(06 September 2006, Lapu-lapu)
For many years now, I have been stowing my luggage between different homes – places where I have settled and have the longing to return. I always believed that there are unseen threads always connecting me and leading my footsteps back to these homes, be it in thought or in actual homecomings.
In the early 80’s, my family moved from my beloved Hacienda Isabel to Bacolod City. It had always been my longing to go back to the hacienda whenever I have the chance. Chances permitted it during the school breaks. My week-long vacation together with my brother would always be full of daily adventures with my cousins. Uprooting cassavas, harvesting mongo beans, softening rice paddies by feet (to make them ready for planting), searching for ripe pineapples growing in the hills, rat hunting – these are just a few of the activities that always kept me busy during my vacation. The pinnacle of them all would be ‘stream hopping’ – going from stream to stream to catch freshwater crablets. I would endure those excruciating pincers clipping with all their might on my fingers along with getting smashed toes from unnoticed rolling rocks overturned to coax these crustaceans out. These went on for several years until I graduated from college.
Going home to the hacienda always re-orients me with the sights, scent and sounds of my early childhood days. It keeps all the stories of my grandparents alive in my memory. It never fails to remind me of the simple joys in life. I would always go back to Bacolod feeling refreshed and recharged. I couldn’t wait then to start the routines of my student life.
During college, I had a short stint as an on-the-job trainee in Laguna Technopark. For an entire summer, Laguna became my home. Almost every night, I would take a stroll in the streets of Pacita Complex. I have never been to a place with as many sampaguitas as Pacita. Since it was summer, the night air is suffused with the scent of sampaguitas in full bloom. I had the chance to go home to Pacita after six years. The place was almost unrecognizable to me. However, the block where I have lived has not changed much. It was night when I arrived, and you guessed right, the scent of sampaguitas filled the air.
Being in Cebu for many now and spending most of the time here, I would say I am experiencing what most writers call a fractured existence. Though the phrase is always attributed to immigrants, I would say that like them I leave my other homes when I visit another. And whenever I am in another, I cannot help but think of the other homes I have left behind.
I still experience the longing to always go home. This longing opens a cornucopia of experiences waiting to be relieved. But after being home, I still feel the longing to go back to Cebu and vice versa.
Cebu is home to me now. But the streams and hills of Hacienda Isabel, the sampaguitas of Pacita and the mahoganies and acacias in the streets of Bacolod continue to pleasantly haunt me. Whenever I go river trekking here, I always feel the longing of overturning those rocks in shallow water to try to see if there are crablets underneath them.
My language faculties have now been bent towards favoring Cebuano as my vernacular dialect. I now find it hard to speak Ilonggo spontaneously to another Ilonggo. It will take a lot of effort for me to have those stretched syllables Ilonggos are known for. Even when I am at Negros, it takes a while for me to fully switch to the Ilonggo vernacular. In moments of spontaneous reactions, my expressions would always be in Cebuano. I have also come to accept the ginger as a staple ingredient in most Cebuano foods.
I always connect Negros, Cebu and Pacita through the early evening rain. Whenever it is raining, the smell of the parched soil sighing at the first drops of rain returns me to Hacienda Isabel where an afternoon rain would send us to the streets in glee. In another way, it reminds me that I need to wait for an hour or so after the rain subsided before going home from work or suffer the flooding streets of the Opon market. It also brings me back to the streets of Pacita when the scents of sampaguitas would be weaker but leaving the air fresher and cooler.
Having a fractured existence – several homes, is a blessing. It allows us to have the enjoyment of pure nostalgic bliss in fitting those remembrances together. It proves that life for us is moving and these images provide the connection to the stops that we made. These memories make me appreciate the journey that brings me to new boundaries and beginnings.
Every homecoming is more of reacquainting with my own self. The journey for me is still long and I look forward to the other homes waiting for me along the way.
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