I remember growing up in Talisay, Cebu thirty five years ago. School days in the city while Saturdays, Sundays and vacations spent at the family kamalig (sugar mill) located beside the house of my Lola Nocing (Inocencia Larida), then a widow,where we lived. Together with the other children of the sugar mill workers, we played at the piles of bagaso (bagasse) drying up in the sun, jumping up and down, magpang-os ug tubo (munching on sugarcane) while waiting for the tira-tira, a sugary treat to cool off.
Or, with my cousins then living in San Isidro, playing hide and seek till dusk when our Lola would call us out to warn that the dili ingon nato, other wordly spirits, are now roaming lest we ran into one and get sick. Still sweaty from all the running and playing, we would pray the Angelus at six. Nights are spent watching TV at the sala while the workers would congregate outside the window.
Those memories are still quite vivid: the huge trucks loaded with tubo (sugarcane), the blue impala car that belonged to my Lolo Conrado who died before I was born in 1974, the ever present rosal bush outside the house whose fragrant white flowers were placed at the family altar. At home, my matchbox cars one-by-one disappeared into the void under our floor. On non school days, we would secretly go to our cousin’s house and help clean off the sweet batter left as our aunt, who we fondly call Mommy Nora, just like her children, baked chiffon cakes.
As the years passed, I was my Lola’s ever reliable companion in her weekly catholic charismatic prayer meetings and during feastdays and semana santa, carrying candles and reciting the rosary while trailing a saint’s carrozaas it meanders along the narrow streets of the poblacion.I was always amazed at how people would push and shove just to get at the flowers whenever these processions arrive back at the church.
Larawan Beach in Poblacion and the shoreline of Dumlog were still popular beach strips wherein Sundays would find us bringing saging nilung-ag(boiled unripe bananas) with its accompanying ginamos (fermented anchovies). I don’t know why, but these and hard boiled eggs just fared well and tasted delicious after many hours frolicking at the beach, and how, at night, we would still feel the sway of the waves. Many days later, we suffer sunburnt skin and rejoice at its peeling off.
Those were the halcyon when all you care about is school, play and have fun.
High school was different. I was spending more and more time outside of Talisay, with classmates and friends but just stayed home when there’s nothing to do. During college, I left Cebu for Manila only to go home on Christmas and vacations, if I’m not away at some other places. Home became distant.
After graduating in college, I went back to Cebu and worked for the next two years. But I can’t stay put. When an office opened in Davao, I asked to be transferred there. That was the year 2000 and I’ve always wanted to go to other places, even if I have no next of kin. From Davao, I moved to Cagayan de Oro and spent a total of four years in Mindanao. After that, I was transferred to Makati where I’m based now.
The view of home has been changing over the years. When I was a child, it was the good life. When I was in high school, it was the familiar. In college, home was only for vacations and family get togethers. When I was working in Mindanao and Makati, Talisay was just another city where it became an obligation to ‘come home to.’ I was busy with my personal life and with work.
Now, as I get older and looking back, I now view home as a refuge. Refuge from the weariness of work. Refuge for a broken heart. Refuge from some of life’s sad moments. A refuge where I can be whole and start all over again. There are times that if I’m away for too long in Makati, or from traveling elsewhere, I always feel the tug of coming back to Talisay.
It is for this reason that since last year, I’ve been spending more and more time here: one week, two, three weeks. Even a month and a half. Since then, I’ve been shuttling back and forth between Talisay and Makati every month. There might come a time in the near future that I will be back in Talisay for good and make it my home base.
I recently read about the places in the Philippines that are ideal for retirement. As appealing as the places that Lamudi mentioned are, like Baguio, Siquijor, and Vigan, I don’t think they can beat the feeling I get when I am in Talisay. Home is where the heart is, they say. And for me, my roots have sunk in too deep in Talisay that wherever I go, wherever I live, I always answer to its call of coming back home.