Coming Home

photo credit

April 7, 2007

I had a chance of chatting with an old flame early this evening. It was so full of reminiscing. We stayed in front of my aunt’s store, looking at the old basketball court where he used to enjoy basketball fame, 10 years ago, when I was a blooming teenager and he was halfway through adulthood. He changed a bit, but still as boastful as before. But now he had this certain degree of maturity in him, and gladly, he had found a woman to love.

Nothing has really changed in our old place.

The houses are still the same, with only little modifications from how it was a decade ago. He laughed and called me weird when I said that there’s only reduction in the neighborhood, judging from the number of people who passed away already. The only addition was my best friend’s wife and his little angel. But all in all, kids around here marry each other, old classmates, old friends, even old enemies, just as expected from a rural place like ours.

On my way back home last Wednesday, I felt butterflies in my stomach and little poundings in my heart. This is the feeling of anticipation, whom you’re going to see after so many years of being away, who changed, how they did, how far behind or ahead I am. I am actually scared or excited. I don’t really know. After being stranded and standing at the dock for more than 10 hours, maybe it was just lack of sleep or hunger. Going back home is always a mix of so many emotions mostly when you’ve lots of reasons to come home to.

Marinduque is so full of many beautiful things, lots of hills, lots of mountains, rivers, waterfalls and blue seas. When you want a sunrise, all it takes is a 10 minute walk up the hill which is usually near every house, sitting on the top and a little waiting, and after a while you’ll enjoy the most spectacular view of watching the moon disappear among the little golden rays slowly peaking out from the clouds. Droplets of mists from the green grass carpeting the hill would fall in your feet, wetting your toes along with hundred more droplets from the trees warming themselves up in the rising sun. The birds would start singing along with rhythmic flapping of their wings and their little chirping would awaken the whole neighbourhood, with the cries of the pigs, the roosters and the dogs, so rural and so peaceful.

And when you want a sunset, an afternoon walk in the bay would be perfect. When you get tired, lie down on the sand, count all the shapes forming in the clouds. When you notice that the clouds seems to be sinking, get up and sit, then fall in love with the blood-bath sky, hold your breath and adore the beauty of the sinking sun, slowly descending down the horizon, taking a day off your life. Don’t blink because a sunset is momentary, a blink would mean loosing the lovely sight. A sunset is always like life, so fleeting, so ephemeral. One day you’re young and careless, next day, you’ll start asking, where had everything gone?

I asked myself how am I going to respond if ask how I feel of going back to Marinduque. There are only two things on my mind, nostalgic and triumphant. I’ve missed my home so much. My childhood was spent here, my years of slow awakening to the ways of the world. And my home is an innocent little island that is so used to the old world, so traditional, so conventional. This is where I spent days climbing mango trees, shooting maya and paypago in the nearby hill of the family farm. This is where I constructed my first playhouse, made of kaimito and coconut leaves, of old palay sacks, of guava branches and so many wow’s and yehey’s from my cheering playmates. My friends and I sleep in the playhouse, pretend to cook and eat there, act out soap operas and radio dramas where I always play the villain, grabbing their hairs and shoving them to the dirty soil in the back of the ancestral house. This is where I tasted the pain of numerous whipping in the butt by my spinster aunts, just because I wouldn’t go home for siestas, for the 6 pm prayers and suppers. I’ll always reason that I was with my playmates, which is partly true since I was hunting down my Muslim crush with them, who turned out to be my cousin.

I had the most wonderful childhood and I couldn’t be more thankful that I was raised a probinsyana. I experienced everything there is to experience, climbing trees, shooting birds, bathing in the river and the seas, playing kite, brawling with other kids, kissing at the back of the house, making out and loving my first love.

Triumphant yes, because life here is so hard. People eternally plough field, raise cattles, pigs and chickens, goes to fishing everyday and do all kind of odd jobs just to send their kids to school. For most parents, having a high school graduate is an achievement already, but for some, a legacy would not be completed without a college degree, even if it would mean working their asses off till the last of their breaths. And I am one of the few who survived and meet society’s expectations. I am among the lucky ones.

Marinduquenos, like most Filipinos values education. And like most parents, they want the best for their children, for parental obligation and for society’s expectations. And most of all, for love.

There are always tears when I remember Marinduque. It reminds me that I’m growing old and it’s inevitable. But then, my heart-shaped island in the midst’s of the 7, 100 islands of the Philippines would be a constant reminder that I was and I’m still am a happy kid and I’ll always be no matter where destiny takes me.

*one of my first published articles in a national daily