Upon arriving in Calbayog City, Samar, our first day was filled with Teri and the kinfolk reminiscing about old times. They shared and held many discussions about this and that, mostly that, while I enjoyed funning with all the nieces and nephews. I kept them all guessing, and always on their toes, springing little random surprises on them from time to time, like a batch of chocolate favorites like M&M’s here and a little Snickers there, etc. Nonetheless, the kids quickly learned to never take their eye off of Tito Randy. Later in the day I was an even bigger hit with the nephews, big and small, when I pulled two deflated brand new Spaulding basketballs out of my hat. Because the family basically lives in two separate areas located some 10km’s apart, I designated a ball to each locale where they will all happily share its use. That way there is always a ball available regardless of who is visiting who. The end of the day came early for us and we retired back into town at the Elmira Hotel in Calbayog City, mainly to get some quality rest in air conditioned comfort. No way were we going unrested for this adventure. We adjusted with some food, a couple of SMB’s for me, and almost 11 hours of restful sleep. Now we were ready for anything!
The next few days we simply spent eating, relaxing, eating some more, and watching the girls be girls and the boys be boys. I especially got a kick out of our little nephew Jay, 7, and his trained entourage of spiders, which literally hung from their little silk threads from several of Jay’s fingers. It was like watching a puppet master in a spider circus and was pretty comical, as long as he kept his distance. I told my asawa that as much as I enjoyed little Jay, he was to go nowhere near our bedroom. She agreed.
Life really is simple here and before I even realized it, all the little common aches and pains that plagued me during the last few years, just seemed to vanish. Much of the worry and stress that I have carried with me the past few years just seemed to melt away as the days passed. I began having visions of going AWOL from America. But, a simple mention of it to my asawa and she delivered me “the look”, and I immediately ended that thought process. It’s not like going AWOL from the Navy or something where as a young kid they would dock your pay for a month or two and restrict you to the barracks for awhile. That, you could recover from. Leaving a house, two cars, two businesses, and all your worldly possessions would be a heavy price by any standard. I agreed with her and then humorously suggested that she return to Mississippi, begin the liquidation process and sell everything. I even volunteered to stay behind to safeguard the new house and wait for her return. She then suggested…well…I really can’t repeat what she suggested. I simply wasn’t the master of my domain on these grounds. I just raised my empty San Miguel bottle and one of the kids quickly replenished. It was settled – we would return together to drain and empty out the reality tanks back home, then make the next trip a one-way event. Ahh, sounds so good to me!
One of the reasons we timed this trip when we did was in honor of Teri’s mother’s (Lola) 89th birthday and the ensuing fiesta party at the beach. Although we really needed no reason to have a party, just our return visit was reason enough for a lechon (roast pig) beach event. But to the family, combining our arrival with a special birthday event well, that was reason enough for a second lechon at the beach fiesta. That special day actually began the eve before, with a mass cooking expedition underway until about 2 am, with a little shut-eye, and up again cooking at 4 am, with two pigs roasting all night long. The duty lechoneros did not get any sleep. We had 4 cabanas rented at the Mondejras Beach Resort just a short 1.5 km jaunt up the road from where we will be living in Tomaligues. Supplies arrived to the beach early (and often) by trike, car, SUV, and by boat…literally from all directions. It was going to be a beach fiesta to remember. With abundant food and drink, and plentiful cold beer and tuba (Filipino moonshine). I would argue that this is close to paradise, and further say if there is a heaven, it must be close-by. My asawa had the foresight to reserve two air conditioned cabins for the night – just in case. Of course, she was playing the just-in-case odds (not in my favor) and rather than let me sleep in a cabana on the beach, she thought I would be better served by having a bed and shower close at hand. Damn if she isn’t always right! We ate a lot, enjoyed many beach activities, swam in the resort pool, watched the kids have a blast, and indulged some more. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset and everybody had a grand time. Though, for the real guest of honor (Lola), she was able to enjoy two of life’s firsts after 89 years- her first ever birthday party, and her first swim in a real swimming pool. She smiled a lot this day. I’m sure it was an event to remember.
