Mining memories of Mindoro –
EVERY place I have been is made meaningful by the images and thoughts I have of people, places and experiences that still live in my memory. For Mindoro, these are the memories of my father, of this place called Naujan and of the hot summer days.
Time can tarnish memories and I was not ready to let go of the past. Not until we have come full circle. I was determined to revisit this place once more to rekindle the memories of glorious summers spent as a toddler the size of a pint of Manila frolicking like a dashing wet puppy, with my sisters and first cousins on the beaches of Kanipisan and Aplaya – happy, carefree, innocent, idyllic days of sun, sand, sea and the simple pleasures of drinking clear coconut juice straight out of its shell and with a teaspoon in it one hand, scraping the sides of the young nut, called malauhog by locals, for its young coconut flesh, resembling the consistency of early stage transparent phlegm. Good. Ewwwww. But not when you’re young, always unpretentious and really hungry.
We visited my father’s only surviving sister at the time, Tia Luz, and the only surviving brother, Tio Oscar. Both have since died.
Tio Oscar was an entrepreneur and inventor who tried his hand at many things, such as being the proud impresario of a bedbug infested theater, the owner of a take-out restaurant serving his specialty, the pancit wrapped in leaves banana tree. noodles made by hand or helping to catch crocodiles in the swamps and selling his skins in Saldana.
Most of all, I remember him for his pure sense of pleasure. He had an old, rickety, WWII era gun rack, a heavy truck that he would use to haul blocks of ice covered with ipa (rice husks) to keep it from melting for the trip hot and dusty between Calapan. and the only restaurant in Naujan, which he and his wife Tia Celia owned and operated at the time. Electricity was poorly distributed from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., that is, when the generators were running. Calapan’s carried ice would chill Tio Oscar’s supply of soft drinks (called soda or pop in other places) in a cooler during the day and he would use the rest for the best halo-halo crushed ice in town, though. deliciously delicious. , it would inspire hordes of barefoot Mangyans to descend from the mountains and have some fun.
His chores over, he carried us all, a motley bunch of skinny, beaver-hungry kids to the beach. If we weren’t swimming or eating, we were just looking for seashells or digging clams. We mowed grilled fish, tulingan, halabos na hipon and steaming rice mixed with raw eggs accompanied by chopped pajo, red eggs and tomatoes.
A side note on Pajo: It is a small vegetable (or a fruit or an herb, who knows) in the shape of a mango, green and tasty with a distinctive taste similar to that of dill, perfectly paired with dishes from fish and maybe, appealing only to the taste buds of Batanguenos and Mindorenos who crave it.)
With our tiny, dirty hands, we cast sculptures of black sand that kill waves quickly crushed and swept out to sea. In the early morning we would be kibitzing and swarming like pesky flies at the abundant rush of fishermen pulling their nets overflowing with their catch of the day from the sea.
Life was good.
Those days have ebbed and gone forever, but pure joy returns with the memory. I wanted to revisit the old site of my grandparents’ old house in the center of town where my father was born in 1912. Grandfather was town treasurer at the time it was a position of absolute confidence.
Dad was proud to be a Naujeno even when he lived in the United States after his retirement. While living in Glendale, Calif. In the mid-eighties, he always looked forward to dressing like new in a tuxedo and tripping the fantastic light swirling across the dance floor with my mom or her. girls for Naujeno’s annual ball in a certain chic. Los Angeles hotel, half a world away from the place he loved.
Maybe he wanted to reconnect with a few elders, people with whom he had common bonds while growing up. But especially in his later years he was just happy and content to be home. If he had had the chance though, he would have wanted to visit the place where he grew up – again – before sudden death on a cold, dreary winter day overtook him.
I went in his place some time ago, something I had planned to do, as a low-key tribute. For my part, I wanted to understand how such a place shaped who it is and what drove him to sail the Seven Seas for 40 years as a ship captain, carrying logs, cars and tons of containers. from port to port – from Siberia to the south. Africa, from Pusan ââto Peru – bringing with it my mother’s memory, a small image of the Nuestra Senora de Antipolo, before the urge to travel wears off in retirement. He would have been surprised at the changes in his old hometown.
(To be continued in next week’s issue.)
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The opinions, beliefs and views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of The Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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Nota Bene: Monette Adeva Maglaya is SVP of Asian Journal Publications, Inc. To send your comments, send an e-mail to [email protected]