An old student of my mother has left me a message… heard you were home but how come I did not see you?
It was hard to explain why I did not tell everyone I was coming home. I grew up in such a small town where everybody knew each other. I wanted to remain silent about my trip so I could absorb the feeling of being back “home…”
I do not call it home anymore, but Naga, Cebu is always my hometown. Having left the place in 1984 and visited only twice in which the last was 10 years ago, I finally decided to visit the place after all the years of absence.
Although my paternal grandfather family is not from here, my paternal grandmother (de Gracia) and both of my mother’s(Alfar/Quimbo) family belong in this town. I belong in this place, this where my roots are from…
This is the place where my childhood memories belong, the sea and its hills. The Sunday markets when farmers bring their harvests to the town. The streets I know very well where I know everyone’s homes and the place I spent countless days playing in the outdoors.
Summer days we would just open the back gate of our property and walked amongst the corn field and one field planted with peanuts while we walked in a single file all heading to the beach.
I could still hear the breeze ruffling the palms of the coconut trees as we could smell the breeze of the ocean.
Full moons were spent playing hide and seek with all the neighbourhood kids. Weekends running around the property playing catch me , climbing up the tamarind and avocado trees.
Writing this piece now I can just smell my grandmother’s gardenias, our neighbour’s cooking and sweet smell of fruit trees around our house.
I visited the town’s church, St. Francis de Assisi built in 1893 with corals and limestone.
The very church where my parents were married ,my sister and I were christened and as my sister says where every Sunday we would hear mass and she would be yawning waiting for it to finish so we could get our Sunday treat at the market to eat “shakoy”,similar to donuts but twisted and fried. Banana cues ( those wonderful fried bananas with caramelised sugar)..
Then head to my great uncle’s place for lunch where our aunts and uncles (the Bautistas) would treat us again with ice creams and other yummy food like puto or biko (sticky rice one cooked with ginger , the latter with brown sugar yet both with coconut milk) prepared by our great aunt Tia Naty.
Small town life what a wonderful thing indeed…
Then by the age of 12 I was accepted in one of the prestigious schools in the city. Long way back then 25 kilometres one way, was a long and tiring trip for someone so young.
I was placed in the care of my mother’s ex students who were all in the university thus started a boarding house life in which I could not grasp the city life. I was simply suffocated, I missed the town…
Who would have thought that two years later of studying in the city, with my sister joining me in the same school, my mother decided we all had enough with traveling and rented a house for us… and the town life slowly faded away and became a weekend place..
And who would have thought a year later we would leave in exile?
Leave everything and everyone behind.
So indeed I went back, I spent countless hours walking from one end of the town to another. Talking to people along the way who recognised me and simply recorded the beat of the town through my eyes…
More photos … click here.