Hi I’m Lester Glenn Tabada and I’m from the exotic province called Southern Leyte. This is my first story for RunRoo. So for my debut feature let me take you to a special place for running here in our province, a place where the past connects to the present and the place where fiction, legends and reality comes to a standstill.
But first of all, you should know upfront that Southern Leyte is not yet a running place. Fun runs here are too few and too far in between, thus I have to travel to other places to run (this poor awesome runner loves the game that much). Statistically my hometown currently has one marathoner, one crazy half-marathoner (ahemm that’s me), and a handful of fun runners stationed in the big cities. But don’t worry I’m working on spreading the running bug around here. Yes, my turf is still unspoiled, but truth be told dili na sya virgin. I think it only needs a catalyst to make the community embrace the sport.
So back to our feature, there is this little village mentioned in one of the most treasured short stories in Philipppine Literature entitled “The Witch” by the great Edilberto K. Tiempo (you can read the story here). At first reading I was not able to digest the village’s name because the story was so damn good, oh blame my Literature professor he worships the story and its writing technicalities and whatevers. But only recently I connected the dots and mysteries surrounding the place when I visited Dumaguete City at their Milo Marathon leg. That was when I saw the Palanca Award-winning author’s residence and institution in Silliman University, right there where the city remembers their greatest writer Edilberto K. Tiempo and then at the back of the car my cousin told me The Man lived once upon a time in our province of Southern Leyte. Then something hit me, The Witch is no fiction at all, I think it happened in my hometown! With one search from my smartphone, I reread the short story and there it was, the village name is Libas.
“When I was twelve years old, I used to go to Libas, about nine kilometers from the town, to visit my favorite uncle, Tio Sabelo, the head teacher of the barrio school there. I like going to Libas because of the many things to eat at my uncle’s house: cane sugar syrup, candied meat of young coconut, corn and rice cakes, ripe jackfruit, guavas from trees growing wild on a hill not far from Tio Sabelo’s house.”
That’s an excerpt on the first paragraph of the short story, the next one mentioned my province: “Southern Leyte”.
So the similarities are: There is a real village called Libas near my hometown, it is also located about 9 kilometers from my house, my GPS watch told me so (I run there this morning). Like in the story the village grows sugarcanes, assorted fruits and, of course, tons of coconuts. A big chunk of the short story happened in a stream where shrimps are caught, and there is one. I even swam on that very stream many years ago. So far I have one detail to confirm before declaring Libas is actually the Libas near my place: Did Edilberto K. Tiempo visited the province before 1970, the year story was published? As of this writing I am still awaiting from the College of Maasin and the Silliman University. But I’m confident I’ll get a positive response. That Libas in the story is better be the Libas near my place.
Libas is a special place for me even before the “The Witch” came to the spectrum. I’ve been running there! Getting there is like my ultimate test of endurance. It’s an 18 kilometer route of rough rugged terrain because the road is a trail my motorcycle absolutely hates to maneuver into; it’s simply perfect for trail runners. I do not usually run out there because it’s hard and most of my weekends are spent either travelling or working overtime in the office. So I only run there on special occasions like on Holidays or when a running buddy from the city is around. But when I do, I make sure there’s always something we could bring home to remember, like jumpshots!
One thing I love the most on the trail is the cold air out there even though there’s not much elevation, it felt like Baguio early in the morning. The shades are forever nice, there is cool air, breathtaking view and when you hit the wall all you need is a bolo and climb a coconut tree! Buko Juice, natures original Gatorade and ionic refreshment is very much overflowing around here. All you got to bring in here is a good supply courage and determination to brave whatever that may come out on the course. The community and the people you’ll see at the road leading to the Libas village pretty much still village that there are still witches walking among us; that tales of their witchcrafts still exist and as effective as ever.
The place is very much true to the heart of the rural life in the province. Out here life is simple; people don’t need much to survive. Our town consist of mostly poor farmers and when you take this road you’ll see aplenty. They learn to live by living for the day, isang kahig isang tuka, and perhaps their greatest hope is to see someday the road I’m running at will be cemented. I could live with that, but for now I am glad this road to Libas is still the same as the one the boy in the story once took braved that fateful afternoon.
Sometimes people forget that we are living in the digital age where smartphones and tablets rule the world, that the mananagans of the past are now wearing GPS watches with skin-tight spandex and other fancy stuffs. But then again, I forgot I’m the only runner living full time in the area.
Maybe one of these days, I’d meet the witch herself. Then perhaps only then will I know how fast I could run.
In case of witch enounters please refer to the demonstration below:
Macho Models: The Author and his kababata and Manila based runner Ramil Milano
Photography by: Dominic Jualo
Lester Glenn Tabada. A certified public accountant, writer among non-writers, the photographer at the wrong angles, the uninspired illustrator, the not-so-cool graphic designer and the blogger at lapiskamay.wordpress.com.
View his aktib profile here >>.