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HOME AWAY FROM HOME (Part 1)



By Rene Calalang
Scarborough-Ontario
September 7, 2014

 
 


Are you one of the many whom I will call lost in the shuffle, the type of person who fails to appreciate and always finding faults on what he has, only to find out later that he is wrong? He finds beauty of what others have, only to find out that he has a Rolls Royce in his backyard.

Well, if you are, you are not alone, as a great number of people especially those who come from a poor country and migrated to a progressive country, would, for some personal reasons, do not want to look back.

He too, would have nothing good to say about the country he left behind. He would also blame others for his misfortune.

Well, if you are, the time to change that attitude is now, for a person, no matter where he comes from, has a story to tell; and any country, has always a history to share.

Fortunately, I am not one of those, as this article is about me looking back and rediscovering my past.

This is about me catching up with what I ignored, because it was right there, in my backyard.

This is about me, who in the later part of my life, who, with means now available, can now rediscover the country, which, for economic reason, I left behind; but the country I still call “HOME AWAY FROM HOME.”

Travelling in many other parts of the world would make my desire even more ardent. And as I witness many historical documents and monuments, read and tried to understand their history, only did I realize that there is so much I do not know about my own native country and history.

As such, the exploration began a few years ago during my many Balikbayan visits. It would cover only the events, the people, the monuments and the sceneries that would make my subject significant and historical. I will also give my opinion on their relevance/irrelevance in today’s world.

MY starting point was the beautiful province of Palawan, an archipelago of 1780 islands, home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Tubbataha Reef and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, commonly known as the Puerto Princesa Underground River, and the Last Frontier of the Philippines Eco System

As this was the latest place I visited and it only happened last February 2014, hence, the memories were still very fresh in my mind. It also meant; I will do less reading to supplement my essay.

THE TRIP started from Terminal 3 in Paranaque aboard a PAL EXPRESS Airbus plane. After approximately an hour on the air we landed at the Puerto Princesa Airport.

Since it was a domestic flight, we don’t have to go through Immigration and Custom. Hence, getting out of the Palawan airport was fast.

Pulling our wheeled luggage, we exited the front gate of the airport. There, we were met by a waiting tour representative who was carrying a placard indicating the name of the travel agency where we bought our tour package.

We approached him, introduced ourselves and showed him our tour documents.

He smiled and offered his hands. We shook hands, and in a warm voice, he said, “Welcome to Palawan.”

He led us to the waiting minivan, opened its back door, and helped us load our luggage.

He then opened the side door of the van for us to enter.

We boarded the van and the driver closed the side door of the van.

“Welcome to Palawan,” he again politely welcomed us after we were all seated and the van started to move.

“Thank you,” we said, almost in unison.

“Impressive,” I said upon seeing the many huge acacia trees, whose many vines were wrapped around their trunks and whose branches, twigs and leaves overlapping each other thus providing shades on the streets.

“Nice weather,” my friend Marc commented knowing fully well that February was probably the coolest month of the year.

“Enjoy it,” the driver said in a voice as if reminding us that warmer weather is coming.

After about fifteen minute drive, we reached Aziza Paradise Hotel, our temporary home for the next four days.

The driver unloaded our luggage and we gave the driver/tour representative a generous tip.

Two porters came rushing and without hesitation said, “Allow us to carry your luggage, Sir.”

We checked in and as expected, we were warmly greeted by the always smiling employees manning the reception desk.

Soon we were inside our respective rooms.

SINCE it was hardly 9:00 a.m., first day tour was a half day city tour, which for me was enjoyable but not as exciting as I thought it would be, for despite being a city, I anticipated a town like atmosphere.

What impressed me most was the cleanliness of the city and was without exception, for me, second to none. It was amazingly clean. It was clean because people and tourists alike followed the laws, and the government had the guts to implement the ordinance, which in one of our stops the sign says:

FIRST OFFENCE ----- --- -- P100.00
SECOND OFFENCE ---- - --- P500.00
THIRD OFFENCE -- -- -- --- 30 DAYS IMPRISONMENT

“What is the penalty for the fourth offence” I jokingly asked our tour guide while we were travelling.

Perhaps sensing what I had in my mind, she replied, “Will be fed to the crocodiles.”

Laughter.

“They do deserve that,” I said kidding.

In our front were tricycles of many colors used as public transport. These were not the smoke belching tricycles I used to know, but rather with little or no smoke at all coming from its exhaust.

“How come?” I asked the driver thinking he had more knowledge about engines.

“Simple, Sir,” he answered. “Tricycles here use four stroke engine rather than the two strokes where oil is mixed on gasoline for lubrication.”

I nodded my head in approval.

Half day tour would include a trip to Mitra Ranch, a visit to a Hopia Factory, which after tasting a few, I could honestly say that those were probably the most delicious hopia I ever tasted; hence, without hesitation, we ended up buying a few packages.

We also visited Saint Joseph Church, which again, did not excite me as I had seen many churches of enormous size and amazing architecture and decorations both here and in many places in Europe and North America.

We found one.

“How much is the complete set of that one,” my wife asked while pointing to the set.

The sales lady told us how much.

My wife looked at me and our eyes made contact. I nodded my head in approval.

“Let me check if we have some in stock.”

She went through the computer to check the inventory. “We have one set left,” she told us.

We bought it right away knowing that if we don’t, the lady besides us who had been listening to our conversation with the sales lady would grab it.

“Do you know that these place mats are sold in Canada, probably five times more expensive but with the designer label on it,” my wife told me on our way to the van.

I smiled. Now we knew why others make a lot of money – by just placing their label on some good product they buy so cheaply.

What can I say? As one lady said, “Some are smarter than others.”

This was the end of our half day tour.

Dinner at the hotel was formal and classy, with uniformed waiter serving us. And of course it would be mainly sea food dinner, particularly of fish called Lapu-lapu (Groper) and shrimps. For drinks, it would be fresh coconut juice taken directly from the coconut fruit. For dessert, we had the coconut fruit cut into halves and the soft meat scooped with a spoon.

TO BE CONTINUED

    Write a Comment
    Peny Capistrano
    Fri 12th September 2014
    Union City, CA
    Nice article...I will forward this to my friends especially my friend
    from Coron. Write more please, I am excited to remember more
    of of our experiences in Puerto Princesa..
     
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