Though it had transpired in the early 60’s of the last century, significant memories of it are so deeply etched in my mind that recall would be quite easy. No sweat.
But the first question to be asked rightly would be why the need to leave which necessitated a return. Well, it was like this.
Completion of high school for me was in the summer of 1958, followed right away by my first year of college in the same school, Xavier University. High school ended on a rocky note for me, after a year or two of listlessness and aimlessness. Had lost much interest in school, and was simply going through the motion in cadence with the rest of the people who were in school with me. Unbeknownst to me my mother had been burdened by this development, maybe even unable to find in her mind the solution on how to deal with me. So in a moment’s notice, I was told I would be sent to Manila to live with my father there. Obediently, did her bidding and wasn’t really too grieved by the prospects, for after all it would be my chance to see and live in the big city, for the first time. So there I was shipped to Manila in a slow boat, where I would be spending the next 3 years. The time allowed me to finish an undergraduate course. And in a real way, allowed me the opportunity to examine my life’s priorities and direction and set a course somewhat, though still quite a sea and confused. For one thing, after that undergraduate course, I still did not find myself prepared enough to pursue any meaningful path in terms of career or whatever. Did not find myself sufficiently mature to enter adult life, since I still kind of thought of myself as an adolescent.
Anyway, there I was again with one brother, and my father and his entire family, in a tub of a boat on our slow voyage back to Cagayan de Oro.
The slow trip allowed for some time of introspection and simply of idle thoughts. What would the city be like after the long absence? What about the people whom I knew, where would they be now? Never had the opportunity to return for a visit the entire 3 years.
Before long all this would be addressed and resolved. As is typical or usual, the boat docked in the early morning, and before long I and my brother were driven to my mother’s house which was less than 2 kilometers away, passing by the old provincial capitol grounds.
Immediately I was hit with the revelation that because the streets in Manila were wider and better paved, that our own streets were quite narrow, and indeed looked rural, with acacia trees flopping in the wind and tossing its branches above the asphalted streets. That experience stayed with me for quite a while.
It made me realize and exclaim that before Manila, I had really lived a rural kind of life in very rustic surroundings. How different the local color and ambiance were. In a way, how pitiable, especially taking into account the better-looking houses and buildings in Manila. No wonder travelers before had swooned of the manifold wonders of Manila after their own memorable trips to the capital city.
Over time, I would always harbor the thought that living in any small hometown was life lived in small and simple ways. Thriving among uncomplicated people and circumstances. Of life, easy to deal with and none the worse for tear and wear.
Thus, in the succeeding years, I would be engaged in sojourns of leaving the old hometown and coming back after long absences. And the self-same feelings would still engulf me upon each return. Like an older man going back to his youth, and reliving the perceived glories that were then present and enjoyed. And enjoying being cradled by such familiarity and simplicity.
Today as I turn 3 scores and 18, idling thoughts still turn to the same remembrances and somehow they bring some comfort and relief. And maybe the final thought that this last return to the old homeland would be the last.