The next few days were filled with trips into Calbayog City (about 10km) for this and that, mostly that. I especially liked taking all the kids to Jollibee for chocolate ice cream sundaes. At .59c each, this was an affordable way to treat the kids and satisfy my needs. (Hey, I can’t just leave the U.S. and go cold turkey on some things). One day I offered to spring for lunch for anybody that wanted to come with. So, 15 bodies climb into the family Motorela and off we went like sardines to a canning factory. We all had lunch and drinks and a few desserts were had. The bill was a whopping USD27. Can I splurge baby, or what!!!
One day while visiting Lola’s house in the Brgy of Begaho, I had to take off the flip flops and put on my adventure shoes. The kids had been bugging me for days to go hiking with them up the mountain to the family farm. I finally agreed and, loaded up with a couple of bottles of water and a sweat towel, off we went. It was a steep climb initially (this was the shortcut and I think the kids were testing my resolve) but it got easier with elevation. After climbing about 400 meters we were on the mountain top looking down on the rice fields in the valley below that koya Eeking farms. We stayed and goofed off with some photo ops, and returned back down to Lola’s house along the river with a worked up appetite. There is nary a shortage of food, nor the shortage of desire to eat it, in this family. The next day we headed north along the coast, to a spot that’s not heavily visited, for a really special treat.
We traveled north along the two lane national highway from Tinambacan to just north of the provincial divide into Northern Samar, to the waterfalls of Brgy Veriato. Although the falls are just a short walk (about 200 yards) from the highway, this relaxing spot is not a heavily trampled tourist attraction due to its proximity and distance from populated areas. It is just a spot along the road in a sparsely populated barangay where the locals come to picnic, cool off, and some launder their clothes. Yeah, that’s right. It’s a free water source and when you live in Rome….well, you get the picture. For the most part it was uncrowded and the water was clean, clear and cool, and was a great way to spend part of a warm afternoon. Oh yeah, and it was a good reason to take more pictures.
Although we took this trip during the middle month of April, supposedly the hottest month of the year, it was more bearable than I expected. If you’re not in Manila or some other large city surrounded by concrete with no breeze, it can feel quite sultry. But in the Eastern Visayas and a block from the ocean, a comfortable ocean breeze was almost a permanent feature of our stay and seemed to keep things from really heating up. There were a couple of days that caused my internal sensors to trip my A/C thought process but overall, it was not that bad. We even slept for a week at my sister-in-laws house with fan only and no A/C. Imagine…me and no A/C. I could….I mean, I will get used to this but, I will have my own A/C at the ready. Many of our days we spent around the family, on the porch or outside in the shade, in the kitchen, just hanging out and relaxing. My sister-in-law’s husband is a fisherman and one day we just loaded up the boat with family and picnic supplies (rice and manok) and in two short 10 minute trips, we were all deposited on a completely deserted beach where we ate, swam, relaxed in the shade of towering coconut trees – and all to ourselves. It wasn’t Boracay or Palawan, but it was empty and peaceful! The only thing missing was my hammock but I made due. I did order cold San Miguel, and the folks delivered for me!
One day I took the boys (really, they took me) around the corner for some friendly basketball – okay a quick simple two-on-two, just to show them that I could at least dribble. After 20 minutes the workout turned brisk and competitive. Then out of nowhere, it seemed half of the village itself was in attendance, spectating our little scrimmage. The word quickly spread that there was a visiting kano on the court and with a NEW basketball. I am no great basketball player by any standard so I’m sure they were there to check out the new basketball. But in any case, it was the calendar event of the month it seemed. After we finished, my suspicions were confirmed as we had several ‘challenges’ to play with the ‘new’ ball. I’d had enough and I had to gracefully bow out (I could not kill myself now…not with another 10 days left in paradise!).
The following day, after a trip into the city to the hardware store, I decided the prior day’s workout should be rewarded with a full massage (P380= $8.80), a real haircut w/neck and shoulder massage (P40 = .93c), and another chocolate fudge sundae (P26 = .59c). Without the hardware purchases, the total spent for my own personal relaxation was $10.32. I asked my asawa how many massages and haircuts I could afford on a weekly basis? I got the ‘look’ again but I never did get an answer. Now comes the part nobody likes to see……
continued @ Homecoming (part 2)