My mother and her siblings were born and grew up in that town. My siblings, cousins, and I spent a number of summer vacations there. I earned a dozen ugly scars on my knees and legs from playing in the municipal playground called Paraiso ng mga Bata (Children's Paradise) - or something like that - because it really was. We stuffed ourselves with kakanin (rice cakes) ans soda that Lola (Grandma) had infinite amounts of. We played sungka with Apong Ustang, who could beat all of us with her eyes closed, as long as she was not having an asthma attack.
After lunch, an anointed one was tasked to pick on Lolo's scalp for gray hair. Siestas were never required, as they were back home. In the afternoons, though, we dutifully sat for the mandatory Scrabble games with Lola, and added and re-added our scores. I didn't win a lot of games then, but I'd like to think that I learned a good number of low-frequency words that buttressed my school compositions.
My best memories? Brushing my teeth beside Lolo by the huge living room window. The one time that he hauled my cousins and me in that army truck-like vehicle of his, and brought us to the ricefields. The very rainy days when Lola allowed us to get soaked in the rain. And the meals. The glorious meals that Lola and our aunt labored to prepare.
We visited the old town over the weekend, and in my heart, I shed tears. Tears of longing, when we visited the family plot in the cemetery. Tears of sadness when we passed by Lolo and Lola's house, now inhabited by non-relatives. Tears of regret for not visiting my grandparents more often when they were still living,
We visited the old town over the weekend, and in my heart, I shed tears. Mostly though, they were tears of gratitude.