AFTER MORE THAN a week in Bailen I'm glad I took a friend's advice seriously: bring warm clothing. Included in my luggage were a navy blue sweater I borrowed from my brother, a pair of pajamas, a limiting—and limited—collection of old shirts and pants, three real books, an electronic reader, and a reading lamp.
The cold was the first thing that hit me when my blockmates and I arrived at the staff house in nearby Indang. It was wonderful—refreshing but not biting,just enough to send soporific chills to the spine if you don't have a sweater. The idea of having escaped Metro Manila excited us, because doesn't the city make us feel miserable at some point?
We'll be in Cavite for the next six weeks for our Community Medicine rotation. With Miguel, with whom I am now sharing a bed, I'm assigned to the town of General Emilio Aguilando, some hour-and-a-half jeepney ride away from Indang. We're working with Barangays Kaypaaba, Lumipa, and Castanos Cerca, but mainly hold clinics at the Rural Health Center in the Poblacion.
Franco and Casti are stationed in Bailen, too, but they work with the four barangays in Poblacion and live in an old house very near the town hall. During downtimes—and that's the second thing that hit me, the slow movement of time—we meet together for coffee, pizza, or whatever food we can lay our hands on, and we say our good nights after a few rounds of pusoy dos which we play at the basketball court bleachers.
A foster family in Kaypaaba has graciously adopted us. Kuya Rommel is a barangay councilor; Ate Lily is a stay-at-home mother. They've done their best to make us feel at home, and we're grateful for their hospitality. On our first night I engaged their four-year old son Gabriel to a reading session. We finished the storybook on Abraham. Since then he has been egging me to read to him the books about Moses, David, and Jesus. Ah, kids—I do not have the stamina to keep up with them. When he wants to play, I tell him to bother Miguel instead.
Aside from having clinic duties we hold meetings with barangay officials. These meetings often involve coffee, usually homegrown, but sometimes of the three-in-one kind, that leaves us palpitating in a good kind of way. The meals they serve are delicious. Miguel and I are now worried because the large, frequent meals we're taking can increase our risk for obesity. Next week we plan to talk with organization leaders in the community in the hope of partnering with them in the future.
Meanwhile we've been exploring Bailen and its natural beauty. The rivers are clean. One afternoon the four of us trekked to find this: clean water running against boulders. The sound was enchanting and relaxing, better than a diuretic at making me feel like I need to pee.
This week we also explored another river. We descended the path near the Poblacion Two Barangay Hall and found this.
We spent our free afternoon immersing our feet in the cold, cold water, looking at the skies, reminscing, like old friends, the past five years we've spent together.
Check out this album for more photos.