Sunday, April 25, 2010
La Fuerza de San Pedro
One among my many haunts in my beloved beautiful city of Iloilo is this historic Fort known as Fort San Pedro. This was built in 1616 to protect the city from Dutch Invaders and Moro raiders.
When the Fort succumbed to earthquakes and other forces of nature and time, it was then rebuilt as a park.
I grew up in Rizal Street and this was very very close to where I lived. Even before there was Villa Beach or other 'family' places in the city, Fort San Pedro was the place to be. It was a place that served good food with a breathtaking view of the Panay Strait and the lush island of Guimaras, prominently, the mystical Balaan Bukid, or "Holy Mountain" with a cross on top of the mountain that is lighted on night times. The clear waters were also an enjoyable swimming area, as well as fishing spot for hobbyists, enthusiasts, as well as those wanting a fish or two for the meal of the day.
It was also used as an occasional unloading spot of outrigger motorboats from Guimaras. It was also a place where good music used to be featured from the nightly live band playing. The natural beauty and romantic ambiance of the place made it a favorite tryst of lovers who would walk the break water holding hands, sit down on the stone steps or at the nearby 'Rotary Park.' I remember wonderful thoughts of dating girlfriends to watch the sunset, and later on, boyfriends, to wait for the sunrise in this place. I also remember early mornings when our CAT Officers Corps would march to this place to practice 'voice command.'
Soon, it degenerated into a seedy dangerous place, as squatters overrun the place and was avoided specially at night time due to drug addicts, prostitutes, lawless elements, and the 'cheapskates' who would park their tinted cars and do their thing in the darkly lit 'park.' The big waves during storms also smashed the pavements and now, it is in ruins, heavily vandalized, dirty, and avoided by people. One ex-lover commented that he never wanted to go to this place unless I am around, because otherwise, he feels unsafe.
This place is very significant for me. I would come here just to feel the night sea breeze, let my thoughts wander, stare out at the expanse of the sea, gaze at the stars, ponder the full moon, watch the death of the day, or be witness to the birth of a brand new morning. I am aware of the 'dangers' associated with the place, but ironically, I have never felt threatened here, and in fact, I consider this as my 'sanctuary' of sorts. I come here when I am sad, to let the waves drown out my sorrows. I come here when I am happy, to celebrate with the stars. I come here when I am in love, to spin dreams while my hands are laced with another, or our arms draped as human blankets over each others body. I come here when I am brokenhearted to watch the waves bash upon the rocks, like the pain that bashes upon my weary heart. Even before 24hour joints sprouted in the city, I always had Fort San Pedro. My friends know this and they share in my haven every now and then.
This recent 'coming back to Iloilo' would not be complete without a visit to Fort San Pedro to watch the birth of a new day. It breaks my heart to see the deplorable condition that my sanctuary has been reduced to, and I wish in my heart that while the City Government builds better and new places for people to use and enjoy, such as the newest craze in Diversion Road - the Efraim Trenas Avenue, I do hope that they will try to restore Fort San Pedro to its former beauty. Nevertheless, I will still be there tonight. Eden Von, dear friend/disciple/little brother/son/kindred spirit will join me tonight, and like the nocturnal fiends that we are, we shall once again gaze at the stars, the sea and wait for that glorious moment when the sun breaks over the horizon.
One of these days, should you care, you may join me there too...