You jump out of the car from a five-hour drive. You are greeted by the fresh summer air as you step out to kiss your mother you haven’t seen in so long. You see the new chime piece being blown by the wind at your terrace. You notice the wooden bench is still there.
“I missed home,” you say to yourself as you change to your favorite comfortable pambahay clothes. You look around your room and feel your bed. No signs of someone using your room as the sheets are still neat as if they were newly ironed. The vibe is silent, and you spot dust leftovers from the everyday house cleaning. Do you feel tired from the trip or do you just feel reflective at the moment? Nonetheless, it is quite a strange feeling.
Your mom calls you for a late lunch. Despite the weight gained from wrongly-timed meals and stress-eating in the city, on the dining table lie your favorites. Your mother heartily prepared, cooked, and arranged them in the most appetizing way: a selection of freshly cut fruits, specialty bread, a big bowl of sinigang na sugpo, pleasant cups of rice and plates of leche flan, sapin sapin, and chocolates reserved for dessert.
A moment of recall. These are the things you used to eat while growing up. Do you remember your younger years when this was a routine? Your mother waking you up several times and earlier than your agreed waking time. On the breakfast table scene are the juiciest Tender Juicy hotdogs and corned beef. She will then ask you how you like your eggs – scrambled or sunny side up – while the aroma of the sinangag slowly wakes you up. The background noise from that scene are the joyful voices of hosts from that morning TV show. You then take a bath, get your bags, and wait for your service or daddy to drive you to school. You bid your mom a goodbye kiss, step out of the same door with the new chime and the warmth of the early morning sun. Life was so simple then – all you had to figure out was acing the exams, decide what to eat for recess, and finishing your assignments. Plus, you were so well taken care of in all aspects in the province.
The next day, you have lunch at the family favorite tourist spot in the next town. You travel for an hour and a half to eat your hometown’s specialty and delicacies with your family. On the way to lunch, you see what you missed in the months of being away: modern, Instagrammable restaurant concepts near your house. There are also new mid-rise buildings or developing subdivisions that used to be wide green fields. Some old yet lively spots are no longer being feasted on. The adventure spots that bloggers and Facebook just discovered are being commercialized. Your friends from Manila mention some places’ names, but they just sound familiar and it is quite a surprise you haven’t been there. More often than not, you being the local, have no idea where these hidden gems are. You pass by the newly renovated church and see kids from your school who have gotten older. In the province, you are guaranteed to spot familiar faces wherever you go – be it in the malls, church, bank, basically anywhere. You see that streets are getting busy for the fiesta – food and clothes stalls, plus, the schedule of the festivities printed in a tarpaulin with the mayor’s photo and name. It used to be one of the events you look forward to going to during summer with your friends. Your parents update you on local artists that visited the town, the new food tenant concept at SM and things in-between. You then get to the destination and take photos of the food and place like it was your first time there. While headinh back home, you make a few stopovers to grab some Yema Cake, Longganisang Lucban and sweet treats from the pasalubong shop.
A few hours later, your parents will drive you to the terminal station again. A couple of hours to the city til you get some stuff done. You live independently now like you’ve always wanted to. That, you’re not sure of anymore. You get your laundry delivered for the week and you buy your dinner at the nearest fast food chain. Your mindset is back to regular programming. You’re lucky if your phone alarms wake you up in the morning. You don’t even know, well at least for this moment, what is going to happen in the next days, weeks, months. You are probably having thoughts about the independence and experience you thought you wanted. You’ve lost most of your passion and are just settling for survival. Are you going back to the good province life or are you going to be one of the locals that is slowly becoming a tourist in their hometown? No matter what the answer is, I hope you do not lose in your heart the substance of being a local, from the place you grew up, from where you extracted a big chunk of what you are now.