“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

- Pope Francis

Ten things I find odd in Eastern Samar

Rev. Fr. Euly B. Belizar, SThD

Rev. Fr. Euly B Belizar, Jr., SThD

1. The name. We call ourselves ‘Estehanons’ because of where we are, namely, the eastern part of Samar Island. Come to think of it, the same name also applies to people from eastern Luzon or eastern Mindanao.

2. Different places, different speaking sounds. As a young man I used to be embarrassed when people from other towns imitated the way we Boronganons sound when we speak. But I soon found the solution. I put myself in their shoes and started imitating the way they themselves sound. Many also get embarrassed.

3. People arrive late for Sunday Mass but early for funerals. I know a priest who was so perplexed by this he asked (to himself mostly): “Are they in a hurry to get rid of the poor fellow?”

4. Town names strangely at odds with their patron saints’ names. How about San Julian whose patron saint is Our Lady of Seven Dolors, or San Policarpo whose patron saint is St. Mary Magdalene, or Dolores whose patron saint is St. Joachim? If those are not odd, I wouldn’t know what is.

5. Different names for the same thing. Go to the south and ask for “salana” and you would be given camote leaves. Go up north and ask for “ganas” or at the center of Eastern Samar and ask for “bulkas”. Don’t raise your eyebrows, you’ll see the same camote leaves. Despite the differences, camote leaves are treated the same–as vegetable.

6. Politics of expensive self-promotion (at our expense, that is, and with us applauding, out of partisanship or ignorance or both). It is said that in Eastern Samar if you want to be elected and people don’t really like you, no need to worry. Just bring out “big” money, double or triple your opponents’ prices and you’ll be in the halls of power. Or make people believe that their money is actually yours and you are giving it back to them in “goodies” that are “free”. Meanwhile you get the credit as “epal king or queen.” Odd, isn’t it?

7. Road woes, no matter what the road conditions. When Eastern Samar’s roads were bad, we called them “luxurious” (which sounds like ‘lukso’, literally to jump or be jolted by craters); now that they are better, still we complain and consider them “smooth scalpers or killers” because of frequent accidents. Whatever we say, accidents are not the roads’ fault but ours.

8. Locally produced but still big-city-or-overseas-bound. It saddens me no end how our local university and colleges have been turning out graduates that have nowhere to go but the big cities (Manila, Cebu, Tacloban) or abroad for lack of opportunities locally. Eastern Samar has a growing city but it is still a sitio in terms of opportunity.

9. Fertile lands but infertile mindsets. A Japanese journalist who has travelled world-wide once expressed to me his shock to see so much fertile land in Eastern Samar that is unproductive. He cited experiences in Africa where people cultivated arid desert lands, forcing themselves to do so, just to survive. I said: “Sir, we may have fertile lands here but our minds and hands are not.”

10. Tough fate, tough faith. When the late Jesuit historian Fr Miguel Bernad came to Eastern Samar in the late 70s he said: “I have never seen a people so poor, yet so happy.” Now I would have replied: “There is no explanation other than that these people believe in the One who holds tomorrow in his hands. And he will still give it to them, whatever their faults.” It’s odd to be an Eastern Samareno but I still prefer to be one.

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