Last week caught The Hub, The Hooligan, The T-Rex and I in Marinduque (with huge thanks to Dan P. and his family for generously opening the doors of their house to us). It was the perfect break from Manila’s heat and pollution; the only things we had to think about were The Hooligan’s very pronounced tan lines and the rumored snake living in the tree with the hammock where The T-Rex took his naps.
Being in a different place gave me several options for something new to do. Marinduque – home of the Moriones – turns into the nation’s hub every Holy Week. Starting Monday of Holy Week, men dressed as Roman centurions and wearing wooden masks (who knew that Roman centurions had such terrifying faces?) roam the streets. They pose for photo ops and scare little kids. If only for that, I thought of getting one of the Centurions to trade me his costume for an hour. But then some locals told me most of these men participate in the Moriones festival for very personal reasons; walking for hours in their costume in the heat is their way of atoning for their sins. So since I didn’t have the right to do the forgiving, being a Roman centurion for an hour was out.
Another option was to jump into the sea at high tide. A two-minute walk on the beach from where we stayed took us to an old pier where locals laid out coconut husks to dry and fished for little crabs and tiny fishes. From the beach, the pier stretched just for about 20 feet into the sea. The perfect set-up for a cannon ball into the water. Our host’s little girl said she and her siblings did it all the time. They must have had wills of steel. I, on the other hand, did not. And when I finally decided to do it, the tide was low. I secretly said thanks up above.
There was another way, though, which The Hub thoughtfully suggested. I could row a banca to the middle of the sea and jump there. That way, there was no danger of me slicing my skin and shattering my bones on sharp corals. There was, however, a chance of a meeting with sharks. I didn’t particularly think it was exciting to be eaten while submerged in cold, dark waters. I know there’s only one kind of shark that attacks people without provocation. But I couldn’t tell the sharks that. One sniff of my fear and I knew they would all turn violently hungry.
So I did the only thing left for me to do. I went to town and got a henna tattoo.