As I was looking forward to going back into the city and being spoiled by all it has to offer. I know I'm spoiled and weak by saying this, because the country isn't that bad. Everything we ate was fresh, I mean sure things were a little rough, but that's part of it!
The morning began, and I started becoming sad and anxious. My chest was tight, and I started getting homesick, not for the states but for my family in Gumaca. I started talking and bonding with Tita Elsie the night before, and it made me realize that I wanted to get to know her more. Not that I didn't like her, I just never knew her! I wanted more time to catch up with Tita Lita, and of course, the uncles.
Tito Robert told me so much about the family I didn't know, and it made me feel great. I wish they were in the same city so that we could always have them in our lives. I wish....more than anything that I can succeed to make this a reality. I know it's not up to me to take care of everyone, but I want to give back to my family. I want to give back to those that deserve it. Most of all to my Lola and Mom.
Anyway, TIto Ric starts instructing Ate PR and Ate Nilda how to load the van and packed the bags real tight. We had a long day ahead of us and it's a hot one. I thought it would be an easy trip that wouldn't take too long, because it felt like time flew by on our way to Gumaca.
As I waited for everyone to load the van, I stayed behind to guard the car. I watched this dog basking in the sun when his owner brought him his food. It was leftovers, bones, all sorts of animal parts. I feel like PETA would freak the fuck out if they saw this treatment, but it was normal, and all the owners could offer. It reminded me how tough life is in the Philippines, and for someone as depressed as I am, it really brought new meaning to the world 'struggling.'
Right before we took off, Tito Robert took me to the side and asked if we could come back again so we could spend more time before I leave. I told him I'll try cause there may be some down time. I told him I'd try...but sadly I knew it wasn't going to happen. I was sad to leave them behind, and it's inspired me to try even harder so that we can afford to visit more often.
We said our goodbyes and I hugged everyone. I told Tita Elsie that she could speak to me whenever, and hugged Tita Lita tight. She was a really fun auntie growing up, and she's badass so she doesn't have social, which means I've had ZERO contact with her within the last 18 years. Damn man.
We took off, and Tito Ric showed us around the new roads, the cities we past, Tito Bhoy's hometown, and took occasional bathroom / coffee breaks.
When we were about two hours out of the city, Tito Ric took us to dinner, where, I can't remember. It was a beautiful setting, and Tito Ric was kind enough to treat us to food. I'm bad at picking what to eat, so he chose for everyone. It was Bulalo and Kare Kare (two of my least favorite Filipino foods) but I didn't complain!
Now, what happens next was caused both my delirium and the fact that I was getting more comfortable around the family again. Mom was chewing on the bone marrow, cause that's her jam, when Tito Ric warned her to be careful. He told her it was fattening. LOL. Mom looked really sad and stopped eating, to which I interfered.
Mara: aw come on Tito, I saw you eat a whole bag of Halls candy! One bone marrow won't hurt!
Everyone starts laughing, but he continues...
Tito Ric: No that's really bad for your heart!
Everyone continues to laugh.....
Mara: well why did you buy it then?! If it's bad for you.
He pauses, thinks about it, and doesn't have an answer. BOOM ROASTED HAHAHHAHAA.
Idk it might not be that funny to anyone else, but it sure as shit was to us. It was getting late, and that road trip was looooooooooong. I started feeling a bit sick at the end, but I think it was mainly caused, I couldn't poop and hadn't in three days.
When we finally got to the city, we unloaded the car, organized, changed and fell asleep!
Til next time!
Day 3 starts in Gumaca, Quezon, beloved hometown of the De La Rosas.
I woke up early cause I'm still adjusting to jet lag, and already, I was intrigued by the drum set. I knew it was too early to play, but I walked over and lightly tapped it with my fingers. The rest of the family were waking up, while Lola Senia and Lola Terry stayed asleep. Apparently they were up all night talking and giggling, like two young girls at a sleepover.
