Whatever the case, there is no intactly lush forest vegetation the whole way through, except one small patch that will be explored at leisure someday. It is not just aridness––that has a stark beauty of its own––but population explosion, small huts and ugly concrete in florid colors spread over almost the entire coast. Separated by however many clicks of palm and fruit groves, rice and corn fields, chicken huts.
Which is not to say that that this Marquezian landscape is not achingly beautiful in its own way. Provincial life unfolds with much open air basketball and swinging in dooya (hammocks). There is always the Sari Sari store for pica pica and 15 peso glass bottles of cane sugar Coca Cola and Mountain Dew (curse of the non-non-soda carbonated beverage culture-–i.e. sugar fiends).
The remnant forest, passed in 15 seconds (but there) reassures me that naturally this landscape would be stupendously beautiful.... It is just that wildlife is not really allowed to exist unscathed––local gastronomic favorites on the beach near Sipalay include lizard and monkey. The forest has been turned into patches of flat grassland that support carabao, not native life forms. Trash is thrown in natural areas that would otherwise be charming. And yet, happiness or a pretty good simulacrum abounds.***
The Road from Sipalay. I really began to feel the vibe when I enter the town of Siohan, the first city-dense congregation of buildings and people I have seen that still has the pre-asphalt, pre-tricycle vibe. Here is a rural place on the cusp, still adhering to a familial level of rules and civility. Yet really teeming. Cebu, Dumaguete, must have been like this once.
And then, after slipping through a landlocked landscape of truly parched hills and plateaus––at times the nipa hut precariousness and on-the-edge solitude is savannah-like in quality––we wind up on the Dumaguete side of the coast, where plantation and mining-rich Negros Occidental gives way to Cebu-focused Oriental. Where Asian trade routes predominated, not sultanates or plantations. A true shift in trade winds.
** Global warming––fabric.
*** There is at least native chicken, proud strutting.
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