This issue, we reflect on the role of the land in shaping the story, and in shaping allof us. To parse our relationship with the land is to answer the existential question:Why are we here?
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Think of travel, and you think of the things you do, the people you meet, the new experiences you have. But the place itself is the invisible and most important character in every journey. Place is not background; it is an active participant in the story.
This issue, we reflect on the role of the land in shaping the story, and in shaping all of us. To parse our relationship with the land is to answer the existential question: Why are we here?
Why are the Lubotskys in Romblon, for example. Why that island, of all the places in the world? Did they choose their home, or did the island choose them? Their physical location on the land dictates their relationship with the community, and with one another. The land shapes their hungers, dictates which of their desires are to be sated; it has a say in how the children grow up, tutoring them in reality, telling them what to imagine about the rest of the world. The marble all but binds David to stay.
What draws all manner of searchers to Puerto Princesa? What enables them to trust that they would find kindred spirits in the communes there? Why is Bahay Kalipay in the capitol of Palawan, when there are thousands of islands in this archipelago? One can guess that it is for the same reason that prison colonies and refugee camps were built there once upon a time, the same reason why there are so many creatures endemic to the province.
But, if asking why we are where we are is a difficult question to answer, turning the question on its head—why don’t we just leave?—is very often an exercise in heartbreak. Asking that forces us to examine our bonds with the land, and has us test just how strong those ties are. On Bantayan Island, it is a question that seems to come up all too frequently. After the fish disappear, after the storms pass, after death comes, why stay?
To reflect on the strength of our bonds to the land is to reflect on the concept, on the nature of home. What makes us leave, and what makes us stay? To ask those questions, too, is to ask ourselves what it is that we value, and what we love. And, ultimately, who we are.