BETWEEN FRIENDS: Boulevard of Broken Dreams PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 14 April 2014 11:15

By Linda Cababa-espinosa, Ed.D.


It’s the title of an old love song, really.  It was very popular on the air waves when I was in high school, if I’m not mistaken. I’ve forgotten the lyrics but as love songs usually go, the more heartbreaking the story, the faster the heart falls as the mind fights to forget.

I thought that a boulevard, to be one, had to be near the sea. No sea, no boulevard.  Wrong.  I found out later on that some boulevards are way far away from the seashore.  Except that since my experience with boulevards seemed to be always connected to the sea, I found that the ones near the sea are more aesthetically appealing and usually more inviting.

Our own Cawa-Cawa Boulevard has been part of my life.  I have very happy memories of my childhood with Cawa-Cawa playing an unforgettable role in it.

Sunday was the best day of the week then because I joined the neighborhood kids swimming in the clear sea water from nine to eleven in the morning.  Going home tired and hungry for lunch, the afternoon was reserved for siesta to be in shape for the next day at school.

At other times, we stayed home in the mornings and went shell picking in the afternoons after lunch when the tide ebbed way out to sea and an hour’s harvest of fresh sea shells would give us a sumptuous merienda eaten with noontime leftover rice stolen from our mothers’ pots.

As we grew up, some of the kids and their families moved away from the city for one reason or another.  The gang broke up as we transferred to live in other places and Cawa-Cawa started to evolve in meaning to me.  While before it meant only good clean childhood fun for me, now the beautiful sun setting in the west in the afternoons and the sight of the verdant Sta. Cruz islands between Zamboanga and Basilan made Cawa-Cawa a vantage point to enjoy the view.

In time, the boulevard became the favorite afternoon promenade of lovers and families who enjoyed the fresh sea breeze as the children waded and splashed in the sparkling shallow water on the shore.  In time, the boulevard became the theater where I watched some of the most colorful summer sunsets, this side of the world.

Today these idyllic scenes are gone.

The attack on Zamboanga City by the MNLF Misuari faction last Sept. 9, 2013 burned several barangays in the east coast resulting in the thousands of muslim evacuees and several evacuation centers in the city.  Each evacuation community was formed not only out of circumstantial needs but also out of tribal preferences.  For instance, because of the badjaos’ natural love of the sea, Cawa-Cawa boulevard became an ideal location for the badjao evacuees.  And they have been there for the last seven months now, each family anxiously pining and waiting for relocation to a more comfortable and permanent place.

Meanwhile, the squalor and the stink as a result of insufficient sanitation, lack of water, open air latrines and the general panorama of abject poverty erase the memorable and tranquil images of the Cawa-Cawa of my childhood and teen-age years.  As each evacuee scrounges each day to survive, I am sure they still dream of better days, for dreams are not the luxury of those only who live well.  Those who are thrown unwittingly by fortune to the most despicable conditions continue to have a right to dream for themselves and for their children.

The sight of Cawa-Cawa today, however, is indescribably painful - little children running around hungry, dirty and naked, cramped tent shelters made up of cartons, old blankets, used tarpaulin sheets, given by sympathetic citizens and some civic organizations, put together to achieve a modicum of privacy and protection from sun and rain.  Then there are loud whispers of trafficking of women and children, aside from rape, all consequences of the miserable need for money to buy basic necessities. The sea water definitely is not as clean and clear as it used to be.  And the sunset, who cares about romantic sunsets fading slowly beyond the horizon amid this ugliness?  This is the time to face the excruciating reality of every moment.  This is no longer the place to dream and if there are still some dreams left clinging for tomorrow, the future is obscured by the daily emptiness and lack of hope, because this is now the boulevard of broken dreams.

Every day I think:  where are the brazen Power Dreamers who caused all this suffering and pain? They must be lounging in the warmth and comfort of their luxurious homes plotting the next sinister move to eventually grab the power they failed to get the first time, while these poor evacuees endure the heat and misery trying to assuage the severe emotional pain and the hunger pangs at the pit of their bellies.  In fairness to the suffering thousands, these Power Dreamers must be caught and punished mercilessly with an extensive conscience-disturbing tour of all the evacuation centers, especially the heart-rending despair of the boulevard of broken dreams.