Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fly Me to the Moon

Just yesterday I was given a reminder of how far from everything I am now. I heard a commotion outside my house in the late afternoon and I stepped outside to see what was going on. A bunch of children were screaming in their dialect, "look there!" and "hello!" at something in the sky. I expected to see a rainbow or some other natural wonder, but when I looked up toward what they were pointing and waving at, I saw a tiny silver object - a jet plane - heading away toward the northwest. The setting sun glinted off its metal body and there was no vapor trail, indicating that it wasn't flying at a high altitude.

It occurred to me that, in all the time I've been living on this island, it was only the third time I had seen a plane in the sky. The last time had been during the election campaign last year when a presidential candidate (Joseph Estrada) paid the island a visit in his private helicopter. The helicopter caused near-pandemonium among the barangay kids, who had likely never seen a one before in their lives except on TV.

Yesterday, the children caused a commotion over something that no longer even registers in people's minds everywhere else. In cities, air traffic is boringly and even annoyingly familiar. Strangely, even the total lunar eclipse the night before, visible in the Philippines, got little or no attention here. Lunar eclipses are more frequent occurrences than jet planes.

But the sight of a plane to the children, and perhaps to many of the adults, who live out their lives here is more than just an infrequent event. To them, it is probably an enticement to leaving. Like the poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that I remember reading - and totally understanding - when I was a boy:


The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing;
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.

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