Monday, April 23, 2012

rediscovering our hometown

When I was a child, I have always secretly regretted the fact that my family did not come from a provincial hometown. By that I meant a hometown situated in a farming or fishing village where the long days of summer are spent in idyllic abandon amidst the abundance of nature. Places that are not in the country's capital region. Places that you have to take long bus rides or plane rides to get to. Places near flowing rivers or shining seas or oceans of coconut trees.

My family, especially from my mother's side whom I am closest to, are natives of Pasig. It has been , in fact, a prominent family in the old days and it even boasted of the first and only photography studio in the early 1900s.

But the town of Pasig grew and developed fast and eventually became a city. Despite this though, the heart of the city somehow retains that old-world feel. The old church, now leveled up as a cathedral, remains at the key center, right across the town plaza, and along the same street that leads straight to the municipal hall and public market (where my sister and I get our hoard of crafting materials). There are a few commercial buildings but instead of transforming the place, the place transformed them into acquiring that vintage-y patina that made them look older than they actually are.

I have long come to terms with not having a field of gold or a sparkling sea to call my hometown. Now I savor the quaintness of my hometown and enjoy regular visits. A few days ago I went with my sister to visit my grandma and to meet up with my aunt to have a couple of dresses to be repaired.

Those two dresses are for some fixing. One needs a longer inner lining and the other needs to be fit for my size -- it's too large.
My grandma, as always, has her house primed for summer, complete with sunflower-trimmed windows with sunny curtains.

And my grandma, as always, insisted on cooking lunch for us even if it means opening a can of corned beef and saute-ing it in her own special way with garlic, onions, tomatoes, and potatoes.

When it was time for grandma's afternoon nap, my sister and I said our goodbyes and went with our cousin and her daughter to a nearby cafe. It's called Ingen Cafe and it's actually an internet shop with a cafe. But unlike other local internet cafes, this one is the real deal when it comes to being true to its name. There's a cake display and a whole range of hot and cold coffee concoctions.

Outside the window you can just make out the structure of the old houses from the 70s era. Many of those kinds of houses are still standing and in use, with shops on the first floor and homes on the second floor. The cafe itself is small but very cozy and relatively quiet.
A cold caramel drink sans coffee for my niece. 
A cup of freshly brewed for myself, my sister, and my cousin 

My lovely niece and her lovely cupcake
We had a good hour or two of happy conversation and I was particularly glad to have our cousin with us to relax and break away from the usual daily routine of home.

From the cafe we braved the scorching summer heat and walked to the town plaza, beside which the town museum was open to the public. It used to be the public library but we found out on that day that the library has long been moved to another part of town. We went inside and took a tour of historical Pasig.

We passed by the church and went inside the garden where we used to pick out the tiny santan flowers and suck the nectar while our parents heard Sunday mass.

The santan flower shrubs are gone and instead there is this ancient bell display, a mini park with benches, and lots of stray cats being fed by a nice lady.
We found the new library and it has been much improved with airconditioning, bigger desks, better lighting, cleaner shelves, and better organization. However I noted that it could use a lot more books. Especially new books. Many of those in the shelves go way back to the 70s but not much beyond 2000. But I did find a lot of interesting titles no longer in print or available in bookstores that could be useful sources for my various (personal) researches. I could already see myself spending some days there with a notebook, a pen, and a laptop.

My sister and I requested for library ID applications and when we return we'll definitely be staying longer.

From the library we found ourselves still reluctant to go home so we ended up eating halo-halo in a nearby Chowking to battle the summer heat.

Halo-halo is a local dessert made of crushed ice, lots of milk, some sugar and a medley mix of sweetened fruits, jelly, tapioca pearls, ube jam, custard, and a scoop of cream
We finally headed for home at around 4PM. I stayed in my parents' house until dinner and went home after the traffic rush hour. As I was leaving the old balut vendor was passing by and I bought everyone in the house a balut (and two for me). That old man has been making the rounds of the village every night and he is bent and old and clearly should be retired but is probably going to starve if he stops working. So every time he passes by my sister and I buy when we can and we always give him a little extra change to keep. He is almost deaf but his voice is big and strong when he calls out "Baluuuuuut!" and he is ready to smile at everyone. That night we are happy to have helped him out.

Balut : a local delicacy of duck eggs cooked a special way. It is a challenge to eat because when opened you see a tiny duck embryo surrounded by the yellow yolk (you eat both, dipped lightly in salt). The trick is not to look and not to think. Just chew and swallow. This food is believed to be full of vitamins and can help improve strength and stamina. Newly-weds, especially the males,  are often teased to eat as much balut as they can before they go off on their honeymoon.
Thus concludes a very happy day (which was last Thursday) full of little surprises and lots of joys and adventures.


1 comment:

  1. I didn't know you had a niece, she's adorable!! Those desserts look epic. And I've absolutely never heard of halo-halo before, but it sounds delicious. If I ever come over there you're goign to need to give me a list of things I need to try :)