding me of the first time I visited the Alamo
in downtown San Antonio, surprised that it has
been converted into a book store & gift shop, finding
myself much happier visiting the crumbling movie set
constructed for the John Wayne movie, THE ALAMO,
located on a movie ranch outside Bracketville, TX., which
just somehow seemed more authentic,
Posted over on dVerse Poets Poetics
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