(from the collection: Mt. Tumantangis and Other Poems on Sulu)
the wharf is like the season’s face
it marks the time,
the coming and the going
witness the breeze dive
to kiss the expectant waves,
or the wind howl to shake
the complacent crests,
the gray iron boat approaches
as a plundering heap.
motor launches are dwarfed beside
the yawning mouth of a naval boat
crippled now along the solidness
of baked earth and trampled land.
the men in green are lined against
a backdrop of steel and heavy veil,
strange arrivals with neither feast
nor hometown yearning appeased.
a town watches with searching eyes,
and seeks the law in young men’s brows
so much flesh and so many rifles
spark an air as that might scare
the cooing doves, the question asked
of why so much authority cannot
bring justice to a dead man’s bones
and law into the civil homes.
© said sadain, jr. 1978
Photos of a typical day in Sulu, when the sea is calm, and the day is bright enough to live and let live. Sulu & Tawi-Tawi island photos are courtesy of Harly Limlingan Marcuap of http://www.akrosdayunibers.com, 2013
In good times, the arrivals would see a Sulu like the one shown in the Lupah Sug video below. And then you have to be a bird to keep on holding this view in your mind. But even birds can get scared when a town watches with searching eyes, and the drones take to the sky.
The second video, In Focus: Sulu Gun Culture, is an up-close coverage of one of the low-intensity conflicts that continue to plague Sulu, begging the question “of why so much authority cannot bring justice to a dead man’s bones and law into the civil homes”. And guess again, the Sulu gun culture, while a major part of the problem, is far from being its root cause.
The Sulu story is a long one, and this blog will never be able to fully tell or retell it. But in bits and pieces, in bugs and bytes, this blog will be writing about it. As did Mark Twain in the past.
Like a gremlin, and probably more facetiously than anything else, Mark Twain wrote this statement about Thanksgiving Day in his 1894 novel, Pudd’nhead Wilson:
“THANKSGIVING DAY. Let all give humble, hearty, and sincere thanks now, but the turkeys. In the island of Fiji they do not use turkeys; they use plumbers. It does not become you and me to sneer at Fiji.” – from Chapter 18, Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
By the first decade of the 1900s, a few years before his death in 1910, Twain was bitterly writing about America’s entanglement in Jolo, Sulu instead of Fiji.
— SSJ, 23 November 2017
The Lupah Sug / Sulu video is produced by The Extra Mile Productions
The In Focus: Sulu Gun Culture video is produced by Orlando de Guzman in association with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, 2009