05 June 2010


Locus Focus: Take Four!

Welcome to another Locus Focus Saturday! I hope you like the setting I've featured today and are planning to link something up as well. =)

My original plan for today was to feature Terabithia from Katherine Paterson's beautiful novel, the simultaneously dated and timeless Bridge to Terabithia. But then I decided, for the sake of my contest (which anyone can join at any time during the month of June), to use this month's bunch of memes to write more about the titles that I am offering.

Loob Bunga
Owl Friends
by Carla M. Pacis

As promised, Amelia's family was given a small hut with a thatched roof. It had one room with walls of straw and an earth floor. Outside, it had a little shed where they could do their cooking. All the other villagers were settled around them in similar huts with enough room in between to plant vegetables and maybe grow chickens.

For days, Nanay cried. Tatay and the other men would meet at the official looking building almost everyday . . . Everyday too, Tatay would have to line up for their ration of rice and some canned goods. Clothes, blankets and slippers would be distributed on some days. Whatever else they wanted to eat they would have to grow, raise or buy. Tatay managed to get three chicks and some squash seeds from a kindly neighbour. At least, they had something to start on. Things are a little better in Loob Bunga. At least, they had their own home. And there was a school to go to.

Setting is not really Pacis' strong suit. Loob Bunga could be any of the many resettlement villages which cropped up after the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption. I suppose it's very "genericness" is supposed to make it more universal; but I don't think she achieves that.

Of course, I don't feature it just to be critical of it . . .

I was surprised to learn that Loob Bunga is based on a real village of the same name--a place which Pacis actually visited and where she met Aetas very much like the ones depicted in her novel. Her Johnny is even based on a real boy named Johnny, whom she got to know during that visit! It was an unusual place for everyone who had to live there because neither the Aetas nor the Indio Filipinos had expected to live so closely together. Before the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, each community kept to itself; if the catastrophe had not taken place, they might still be living separately, content to think the worst of each other, eyes not meeting should their paths ever cross.

At first, Amelia doesn't like her new home. She misses her town, with its beautiful church and big plaza. In Loob Bunga, everyone lives so closely together that she can overhear her neighbours' frustrated arguments--an awful thing for such a sensitive girl. Johnny feels the same way. Although the Aetas choose to live on the very edge of the village, where they can be as close to nature as possible, he isn't happy about living where "you can hear your neighbour piss"! But one great thing about Loob Bunga that they would never have found in their old homes is . . . each other.

About fifteen years after the events depicted in Owl Friends would have been taking place, I got to see a resettlement area myself. It was one very different from Loob Bunga, but just as memorable and moving where I was concerned. It was only for Aeta families, even though they lived much closer to Indios than they ever had in their lives. They didn't mind being "dirt poor"( almost literally!) and were content to live between thatched roofs and dirt floors, although there was (presumably) funding to build more modern housing for all of them. But the hills on which they lived were prone to flooding and mudslides, and they said that whenever it rained, they were grateful to have the stone buildings of the school and the town hall to run to. Then it would be like one big camping trip!

I remember being moved to tears by their simplicity and happiness. I had come from handling 200 students in an an expensive private school in the big city, where my biggest headache was those students who plagiariased their papers from online sources . . . It was a reality check like no other to talk to the teachers in the tiny three-room school house who had no trouble from their few dozen bright-eyed little kids, except an occasional absentee who would rather climb trees and paddle in the river than learn his reading, writing and 'rithmetic.

I read Owl Friends for the first time before this visit, and found the whole book pretty average. Rereading it again, with the memories of that trip coming back to me, I still find it average (LOL!) . . . but I also have a better sense of what Pacis was trying to do. This story is also a kind of resettlement, hoping to give the displaced Aetas a new "home" in the hearts of everyone who reads their collective story.

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: In case the linky's server is down or you'd just rather not open another tab to see who joined up this week . . . here are the participants:

Pearls Cast before a McPig, Palace-Collegia at Haven (The Heralds of Valdemar Trilogy by Mercedes Lackey)

Bippity Boppity Book, Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl)

Birdie's Nest, Wuthering Heights (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)

Image Source: Owl Friends by Carla M. Pacis


Paul Stilwell said...

The setting sounds like it is getting at the "ground zero" that every person carries with them in their heart - a few seeds and chicks to start with, to make a communion with other people.

And aren't we scared of our own poverty?

Enbrethiliel said...


"Ground zero" is a great metaphor for Loob Bunga, Paul--and very likely, other resettlement communities in the world. It's a very scary setting, actually, and one with the potential for great emotional catharsis.

Sullivan McPig said...

Having always lived in a prosperous country that hasn't much to fear from nature (well, there's the water, but we build lots of dykes, so no worries there) this is a setting that's very hard to grasp for me, I must confess, but it does sounds both intriguing and depressing.

Enbrethiliel said...


Volcanos are incredibly intense! As the world saw more recently in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a lot of water all at once can cause a great deal of damage, too. But there's something about the way molten lava and volcanic mud just bury everything that we once thought would be there forever that is awfully disquieting.

Another place I visited was a church that had been half filled with lahar. When the villagers returned, they had to remove the stained glass rose window of the choir loft in order to make a new front door! The structure is still in use as a church, but it will take an extreme excavation to uncover the original altar and tabernacle that are now about one story deep under what is as good as concrete!