December 5, 2022

The dashing red embellished around here and there never failed to remind us of the love season. It is a universal affair where some romanticize it and a usual day for others. While love is estimated as the pedestal of all human emotions, it is inextricably linked with grief. Stories of love have always had heartaches in between.
Pablo and Prudencia were both teachers working in St. Agnes School of Cervantes, Ilocos Sur. Cervantes is known today for the Aluling Bridge which is the longest constructed bridge in the Philippines that linked Ilocos Sur and Mt. Province. The construction period was from February 1999 to March 2013. By the time they were teaching, the bridge was a mere hanging bridge built by the local municipality.
It was an unsteady, tricky link for locals, which includes teachers like Pablo and Prudencia to get to where they are going, sell and trade products, and work across barangays. It is likely that some people tremble in fear of the 180-meter distance even though crossing it multiple times. Feelings of discomfort and hardship of the hanging bridge were sucked in for it was better than nothing. The country has always been a prime destination of strong typhoons. Every time a major typhoon hit Ilocos Sur, the water in the Abra river rises, which made the bridge out of sight thus impassable.
It was a regular school day, Pablo and Prudencia obviously went to school. However, the blue sky was covered with clouds of gray ready to bring gloom. The local radio station said that a typhoon would guarantee major rains but it was only drizzling now and then. Classes ended but there was a teachers’ meeting so the two teachers stayed behind. It was already raining uncontrollably by the time the meeting had ended. But, Pablo and Prudencia were adamant to go home since it was near dark. Both decided to cross the river through the bridge with no clue that the upper part of the river awaits a surge. As they reach the deadly part, the waves slam the two teachers into the raging river. I like to imagine that both were fighting the waves, looking for each other, then taking a final breath.
Morning came, the tragedy was made known to people when both did not come home to their families. The search for their bodies in the river was a community effort. The bodies were soon recovered. Hearts broke, flaunted through an ocean of cries. The husband and wife of the two teachers shared the same heartache. Soon, widows Agustine and Gertrudes shared grief eventually manifested love. The grieving widows became one as they married each other. It was almost like a fairytale story and their newfound love birthed seven children. This includes me who is currently working as a public-school teacher.
It is known that the Aluling Bridge has had many tragedies long before its construction which includes the demise of Pablo and Prudencia. I believe that its completion is a long-awaited love gift of, by, and to the people of Cervantes. The grief was eventually bridged by healing love. (MARY JANE C. BASINGA)