Thursday, July 12, 2012

More Guisian bombs and war recollections

Leaving Bagtasan. 

I requested to see the northern side of Susong Dalaga Hill from the water so the boatman maneuvered his small boat northward while towing our bigger boat.


Susong Dalaga Hill.

The sea remained calm. One couldn’t see the sea bottom here through deep blue, unlike the blue-green waters off the shore cliffs.

Pawikan!

The boatman suddenly shouted something to us while pointing a finger at the base of the rocky hill. What did he say, I asked my company. Pawikan daw... ayun ngani o, Cora said. (He said sea turtle... and there it is!) I was almost breathless with excitement, imagining a large sea turtle, but wondering why there of all places.

It was huge! Not a live sea turtle, unfortunately, but a stone formation suggesting a pawikan ready to go down to the water – with head, eyes, a flat back and flipper-like legs. We were all appreciating the wonderful likeness as our boat passed by. Then we headed back to Guisian, making a turn eastward where we could see sitio Manlumod from a distance.


With team member Al in foreground. To the left is Mataas na Bundok, site of Datum Station Balanacan, and Susong Dalaga Hill to the right.

Back in Guisian, we were met by a friend asking how our trip was. We first met him during an earlier visit. I assured him that all of us extremely enjoyed the trip. But also remembering an earlier story mentioned to me by another fellow who left for Camarines Norte earlier that morning, I asked the guy if he had ever heard of an empty bomb shell picked up ashore in Lastre (a place in Guisian), after a typhoon years ago.

I live there, I know of one myself, I could show it to you, he replied. How could we be so lucky, I thought. We agreed then to meet later in the day after our late lunch.

View from Lastre.

It was getting dark when we met again as agreed upon. He at once led me to his place in Lastre going straight to the beach, even straight to the water, then he pointed at something there. There it is, he said. I was in disbelief, another bomb in the water? Where, I couldn’t see it, I asked.


Shell under water.

There, he said, firmly pointing at something about two meters away. With knees bent I moved my face closer to the surface of the water. It was large, maybe not exactly empty, but it wasn’t a bomb. It was a clam shell! Not wanting to embarrass the guy, I took a picture though it was really getting dark. That was also interesting, said I, poker-faced.

Empty bomb shell.

He must have misheard me. So I told him about our trip and the unexploded bomb story. He responded by taking me to his relative’s house, just a few houses away, as the old man, Mang Celso, in his late 70s might know something, he said. It turned out that, in fact, he knew about the empty bomb shell I asked about; in fact he was keeping it in that same house, so he said, and disappeared to look for it in the backyard; and returned to us holding the rusty thing.

And another bomb shell.

There are two of these here, the old man said, I used to make use of the other one as anchor for my small banca. He said he might find the other one in another relative’s house just a few steps away so could we please wait. He disappeared for a while, coming back holding another bomb shell that appeared heavy, having been filled with hardened cement. 

The Sayao Bay war theater. 

The old man was eager to share his own story about the war, the things he knew: He knew about a ship called ‘Maru’, he said, it docked near the area in Sayao Bay where a port was constructed years later for a mining operation. That ship, he said, was covered with so, so many trees to hide it from the sight of the Americans. The Americans were in the vicinity of Susong Dalaga, he said, and the Japanese panicked upon seeing the flashing signal lights from their enemy. The Americans waited for the Japanese ship to escape and when it did, the Americans struck the enemy and sank their ship. He had actually seen a torpedo, he said, (made a drawing on the soil with a stick), and remembered that as a young boy he also toyed, together with friends his age, with a Japanese helmet too big for their small heads. They had found it on the beach in Paye while swimming, he said, and played a toss and catch game with it.

The unexpected.

 That was the old man's brief account of what had occurred in this picturesque landscape, the theater for a significant WW2 operation. Evening had finally set in, we bid goodbye and conveyed my appreciation for sharing his story with us. But when I got to Cora's place she had something totally unexpected to tell me this time:                          


Kuya, may katapat daw pala yung pawikan sa kabila, at hindi raw yun natural na porma kundi sadyang ginawa, katulad din nung katapat nun na araw daw na may sinag at inukit sa batong pader, kasing taas din nung pawikan!

San dun yung araw na may sinag?

Minsang bumagyo daw na may kasabay na lindol ay gumuho yung itaas ng cliff at natabunan ng mga gumuhong bato yung araw na inukit, pero nandun pa rin daw…

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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