Mom, Ate Nilda, Tito Robert, Tita Elsie, and I gathered around the breakfast table. Mom started making her requests for breakfast, and food she's missed. I couldn't really comprehend a lot, and I wasn't hungry. I wanted to drink some coffee after seeing Tito Robert and Tita Elsie distribute some. But before I could grab a cup, Tito Ric and Tito Abet came in with some pasalubong (treats). TIto Ric wanted to grab some coffee from McDonald's and Tito Abet was getting a treat for Mom at the market. I tagged along and got some high class Micky D's coffee.
After that Tito Robert allowed me to play drums AT 8AM!!!!!!! People didn't care! Neighbors didn't care! It felt so right yet...so wrong ;) Tito Robert played a beat while Lola Senia and Lola Terry had a dance off! Music was playing out loud as we prepared for our day. Lola Senia danced with Tito Abet and I got to actually play around. Everyone was very encouraging, and I was extremely flattered. There was a carefree/loving vibe in the air, and I felt truly at home and comfortable.
Once I was dressed Tito Abet took Ate Nilda and I to Ate PR's job. Ate PR offered me some wifi access while I got to see her in action. It was really great and I was glad I got meet some of her coworkers. Soon after, Tito Ric picked us up, sans Ate PR. Ate PR promised that she would take me somewhere exciting later tonight...without the adults!
Then we went off into the town and Lola greeted all her kumares (lady friends/home girls) and gave some pasalubong! We also went to the seminary to visit Monsignor Philip, Lola's old friend. When we went there, he greeted Lola with a lost smile, not recognizing her. For a moment Lola had a clear mind. We were trying to remind the Mosignor who SHE WAS. Just a couple of oldies trying to figure out who their friends are. Hehe. Then we went to Kumare Sol's hotel/restaurant, and it was a great time for a snack.
It took a good 3-4 hours going around town, saying hi to friends. But since we were only going to be in town for a few days, they made plans for a party for when I left (Mom and Lola stayed for over a month). It was fun and scary watching Lola with her friends, because I was scared to hear what their friends had to say about me. As selfishly as it sounds, I braced myself for the 'fat girl,' comments.
When it was time go home, I was ready for a nap!
I sat in front of the fan as I cooled down and lounged on the chair. Tito Robert came over after giving a massage to Lola Terry, who was asleep on the couch. Lola Senia was snacking, and everyone else were either eating, preparing food or gone to the market. Tito Robert offered to give me a full detox/massage, which I reluctantly said yes to because I didn't wanna tire him/it was already super hot so I didn't know if I could handle the heat.
I went ahead anyway and as I was rolled like lumpia sariwa, I took in everything he was telling me. At first Tito Robert was struggling to speak and say what he needed to say. I realized he also didn't think I could understand Tagalog. I told him I could and we went ahead and had a great conversation. I learned so much about him and more about our family. It made me really miss them more and wish I had grown up with him around. I was lucky to have known Tito Ric when I lived in the Philippines, but the rest of my uncles were abroad working.
I could relate to him, and understand his struggles. He was very sweet, and I could understand how Mom was so spoiled by him. I was...surprised to hear about some of the things we were talking about, but I was glad to learn all the things I did. I know I'm being vague, and that's fine, you're fine. We're all fine.
After the detox, I was told not to take a shower, which I was very excited about because taking showers in the Philippines was hard for me...no hot water!!! It even led to an argument with Mom where she told me I better get used to this kind of environment--
Mom: Mara you need to get used to this if you want to travel!
Mara: Where am I going to travel?!
Mom: I don't know, Honduras!
Mara: WHY WOULD I TRAVEL THERE? I've never mentioned Honduras!
Cut to after dinner, when Ate PR and Ate Nilda took me out and into the town. It was fun/scary going through the town, and we ended up at this cute/hipster restaurant called Hermanos Yard. They were asking me about what I did in America and what a night out was like. I told them, again a bit reluctantly, cause for some reason I didn't want to disappoint. I'm one of the most boring people I know, and I felt guilty that I wasn't doing more! I live in America, I should be doing more cause I can.
I had a great time with them. It started to thunder and rain, which we could hear hitting the roof, so they ended up hitching a tricycle for us. I hadn't ridden one in a while, so I forgot how bumpy the rides are! I swear, every bump we hit felt like a hit on my own butt. Anyway it was a fun packed day, lots of realizations, some struggles, and ended with great food ( the sisig there was amazing).
