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Time Travel

By David Haldane

July 14, 2022


It’s as if we’ve stepped back in time.

Outside our window lies a pile of decaying debris. The veranda has no roof and some of our doors are missing. And, to add insult to injury, we are again reduced to living out of suitcases downstairs rather than reveling in the spacious bedroom above.

The last time this happened was 2018, when we first moved into the house then under construction overlooking the ocean at Surigao Strait. That’s because workers had not yet finished the master bedroom on the upper floor. This time it’s because last year’s category five Typhoon Odette practically blew that bedroom away.

I should have sensed trouble in the foreboding obstacles we encountered en route to our long-anticipated return. Last week I wrote about how we had to scrap a planned trip to Europe because the tickets we thought we’d bought were for a flight that didn’t exist. Eventually, we scored a refund and booked another flight five days later directly to Cebu. Well, not exactly; it included a two-hour layover in Taipei. Which is why, upon arriving at Los Angeles International Airport for boarding, an airline employee promptly informed us that said boarding wouldn’t happen without negative coronavirus swab tests for all, as required by Taiwan.

“But how can we do that in time for our flight?” I demanded, verging on panic.

“No worries,” the smiling employee replied, “there’s a 24-hour Urgent Care nearby.”

And so, leaving our considerable baggage guarded by a willing accomplice, we raced over to the place, stood in line for an hour to pay $600 US for four swabs, then raced back in time to receive the results by text just as the ticketing agent was preparing to turn us away. Bottom line: we were literally the last passengers to board.

Ah, but here we are in lovely Surigao City relaxing on the lower floors. Well, lovely might be a slight overstatement; seven months after the typhoon, the town is still showing its scars. Buildings sit in shambles or in various states of disrepair, piles of debris lie where they were discarded by their owners or the storm, and formerly lush jungles, once adorned by green trees, now stand shamefully naked for all to see.

“Wow,” my wife said yesterday as we drove home from the terminal where the ferry had deposited us. “I like this new view, you can even see the ocean!”

Our positive mood changed the moment we reached the house. Or, perhaps I should say, what was left of it. No, that’s an exaggeration, the house is still there. In fact, to be fair, the new roof is almost finished, several rooms have new ceilings and light fixtures, and we finally have electricity after five months of darkness.

Everything else borders on chaos. The building is surrounded by trash piles containing the debris of our previous lives. It’s not all bad: an antique typewriter I thought destroyed is actually only severely damaged. A collection of books signed by their authors remains intact, though thoroughly molded and watermarked. And some of our prized mementos and pieces of art may yet prove to be salvageable.

Mostly, though, it’s all either damaged beyond repair or entirely gone. A stroll through the grounds of our property is now an exercise in discovery. This morning, Ivy found the inscribed metal plate comprising my very first journalism award in 1981. For forty years, it stayed proudly attached to a handsome wooden plaque; now it’s a bent and corroded piece of steel writhing in the dust beneath people’s feet. And just imagine, yesterday I came across our old copy of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham, once my son’s favorite book, now perfectly preserved in the anarchy of our front yard.

Eventually, we will salvage what we can and discard the rest. We will buy new furniture, organize the house, and complete the final repairs. In time, we will gather new mementos and art to decorate the walls in accordance with our travels and tastes.

And one day the house will be finished. Again.

Until then, I suppose, we’ll just have to languish on its lower levels. Have no fear, we’ve done it before.


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David Haldane’s award-winning memoir, “Nazis & Nudists,” is available on Amazon. A former Los Angeles Times staff writer, he is a journalist, author, and radio broadcaster currently dividing his time between homes in Joshua Tree, California, and Northern Mindanao, Philippines, where this column appears weekly in the Mindanao Gold Star Daily.



  1. David Pauli says:

    Hey, David, it’s good to see you still have a positive attitude, even if part of it is THIS POSITIVELY SUCKS! Best wishes for a quick rebuild and “normalcy.”

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