The Colgante Bridge of Gainza
There is a Colgante Bridge in Gainza, Camarines Sur. A real hanging bridge, it is not for the faint of heart, which means city boys and girls not used anymore to the verities, and dangers, of ordinary life. But, I guess, for the people of the town and especially those who live in Sampaloc and the other barangays across the bridge, that passage is the most ordinary, the most necessary road to living.
Last week, we were there. We had a special guest that day although given his affinity to the region and to us, he was not really a visitor, in the outsider’s sense of it, but a friend. He was Joselito Jay Altarejos, a multi-awarded filmmaker whose roots are, like me, in Ticao. He is in the area already, having moved from Manila to escape the ruthlessness of the pandemic there, which is really how this government handles the already difficult situation with senseless procedures and regulations.
Kristian Sendon Cordero, writer and filmmaker, was the guide that Saturday afternoon. Our destination was Cagbunga, in Gainza to show to Jay the “Tolong Hinulid.” Kept in a small chapel, the Three Dead Christ for anyone interested in the arts, politics and popular movements is a place to be if one would like to understand or question the place of religion in our colonial history.
The place was of importance to the two filmmakers because some three years back, Kristian had the place at the center of the narrative of his film, called Hinulid.
The film was attracting national attention because Nora Aunor was starring in it. For the first time also, she would be using her own language – not the Naga Bikol but her own Rinconada Bikol.
Kristian was back there for sentimental reason; Jay was curious about the three icons; I was, once more, interested in the political aspect of it. Co-opted by the Catholic Church, the nativistic movement connected to it had but disappeared under the weight of a regulating teaching from the local church.
In the shrine, we were met by children who knew the significance of the place. They offered candles but were cautious enough to tell us where to light them. They also did not offer to do it themselves but waited for us to request them to do the lighting of the said votive candles.
When they saw us pull out our mobile phones to take photos of the icons, they came to us again to warn us that we should seek first the permission of the three dead Christ before we even begin our documentation. We had to assure them we already did and the icons had given their go-signal.
Upon leaving the shrine, we decided to visit the hanging bridge at the barangay Sampaloc. The place was already significant as an adventure site for young students on immersion but it became even more popular after Nora walked over that bridge to meet up with Death, an old, gentle woman, played by Delia Enverga Volante in the film, Hinulid.
As we were going close to the bridge, our driver, Joven, told us of the possibility that the bridge was not there anymore. It seemed a new concrete bridge was recently completed around the area.
Feeling disheartened, we assured ourselves that maybe the Colgante was still there. As were feeling anxious with the disappearance of another landmark, we could see from afar huge steel beams, the ones used in the construction of massive architectures. Were those tools responsible for the destruction of the hanging bridge?
Our car turned left and, in less than five minutes, we could see a wide bridge made of cement! Beside it floated the old Colgante. Was it still in service?
We all crossed the new bridge and saw that the structure gradually sloped down a large dirt road. The mystery of the place at the end of the hanging bridge was gone. It was another barangay, another village accessible by all means of transportation.
Kristian and Jay went down the new bridge, turned around and went up the hanging bridge. From afar, on the new bridge, I could see them walk and stop at the spot where Nora (in her character of a mother who was burying her son in Cagbunga) also stopped, looked up at the blue sky, her tiny hands clasping the box containing the ashes of her son in the film.