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The Eerie Siren

Bits of a childhood memory in a mining town.

As a Mountain should stand with pride, as her hair gets kissed by the fog.

Through squinting eyes, I tried hard to look beyond the brightness on the silhouette of this northern mountain range. This nostalgia remained encrypted deep in my heart, carried through the years of stored memories. I smiled as the load seem to lighten, then slowly closed my eyes to savor the brief moment of bliss. I remained seated on the grass, yet realizing I started wandering back across time, for a minute...

I was on a similar setting, looking down the slope where I planned to play slide with a piece of brown grocery box . Then came that eerie sound of a siren, piercing and loud. I remember grandma rushing towards me from the garden where she was digging up camote. She said "cover your ears child, don't be scared that's just the regular company operation siren. " As she reached and held my hand for comfort , there was a loud boom and I felt some kind of trembling under my feet. My heart seemed to jump out of me as I looked at her with startled eyes. She pointed at a cloud of dust that slowly rose from the hill in the distance. Back then I was told that was necessary to make company workers' jobs easier. That was a mining area, like many others in many parts of Benguet, Cordillera Region.

Twenty years later I visited the place again but in the central area of that municipality. In my friend's house where we stayed for the night I felt something odd on the kitchen floor. It was tilted downward to almost like 3 steps down on a stairs. Again my startled look , this time towards my friend. As she explained later the ground where their house stood (like most of the areas there) gradually sank over the years due to the cavernous state of the ground below. These excavated tunnels later led to peoples loss of their homes and schools as the ground sucked them down into the pits from the 1990s to 2013. This irreparable damage to the natural environment had taken its toll not on the corporations that caused it but on the land and its people within.

As I opened my eyes as if waking from a bad dream, I felt the same dread from that child's memory. This is another mountain, miles from that mining town, and five decades had passed. How long will this mountain before my eyes last? Will I hear that familiar eerie siren again ? Please...just please...

I'm from an Itneg tribe, my favorites, Kalinga coffee, dokto , and Sayote, Tapey or Fvayash over campfires. Proud Igorot here to the bones.


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