Taking a sentimental journey home is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
And this kind of life’s endeavor is surely worth pursuing.
My wife, Lilia and I are set to go back home to the Philippines next week, indulging ourselves this nostalgic trip --visiting close friends, relatives, former neighbors and other people whom in one way or another have touched our lives, thereby becoming part of us.
Of course, we’ll do some traveling too.
We’ll be visiting memorable places and going to some tourist destinations which we have been dreaming to see someday if only given a chance to do it—and this is the right time to make that dream come true.
First and foremost, we’re attending two reunions of our classmates and batch mates this January--one get together coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila and the next one is that of the Claro M. Recto High School alumni.
We’re looking forward to meeting with some close friends whom we have not seen for years and doing that will certainly bring back unforgettable memories.
The Luneta Park is a stone’s throw away from the PLM, so after the reunion activities, we’re thinking of taking a leisurely stroll there, reminiscing the good old days when as teenagers, we would study our school lessons while sitting on the park’s concrete benches.
The Chinese Garden beside the park is also our favorite hangout. Why? Well, Rico J. Puno’s song says it all,” Alaala, ng tayo'y mag-sweetheart pa. Namamasyal pa sa Luneta. Nang walang pera “.
I’ll visit Loreto Street in Sampaloc, a place where I grew up; maybe, I’ll spend half a day to take a look around the area to possibly meet some of my boyhood friends: Sergio, a guy who loves to read books; Tonio, a house painter; Tony, a former Manila cop and Boy Tiago, a handyman.
How could I ever forget this street where I would play with friends some local sports such as tumbang preso, tiradorang, and holeng (marbles)? It was in this neighborhood where my peers and I underwent “tuli”; a kind of male circumcision, and it’s an important rite of passage for us young boys back home.
In Loreto is where I learned to work early in life: washing taxicabs, selling newspapers and cigarettes. A few years ago, when I visited this place, a good friend even acted as my security escort as we went around the area and he told me “ times have changed and we have to be extra careful because most of the people here are not the old-timers whom you know.”
I have plans to go to Project 6, Tandang Sora and Pasong Tamo in Quezon City and this is the community where I grew up as a teenager; I was a freshman in college when we transferred here in the 60s and I really enjoyed this place because of its countryside atmosphere-- with some idle lands, rice paddies, lots of greens—specially those Kakawate tress.
A few years ago, I got a chance to see and spend a little time in Project 6, and when I scoured the area, I could not recognize it anymore because of the many changes that had occurred there. The Visayas Ave. has been fully developed with some expanded roadways; there’s now a bridge that connects the Visayas Ave. and Tandang Sora Ave. And there is also the newly- constructed Congressional Ave. that goes all the way to Bulacan. I remember this community used to have a big squatters area where I made a lot of friends. I don’t have any idea where are they now?
Another special place which I’ll visit--the Philippine Journalist Inc. (PJI) office—this is the media company where I spent a good part of my career as a journalist, where I honed my writing skills and where I tested my mettle as a union organizer.
I’m so grateful to the PJI in the sense that although I have had some disagreements with the company because of my union activities but still, I cannot deny the fact that I’d earned my living by working there for more than 20 years.
For old time’s sake, I’ll take a look at the former Chronicle building on Aduana St. in Manila—this is where my first employer, the Leader Magazine, had its offices, the editorial dept. and printing plant—and I had my first article written in this magazine.
Being a journalist, it’s a must that I see the National Press Club, my former watering hole where I used to unwind myself after a very hectic day’s work; it’s where I made some close friends in the media.
Surely, I have to see my favorite bookstores—Popular, Erehwon, and La Solidaridad—where the books for sale are not covered with plastic and the people are free to browse these books even if they don’t intent to buy them. Then, with a little money I saved from my school allowances, I would buy a book or two from these bookstores.
Maybe, once I drop by these bookstores and browse some of their books, I might be tempted to buy some and take them back home to Toronto.
Of course, taking my sentimental journey home will not be complete without ever having a lunch or dinner at my favorite restaurants such as Ma Mom Luk, Aristocrat, Savory, Lim Nam Max’s, Little Quiapo and Barrio Fiesta. I want to taste again these mouth-watering dishes like the kikiam, pata tim, lumpiang sariwa na may mani, talbos ng kamote, fried dangit, alupihan dagat, litsong manok and kinilaw na dilis.
And for my coffee, is the Best Café located in in front of the Quiapo Church still there?
For retired people like us, it’s a good idea to visit the countryside-- Laguna, Bulacan, Pangasinan or even Aklan-- to get away from the bustle and hassle of city life. It’s a refreshing way of going back to nature, seeing more beaches, mountains, rice fields—and breathing the cool and fresh air.
We’ve already made an arrangement with a good friend, Tess G. telling her that we want to see her farm somewhere in Bulacan and she even asked me what she could prepare for lunch on our visit, I simply said “ pinakbet” and she suggested that if we have enough time, we could go all the way up to Baguio.
At 67, this is the right time for us to take this kind of life’s journey. Being old and retired from our secular work, it’s doubly hard to have frequent visits to our homeland.
Our physical make-up and other life’s concerns could also make traveling a big challenge.
However, while writing this piece, Lilia is literally burning the lines, so to speak, in making travel arrangements with some friends. I don’t know now if I could ever finish doing my sentimental journey in a span of one month?
Maybe, I’ll just sing this song, “ Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be .The future's not ours, to see. Que Sera, Sera. What will be will be. “
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