Earlier this week, there were rough talks between Papa and his siblings whether we would be going to Pangasinan for All Saints Day. It was not only until a couple of days later that the plan was finalized, but the exact time of departure had been uncertain. October 31 was not declared a holiday, and it meant that we (Mon and I) would have to come all the way from Makati after work because I thought that we would be leaving at 4:00 AM.
On our way to Marikina on a cab, we were eventually told that we won’t be off until 9:00 AM the following morning. When they said 9:00 AM, I knew that it meant 10:00 AM, which I did not mind at all because I was hoping to sleep longer. I had already prepared myself to sleep during the long ride to Pangasinan, but to lie down on a bed will always be way better.
It was kind of expected that there would be heavy traffic in NLEX, given that we would be travelling with a large influx of holidaymakers on our way out of Metro Manila. I already lost count of how many bottlenecks we have encountered during the trip, and a couple fo them were caused by unfortunate road accidents. The worst of them was a threesome of cars, with a Korean national’s car slightly smashed between the other two. Pass Pampanga and onto this road, whose name I have completely forgotten, the drive eventually became faster.
Several cemeteries after, we arrived in Mabini’s cemetery at around 4:30 PM. It was slightly raining and we had to walk and find our grandparents’ graves. Way back in 1992 when I was only seven, my grandmother passed away and her burial was the only time I got to visit this cemetery. From what I can remember, it was situated in a high place facing west, overlooking open fields. Twenty-one years after, it was no surprise to see lots of changes. There were already mausoleums in what used to be a structure-free cemetery, and the number of graves doubled. I could not even remember what did my grandmother’s grave look like, but I definetly won’t recognize it anyway.
The last time that Papa went back to the Philippines for vacation in 2013, he, his brother, and Mama, along with others, finally got to bring and drive the remains of my grandfather from San Juan cemetery to Pangasinan. There was a belief that in such an undertaking, the remains should be driven directly to the cemetery as unnecessary stopovers, especially in the houses of the relatives, seem to bring a bad omen. So from 2010, we could no longer visit his remains in San Juan and we had to wait three years after to visit Lolo again (twenty-one for my Lola)!
I would never forget Lolo’s birthdate because that was the same day I started my work in my almost six years stay in my present company. Also, I am very fond of his name because everytime I look at Saturn in my telescope, I am reminded of how little it is, thus I call it ‘Saturnino‘. =D Too bad that I was barely a year-old when he died and I have no living memory of spending time with him, except for a photo I salvaged from the flood. It was a different story for my Lola because I will never forget the peculiar manner she smoked her brown cigarettes, the straight-up rolled tobacco ones, and I was so astonished how she never felt pain nor got her tongue burned, whenever she puts the already-lit side in her mouth. I think it was already in 1990 when we moved back to Marikina that we finally parted ways, while she went to Pangasinan with her youngest child. Then in 1992, she passed away and we had to travel to pay our respects. I still have vivid memories of the open casket during the mass, as well as the ritual passing over of the little kids over the casket. I still do not know the significance of that one but in the burials I have attended over the years, I still see the same thing done.
We did not stay for long and we were in the cemetery for only about an hour. Night was beginning to fall, and everybody was so hungry, as the food from our stopover can never be considered a decent lunch. We still had our food from Marikina, and we had a very hearty dinner, followed by alcohol for the boys. Meanwhile, I was busy trying to level up game by training my Pokémons. LOL I can’t help it but I will always be a kid on vacations and I needed my video games.
The following morning, I was awoken by Papa’s voice talking to Jay Ar. He was very enthusiastic to wake everbody up and capitalize on the few hours before we leave past lunch time. So around 6:00 AM, I convinced myself that I have to see in daylight this place I used to visit frequently during my grade school summers. I could not remember how foggy this place was, because during those summers, we had no reason to wake up early at the break of dawn. I was in awe of the surroundings that I wished I had a fancier camera to capture how amazing it was. JB made a beeline to the basketball court and I had to accompany him because the road in front of the house still has the fastest moving buses ever.
Obviously, the kids had a grand time playing, with Brie particularly running from one end of the court to the other. Every April during the fiesta, this place gets barricaded and I remember way back in the early 90s, there was an endless onslaught of Billy Ray Cyrus’ ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ with hordes of people doing the LA Walk. I also remember one of my lolas doing the dance, in full town fiesta regalia (R.I.P. Lola Soleng).
One funny remark I won’t forget from the dinner last night was how I exclaimed that everything looked smaller now. I clearly forgot that I grew up. On another note, the house pictured below was a relatively new one, compared to the one we used to stay in before. This was built completely next to the wooden house of our childhood, where the adults had to sprinkle baby powder on the floor, the same night after Lola’s burial (to see ghost footprints, perhaps?). This house was a botanical wonder, though, and it had lots of plants and flowers that can rival the garden of Mon’s grandma from Laoag. Tito also planted LOTS of vegetables! Don’t you just lvoe vegetables grown in your backyard?
After lunch, around 1:00 AM, we had to leave because we were to go the other way around to Manila via the Zambales route. One of my titos had to do some quick business stop in Infanta, Zambales and Subic but the former did not materialize because he fell asleep and we just droved past by it. LOL The quick stop by this bay when the gents had their cigarette break was nice, though. I got to see the sunset and there were also lots of Korean tourists taking photos. I could not recall how many times I have fallen asleep but when I woke up, we were almost in Subic and Mon went straight to the bathroom during the stop in a gas station because he had been wanting to pee since that break in Olongapo.
In Subic, they had a cigarette break again and I had the chance to buy iced coffees in can, and they cost cheaper than the ones sold in 7 11. I also bought chocolates for the kids and Mon, and my fix of Piattos Sour Cream. They estimated that we would back in Manila by 8:00 AM, which I almost doubted because we can’t be the only people heading back to the city on a Saturday. By the time we reached the NLEX proper, words cannot begin to describe how insane it was. The situation at the tollgates was motorists trying to get pass each other, in a slow dance of I-got-this-line. We survived the tollway and reached Trinoma around 9:00 PM, because we had to drop off Mon, who had to go home and see his newborn nephew for the first time! ^_^
We arrived in Marikina around 9:30 PM and the movie everybody got inside our house, it was the same situation as last night — people putting food on their plates, eating more and talking less. I had my second helping of rice and who knows how many serving of chicken, liempo and crispy pata. I was also busy checking on our pets and I was so happy to be finally home. Mama had to unfortunately stay home because of a construction going on, and nobody would look after the pets if she had come with us. Overall, It was really an amazing experience and I could not imagine that a less than 24-hour trip can make me reminisce over my childhood this much.