Exactly eight days since the day the world was supposed to end, we went biking early morning here in Surigao City to the safest place if Armageddon did happen.
It was a scenic ride with a few brakes at the public beaches along the coastal road on the way to the hill in the village of Lipata that looks over the sea and the distant city.
The hill is now quite and empty but weeks ago, more than 500 people came here to hastily build a settlement. They left their homes in nearby islands and towns to live in makeshift bamboo and nipa huts and tried to subsist on crops and livestock they started to raise in the area.
They were members of the quasi-religious, quasi-military group called the H-World (High-World), which made the Mayan doomsday a selling point to recruit its members. Led by Royette Padilla, the brother of the action star Robin Padilla, the group prepared for the “Great Darkness” following a deluge of Genesis proportions that would destroy much of the world.
“The physical world would not be completely destroyed as it is, but there will be calamities and a new world order will emerge,” said Berano Tamayo, the 60-year-old spokesman of the group in an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer shortly before the failed doomsday.
But when everything went fine in December 21, the doomsday cult blamed corrupt politicians for causing the delay of the coming of the “Divine Government”. “The temporal government has not yet surrendered; it is perpetuating its lies to mankind,” Tamayo told reporters.
He was quick to deny that the group thought of world’s end to come exactly as the Mayans predicted it. Rather than a definitive date, December 21 was more of a “marker” of other prophecies, like the coming a deity. “Earthquakes, typhoons, even tsunamis will come if our temporal leaders worldwide don’t surrender their powers to the Divine Government.”
Curious to meet these local doomsday peppers, we decided to bike to Lipata while on vacation here in Surigao. We knew we were already late to take that doomsday ride of sorts and had a slim chance of catching them there.
But having biked to the place about two years ago, I knew the scenery alone is worth the journey. Indeed, as perhaps every doomsday pepper would say the day after the end of the world, what counts is the trip and not the destination.
As expected, we found no traces of the group when we reached the hill this morning. The residents of the High World have descended back to the lower world to await another doomsday that surely won’t be corroborated by the now proven to be fallible Mayans.
The H-World members believe that only their leaders could know for sure when the next end of the world will happen exactly. In other words, or in words which they would rather not use, only their leaders have the right to postpone or reschedule Apocalypse.
This is not the first time that a doomsday group has emerged in Surigao. Until now, for example, some people in Dinagat continue to believe that their place, which they advertise as “Holy Land” in Hollywood-style concrete letters, will be the only one spared during Armageddon.
I have once travelled around the strange rock formations, mountain lakes, and huge caves in Dinagat and I could say that the mystical experience evoked by the sheer beauty of nature in these islands adds to this feeling of earthly paradise that easily makes the city looks like Sodom or Gomorrah.
Mixed with a return to radical simplicity or denial of material excess, living on top of that verdant hill with its view of distant islands and the city wrapped in the haze of polluted air indeed makes it easy to feel like one is living in an earthly paradise.
Still holding our bikes, which we had to drag as it was too steep to pedal, we paused to take pictures, enjoy the breeze and the early morning sunshine. I scanned the horizon yet somehow those television footages of the recent tsunami which destroyed Fukushima and other cities of Northeastern Japan came to mind.
Those morbid thoughts of chaos betray the stillness and beauty of the sea gleaming under the sun. In those desolate hills one could only hear the whisper of the wind left behind by the recent storm. I wouldn’t mind being caught there when Armageddon comes, hopefully right on time next time.