Criselda Visits

Friday, May 31, 2013

May 26, 2013

Sunday, May 26, 2013 was a pleasant, balmy day.  It also turned out to be a fun day filled with laughter, reminiscing of the days growing up of Jolo with a small group of old friends — townmates, schoolmates, and Criselda Yabes.

 Cris is the daughter of Leonardo Yabes, who opened MetroBank in Jolo.  Cris was still a toddler when I met her, but Nards and Myrna, Cris’ parents, became our friends during their time in Jolo.  In August 2012, Cris came to the University of Las Vegas on a writing fellowship.  Through the Fall and Winter of 2012, we communicated, and Ed and I extended an invitation to visit New York when her fellowship ended in Spring 2013, before she left America for France and subsequent return to the Philippines.I knew of Cris when one day, idly trolling the web searching for pictures of Jolo before the great tragedy that destroyed the town, I came across fabulous shots of the town as it is now, taken overhead from Bud Datu, Bud Tumantangis.  Among the images was a reference to Criselda Yabes.  The last name sounded so familiar that further research came up with the books she wrote about Jolo then and now.  Below The Crying Mountain, a book that Cris wrote, is a fictionalized but poignant tale of Jolo.Using social media, I contacted Cris, and verified that in her parents, we had a mutual contact.  One thing led to another, and today, Sunday is the day we all agreed to meet in Long Island.Errol Navata, of the Delgado-Navata clan, and a descendant of the Sultan was tasked with gathering a group to visit Long Island for a greet and meet.

Errol came to Merrick with wife Dolly, Marichu (Chutee) Barrera, and Elinor Tan.

We were later joined by brother Lawrence (Sonny) Luchan and his wife Marilyn Baquiran.


Most of the dishes were vegetarian, in deference to Cris, a vegan.  Errol and Dolly brought a delicious seafood medley, and a variety of sweets.  The ube roll, ube loaf and red bean loaf were delightful.  We enjoyed the divine mango cake that Sonny and Marilyn brought.  And Chutee, made a scrumptious cheesecake flan that was simply ambrosial.

The ensuing discussions was in a mix of taosug, tagalog and english.  At times the conversation became excitable, with accompanying arm action that could easily compete with the Italians, to emphasize a particular point.  Then taosug, interspersed with tagalog dominated but a reminder to revert to english for Eddie’s sake, brought peals of laughter.

Through the hours of talk, Cris happily absorbed the chatter taking notes, which struck Errol as hilarious.

 Jolo, the personalities and notable hot spots as they were then, were reviewed, dissected and commented on.  Memories were revisited —

Tigbao, the town swimming pool that was the training ground for young swimmers, and in turn taking a life or two each year;

Chinese Pier with the perilous interconnecting bamboo bridges over mud that at its worst would be missing a few bamboo strips and a terrifying sway that had pedestrians walking with their hearts in their mouth;

Lost lives, past loves and current events were revisited;

BunBun, Errol’s ancestral hometown, now the site of several military efforts to uplift the village with dive sites, schools, and other social projects; and

We became engrossed in the many stories of Patikul, Maimbung, Luuk, Maubu Beach and other old familiar places and personalities.

Sonny showing Cris pictures of Jolo, taken by Mama before it was ravaged.

The day passed so rapidly, and soon it was time to say goodbye, with promises to keep in touch.


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