We arrived back in Metro Manila last night after visiting my Auntie Josie, Uncle Bong, my cousin Jonna aka Deth-Deth, and my Lola (Grandmother) whom my Auntie looks after due to her dymensia. They all live north of Manila in the city of Baliwag (also spelled as Baliuag) which is located in the province of Bulacan. The 2 days we spent away was a nice change of scenery at their home on rural farmland that neighbors the pelenke (marketplace) and townsquare of Baliwag. The trek was only 1.5 hours North on a Baliwag Transit bus that had air conditioning and comfortable seats for only 73 pesos (roughly $1.50 US). When we arrived my Auntie and Uncle picked us up at the town square and we jetted off to their home on a tricycle. When we arrived we were greeting by their 4 barking dogs amidst their countless chickens and roosters. I made my way inside the house to say hello to my Lola who has been much happier being back home in the Philippines.
We then feasted on some delicious pork sinigang (one of my favorite Filipino dishes) that my Auntie had prepared for us. Following lunch, Stace and I immediately grabbed our SLR and began our photoshoot of the outside scenery. Children were washing their clothes at the waterpump behind the house, roosters crowed as if the sun were rising 24 hours a day, and cows grazed the fields. A walk down the dirt road from the house we found a neighbor who was selling barbequed chicken feet, intestines, gizzards, and my least favorite – diniguan (pork blood). We made our way through the nearby neighboring street, saying hi to the locals and taking their pictures. We then traveled back to the house to rest and waited for my cousin to return home from school. When she finally came home I was amazed to see how much taller she had grown since it had only been a little over a year since I had last seen her. We managed to catch up and reminisce about our days growing up together when she was back in the states. Although she’s only 14, her maturity level has dramatically increased since I had last seen her in the states.
The next day we went with my Auntie to the pelenke to catch a glimpse of Baliuag daily life. In the wet market you can find vendors selling all sorts of various meats and seafoods. Posted in the other areas were the typical retailers of clothes, shoes, and useless trinkets along with those selling fruits and baked goods.
We eventually went off to explore on our own and take pictures of the historic church in the town square along with more pictures of the locals.
Later in the day we made our way over to yet again another SM Mall to seek refuge from the heat in the air conditioned building. We grabbed some snacks at the supermarket and then spent some time at an internet cafe before we headed back to the town square. After making another round through the Pelenke we walked back to my Auntie’s house for dinner. Stace, my cousin, and I then geared up to watch two Filipino shows that we have been addicted to – “Lovers in Paris” and “Pinoy Big Brother”. Those shows have been our daily nightcap before going to bed.
The following day we made a trek over to the neighboring town of Tiaong where my Mother and her siblings were raised by my Grandparents. We walked through the elementary schoolyard where my Mother and her siblings attended and then made our way to the house they grew up in – the same house that I visited when I was 5 years old. It was pretty cool to be in the neighborhood of my Mom’s childhood stomping grounds and yet it was also sad to see the present state of their old house where its wood siding and roof was coming apart. The structure of the house was still there but it was far more different than my first visit. Pigs were no longer housed in the back, roosters and chickens weren’t running around, and the house seemed so much more emptier without my Mother’s family there. I thought of the time that my brother peed out of the second story window when I was helping my Lolo cut the gizzard off of a rooster or when I went to swim in the nearby creek while my Lola washed clothes.
We continued our walk through Tiaong and made several stops speaking to all the locals who knew my family and remembered me from my first visit when I was five. All the talk and stories of the past made me think to myself how different my Mom’s life would have been if she hadn’t left the Philippines and how different mine would have also been. Eventually, we made our way back home where I spent time with my Lola and waited for my cousin to get home from school so that I can say goodbye before Stace and I headed back on the bus to Manila.
It was great to spend time with my family 1.5 hours up North away from the big city and see the life they lived here in the Philippines. We would wake up to see the baka (cows) and karibao (water buffalo) grazing and milling through the vast green fields of crops consisting of rice and corn. At night we were embraced by the cool breeze from the open land in contrast to the smog and pollution from the condensed streets of Manila. Although we’re back in Manila we’ll make a few more trips back up to Baliuag so that I can spend more time with my Lola and also keep all the boys away from my little cousin so that she can focus on her studies. Peace and Mahal until the next one.