Thursday, April 15, 2010

There Are Places I Remember

I was born in a house near the 'riles'. Back when there were still trains passing through the railway, the area was called Daang-bakal. For so long my address used to be 701 Daang-bakal St., Banga, Plaridel, Bulacan. There was only one Banga then. It can't be missed since it has the most important landmark in my hometown- the railroad crossing. In the 80's, Daang-bakal lost it's meaning because the wood and steel materials went piece by piece after the PNR stopped operations north of Manila. Today it is a cemented strip of land unofficially called Calicot St. Whoever coined the name must have some naughty ideas in his head. I still visit the place where my father's house still stood. It was also where my parents-in-laws' house used to stand. Not so long ago, that house was demolished and my husband rebuilt what was left of it in our 'bukid'. I enjoy visiting the place because I always see old, familiar faces, mostly people my age, since most of the elders are now gone. We were squatters in this area as it was owned (still is) by the PNR. More than half a century ago, this place provided me and my childhood friends with a happy and safe environment. After supper on week-ends, we play 'taguan' and 'patintero' ( when the moon is full). As we play, our elders would cook 'tamarindo', a native delicacy made of ripe tamarind with coconut milk and sugar or 'panutsa'. It has a gooey texture and a sweet-sour taste, but it is sooo good. Sadly, nobody makes it anymore these days. Daang-bakal or Calicot will always be remembered because it is the land of my birth.

In college, I first resided in an old, run-down cottage known as T-170 B, Area 2, UP, Diliman, QC. Together with some of my classmates in high school, this place provided security and sanctuary for us who were all-first time city dwellers at the time. Nina and I moved to Cataluna St. in Sampaloc, Manila in the summer of 1971, in a boarding house owned by her tita. At the time, I enjoyed commuting from Sampaloc to UP but when I experienced waist-deep floods in Manila, I decided to go back to Diliman. That's when I had a very posh address- Kamia Residence Hall. I didn't think I would have a bed in the said dorm, but I believe that my name was not even wait-listed after the matron interviewed my father from whom she learned that I was orphaned by my mother at the age of six. A sad story gave me a room.

After a long vacation full of uncertainty due to PD 1081, I again transferred residence. This time at 103 Valenzuela St., Area 2, UP Diliman. This apartment was owned by a Math professor- Mrs. Nenita C. Ocampo and this was where I developed a deep and lasting friendship with my roommates Rachel Recomono and Joy Versoza. I stayed in this apartment until I resigned from Maryknoll in March 1976.

During my marriage, we have had two residences both within my hometown. In the late 70's we rented a bodega along the provincial road, owned by my friend Goya's family, where we built a palay-buying station and a living space at the back. This bodega stood witness to the many heartaches I had to endure as a young wife and mother. But this is also where Timmy and Popoy learned their first steps, so it made the place worth remembering despite the hurts and the pains. Then, we bought an old house from my in-laws near the elementary school where Ding and I went to. Tim spent the first two grade levels there before she and her brothers transferred to St. Mary's. Just like the bodega, this house was another witness to the many painful and agonizing moments in our life. When we could bear them no longer, we decided to find a place in Baliuag, despite the apparent refusal of our children, specially Nad. That was the most logical choice since at the time, I was already teaching at St. Mary's.

The old house in A. Luna St., Baliuag, Bulacan became a safe haven and a refuge specially for me who have grown so weary, exhausted and tired of all the hardships attendant to living with difficult in-laws. I felt it's about time we live independently- without listening to the endless criticisms and reproach from people who thought they knew better. The A. Luna house looked so old and dilapidated, but both Ding and I thought the three years we spent there were the best years of our lives, more like heaven compared to the little hell holes in Plaridel.

Little did we know that in so short a time, we will be going back to Plaridel when the owner of the A. Luna house decided to sell the land where it stood. Ding was then working in Valenzuela City at the same time that he goes to a night law school in Manila. We were to occupy the second floor of my parents-in-law's house in Daang-bakal since the ground floor was already being occupied by the family of Ding's elder brother. It was literally going right in the midst of the devil's territory. I knew it would be hell and it was hell a hundred times over. But at the time, when Ding was still struggling with his law studies, we needed a place for free so that we can survive. Almost seven years of everyday spectacle from Ding's brother made me hate myself for agreeing to go back to Plaridel. It was a huge mistake. If given a chance to rewrite our family history, I might omit this miserable episode in our life. My children did not deserve to live in misery and desolation all those seven years only because they had a relative who lived to make other people's lives wretched and miserable. Years later, when we have moved to a place all our own, this relation died of a disease which putrefied his body even while he was still alive.

Now, we live in a house all our own. Ding built this house at 0479 Agnaya, Plaridel, Bulacan from scratch. Everything here, from the doors and locks, the paint and nails, were bought under his supervision. And everything here came from the fruits of our labor. While we were building this house, designed by my former high school student, Randy Reyes, we rented another near the lot so that Ding can personally supervise the builders. I was then on my last year at St. Mary's. A quick look at the house being built slowly then was enough for me to sing " Ang puso ko'y nagpupuri, nagpupuri sa Panginoon..." for at last, He gave my family a true refuge and a home where love springs eternal. It took us so long, but the wait was all worth it.

My final home just might be a little urn but I hope that before my ashes are placed in it, I would have built a small depository where my loved ones can keep it. My spirit and my soul can soar high up in the horizon, but it is still my wish that what remains of my body is kept in my home.

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