Young people, I found, were not only the hope for the future but also of the past. Silay, home to some thirty ancestral houses accredited by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, could stand a chance against unbridled development because her sons had enough respect for the tangible legacies their forefathers had left behind. Their inheritance, in other words. The number of preserved heritage houses in Silay likely exceeded more famous “museum cities” in the country, such as Vigan and Taal.
Lakawon Island, Cadiz City, Negros Occidental, the Philippines
November 30 – December 1, 2017
Regret put a damper on our trip to Lakawon Island from the get-go. Guimaras Strait made a winnowing basket out of our small boat. As billowing waves thrashed and tossed our asses off our seats, Ki scowled at every splash drenching our backs and bags. Wetness was the least of my worries; I feared for our lives. A recent celebrity death – Franco Hernandez’s – from drowning in similar circumstances was still fresh in my mind.
Victorias / Manapla, Negros Occidental, the Philippines
November 30, 2017
Lay theologian C.S. Lewis once pondered, “What are we to make of Jesus Christ?” In as many ways as history would allow, so it seemed. In two sugarcane plantations north of my hometown, there were a couple of chapels that represented two contrasting images of the Christ in their artworks.
Early 1980s / January 16, 2011 / December 29 – 30, 2015 / November 1, 2016 / December 1 – 2, 2017
Never mind the world’s great ancient civilizations. The downtown of my home city had also risen and fallen. Downtown Bacolod of my childhood in the 70s was the place to be. Save for neighborhood markets that sold produce, the downtown was the center of capitalism and the Church. People worked and played, shopped and worshiped downtown. Such was the time when mall culture had not taken over the Philippines yet.
October 30, 2011 / October 31, 2015 /November 5, 2016 / December 2, 2017
When people asked what my hometown had to offer, I could only think of one thing: FOOD! Bacolod, though not lacking in other cultural attractions, would always be known, foremost, as a foodie city. Much of the fame came with the iconic chicken inasal (roast chicken), a staple in Bacolod’s food trail. A visit to the city was never complete without a stop at the strip of inasal restaurants in Manokan Country. But how was it a cut above the usual chicken barbecue? Perhaps the difference lay in the secret marinade consisting, in part, of a bright red condiment. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Sipalay and Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, the Philippines
November 2 – 4, 2016
We started on the wrong foot. We were just a party of three, but one woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Actually, he did not even sleep a wink. At our 7AM call time, he was just about ready to turn in. Never mind that we had a bus to catch for a 6-hour ride to a remote beach, and that we could miss the last boat ride to our resort. Alas, the majority had to acquiesce to the lone game changer.
Sometimes the wilderness was your own backyard. Born and raised in Bacolod, I was perhaps the last person of my generation to visit the town next-door. It took almost half a century and a change of city to get me to step foot on Murcia.
Bacolod, the self-proclaimed City of Smiles, was serious with its nick. City officials in the 80s invented an annual Rio-esque extravaganza around a smiling mask, the MassKara Festival, celebrated in October. Unlike the comedy-tragedy masks of ancient Greek theater, the MassKara showed only half of the pair – the smiling one.
What do you expect from the sugar capital of the Philippines? I’ve been in my home province, Negros Occidental, three times this year and every time felt like a trip to a candy shop. I blame my sweet tooth on growing up next door to a sugar mill. I still remember waking up to the sweet aroma of molasses that pervaded the house in the morning during milling season. My sweet dreams carried on after I had awakened – on to adulthood.
There was a time when stereo systems and television sets were furniture pieces and telephones were household fixtures. But with each new innovation in technology, we disposed of our obsolete gadgets. Not so with one family in my hometown who had preserved their appliances, among other things, reflecting the lifestyle of Negrense bourgeois in the last century.
Ramon Hofileña doesn’t say it, but the winningest smile this side of Silay certainly makes that statement. A tour guide in his own home, Ramon has been welcoming visitors into his family’s ancestral house, the Manuel Severino Hofileña Heritage House, built by his father in 1934, for almost 38 years now – and counting. He leads the longest running cultural tour in the world.
Every morning of my childhood, the gaping gate of the public cemetery would greet me. I lived in a house directly across it. My first parade was a funeral procession, my first live band music a dirge. My neighbors across the street were stacked in cement boxes painted white, guarded by frozen angels and adorned with melted candle wax and wilted flowers.
Still groggy from our red-eye, blinking away the first rays of sunlight, I took my shades off, rolled down the window, stuck my head out – and beheld the place of my birth: Our Lady of Mercy Specialty Hospital. Fittingly, I was with Mom who pushed me out to the world one fine day in 1969. And here we were coming full circle 40 long years later. I asked her if I could get off and kiss the ground. Nah, no time for such sentimentality in our regimented schedule – it was so tight, it squeaked! Continue reading “Coming Full Circle”→