Until the next day!
The next day started out even more surreal, but I was quickly awakened by the fact that I HAD to shower. And if you guessed it, yes, there's no hot water. We had to use the tabo and a bucket, but luckily Mama Dory warmed up some water for me; which was nice and kind. Something about showering with cold water is so scary, yet so freeing. The cold scares you, but once you start you feel strong and when you finish you feel a sense of bigger accomplishment.
So off we went, early in the morning; excitement filled the air. I was a little nervous, because the car was so full of luggage and people. Luckily, driving laws in the Philippines aren't strict--so much so that you're not even required to wear a seat belt. Mom was stuffed in the back with Lola Senia, Lola Terry and Mama Dory. And squished like a canned tuna with the luggages was Ate Nilda. I'm always worried about damaging cars, and I always think I'm 'too heavy,' so the trip definitely made me anxious, but surprisingly Tito Ric wasn't. He was confident that the car will be alright.
We quickly dropped off Mama Dory at a bus station, which made me sad because we didn't really get to talk. But our schedule was already so full and I didn't have much time on the island. So after giving her a kiss and hug good bye, Tito Ric drove us to Doña Jovita Garden Resort where my cousin, Ate Kweng, manages. She treated us to an amazing breakfast spread, and we got to spend time with Tita Julie and meet my nephews Paul and Lance.
After that we visited Tito Bogie's gravesite, which I hadn't been to since his funeral back in 2000. The heat was too great so we left the grandmas in the car, and Tita Julie led the way. Funnily enough, she couldn't find him so we kept searching, until we finally did. Tito Ric led a prayer, we said good bye to Tita Julie, and off we went.
Since the heat was really messing with my psyche, I was really amazed at how normally people lived their lives there. I was worried about Mama Dory and Tita Julie going off and riding public transportation, but I had to remind myself that they're grown ups who knows what they're doing.
On the way we stopped at a Starbucks where I got coffee and Tito grabbed McDonald's. While going back to grab Ate Nilda's order, I stumbled upon a gang of motor cyclists and accidentally stared at a man in front of me. In my head I thought, "hmm, he looks like Aga Mulach," and then a guy next to him gave me a dirty look so I kept walking. I went inside and told Mom what I thought I saw, which, she didn't even know I knew him! Tito Ric ended up confirming that it was him, so it was great seeing a big celebrity on my second day :)
The rest of the way was fun, and Tito Ric is quite the jokester. We stopped and grabbed some sweet corn for grandma, and told stories. When we finally arrived in Gumaca, it was nothing like I remembered before. I was very excited to see At PR, and Tito Robert, Tito Abet, Tita Elsie and Tita Lita. When we saw them, we were all once again overcome with emotion and love for our family. We had lunch and took a tour of the house, which Grandma had renovated.
I met Tita Elsie for the first time which was nice, and got a reunion with Tita Lita, who I've missed! After our late lunch, Tito Ric said we were going to the Church of Gumaca to give our thanks. There was a dress code which made me really angry, because, like, God, why do we need a dress code? I bitched about it, but it ended up being fine. It was a beautiful church and I cried nearly the whole time. There were just too many emotions, I think deep down it was a mixture of wanting to bring them all to America or me wanting to just stay with them. Also, I did not understand one word at the mass even though he was speaking Tagalog. I felt so lost and I didn't want to stay inside the church, but I did, so I just let myself cry.
Mom was immediately recognized and talked to friends, and we did a quick look around her old campus of Holy Child. After Tito Ric took us to the beach before we all headed to Daphe's for dinner. Everyone but Tito Robert and Tita Elsie went so I got to spend more time with Tito Abet, Tita Lita and Ate PR. It was kinda funny cause we kept staring at each other. TIto Abet is quiet, so I'd catch him staring at me, taking it all in, and it made me miss everyone so much more. I wish I had my Titos nearby.
The dinner was alright, and the service sucked but it wrapped up our night real well. When we got home I passed the F out. What a great second day.
I write, you read, we friends.