I like the skies in the Philippines, away from the big cities. The big cities remind me too much of Los Angeles back in the days when a fine layer of brown grit hung over the entire city. Huge gulping mouthfuls of diesel exhaust is not my idea of sweet.
The Philippine skies are somehow deeper than the arid blue expanse that arched over the Colorado plains in the US where I grew up. The mountains are very different, too. Here they are smaller and muddier, lava and red clay. And richly green. The US Rocky Mountains are taller and rockier, made largely of gray and sandy granite (pronounced gran'-nit, not gran'-nite). The greens are darker in Colorado, sometimes almost black.
I miss pine trees from time to time, especially around Christmas.
I don't miss the snow or ice. My once frostbitten ears no longer ache here, and, besides, I never learned to ski. I broke a toboggan with my ass once. We veered left, went off a small cliff and I punched right through the wood. We slapped the sled on the back of my '57 Nash Rambler with the seats that folded all the way down, and headed to a warm fireplace. I limped to the sofa and sat gently.
The Rambler seats are a story for a different telling.
But the skies here are fabulous, moving cloud sculptures, carrying a lot of moisture that condenses and falls by the ton. I caught a rainbow in front of a range of green, cloud-draped mountains the other day. Fantastic. And sunsets are like Van Gogh in his crazier days deciding red and orange and pink should be plastered across the entire upper canvas.
Filipinos run around looking for heroes, looking for reasons to be proud. Chasing boxers and movie stars.
I don't get it.
All they have to do is look at the landscape. Or the seascape.
My most enjoyable place is down by the pier in my hometown, 5:30 in the morning, looking out toward China. Islands in the distance. Green, cloud-whisked mountains to the north. Never the same cloud sculptures. Always a pleasant breeze. Air fresh and pure off the West Philippine Sea. A variety of boats, so natural here and strange to me, plying the choppy or calm waters. Boats in Colorado are called canoes.
Cherish is not a word that comes easily in the Philippines, I think.
Or we wouldn't see such abuse of the land and the oceans here.
Dynamited coral. Desert oceans.
Clear-cut foresting. Mudslides washing the mountains to the bottom of the seas.
Mining that rips the mountains apart and throws the leftover poisons into the nearest river.
Warm springs that can't be enjoyed for the shit-laden runoff that sits in them.
People run around looking for a God to worship and don't realize He sits right outside the door, in a view that strikes harmony like a jolt of lightening across the soul. He is in a clump of coral, orange or blue, inhabited by the richest diversity of sea life on the planet.
Harvested for money.
God is MIA in the Philippines. Kidnapped. Held for ransom.
He has been plastered into a statue behind the altar, in a building made of cement.
I suppose what is missing to many Filipinos is perspective, especially those without money. They have not traveled to other lands. They live where they live, and have been there so long they don't see what is there. They only see the need to find a way to eat today.
If they could see it, really really see it, they would understand the word "cherish".
They would have no need of heroes, for they would recognize that they have been blessed with the richest, most ecologically diverse, most beautiful place on earth. There is no need to prop that gift up with manufactured glory, with artificial pride, with a hunt for something other than what is right outside the door.
Glory is there.
God is there.
I thank Him for the gift, the lift He gives my spirit, every day. I cherish it. Right out there.