Finally, I arrived at the gates of Silliman University along Hibbard Avenue, Van Peel waving at me from outside his van. I paid the tricycle driver a hundred and twenty pesos and checked the time on my watch. But the watch was gone. I left my luggage in the English Department office, and time slowed down as we went our way to the foothills of Mount Talinis. Later, I shared to my sister the unexpected loss of something I had inherited from my father, and all she got to say was that a pawnshop could give ten thousand bucks or more for that watch. I never expected that the first morning of my week-long Dumaguete break would be devastating.
We arrived at the Silliman Rose Lamb-Sobrepeña Writers Village an hour late. Part of me was to be blamed so I apologized when Ma’am Rowena introduced me to the fellows before the session started. I thought I heard Evangeline “Eva” Gubat, Marius Monsanto, Alyza Taguilaso, and Charmaine “Shane” Carreon laughed in the small crowd. These were people I met before. In the afternoon, I recognized all of them—Allen Samsuya, Elaine “Tobey” Tobias, Jeffrey “Jepoy” Javier, Rogelio “Roger” Garcia, Jr., Philline Donggay, Christine “Tine” Lao, Andrea “Andy” Macalino, Maria “Miel” Villaruel, Miguel “Miggy” Sulangi, Glenn Diaz, and Emmanual “Lean” Lava.
It was Friday and I thought the night in the city was a perfect sanctuary to heal scars brought from the numerous spur of critiques bombarded earlier. I invited the writing fellows to come down from the mountain but only a few managed. Only Allen, Tobey, Marius, Jepoy, Roger, Eva, and Shane braved the habal-habal ride down to the city. We had tempura at the boulevard, drinks at Blue Monkey, more drinks at Hayahay, closing drinks at Chiccos, and then the mandatory visit to Qyosko after the drinking sprees.
It was the first time I met some of these people yet I invited some fellows home, to rest overnight in the city, as if I have already met them in a classroom back in elementary, exchanging playing cards, drawing caricatures of our teachers, trying to spell eloquence correctly. Indeed, time is always tricky.
(first of eight parts)