When I had my vacation in the Philippines last April, I observed the Holy Week in the hometown of my parents. We stayed in one of the apartment of my Uncle in Baao, Camarines Sur. Frankly, that apartment had always been our sanctuary everytime we'll stay in Bicol.
The apartment is situated inside the Borja compound. By saying Borja compound, three families stay in the spacious land.
The Borja compound used to be made of one house. It was the house where my mom grew up together with her four other siblings. Aside from it was made with wooden panels, it was a stand out for our family because it once nestled the childhood memories of my mom.
Back in the 1960's, my mom and her sister went to Manila to earn a college degree. Their three brothers were left in the province and helped in supporting their studies.
With my mom having her own family in Manila and her sister as well, the house went to their brothers' care. The eldest brother, my Uncle Hermie, and his family took the front portion of the house. My Uncle Cardo and his family had a portion too of the old house and extended some. And since my other Uncle Danny was a seaman before, his return marked the building of another house in the same compound. That's the full story behind the mushrooming of the Borja compound.
The front portion of the house
The path going to Uncle Cardo's house.
To date, Ate Jen, the youngest child of Uncle Hermie, and her family, is now residing at the old house with my other cousins and Auntie Zaida.
The gate of the Borja compound.
Going to Bicol and being with the people to observe the Semana Santa was just liberating. In a way, the breathe of fresh air and a view of the vast rice fields and coconut farm were just mending to ease all my body stresses. And seriously, it all did good to make me realize how my life is a living testimony of God's blessing.
A videoke session on one hot and relaxing afternoon in Bicol.
Stacey riding on the tricycle!
The pig in the backyard which we thought was a cow. It was soooo huge!
Stacey had a photo op with the celeb pig! LOL!
Truth be told, we were treated with soooo much special care back in Bicol. Our rooms were all set and cleaned when we arrived. We didn't have to prepare our food. Our relatives would just knock on our door and asked us to eat. And speaking of food, we tasted Bicol's finest cuisine as our relatives are experts in cooking. On top of that, there was someone who did the laundry for us. Bottom line, more than anything else, were like guests who availed a VIP Pass in the hometown.
This was one of the lazy afternoons when we all thought a Videoke session was effective to amplify our sleepy spirit!
Outside of the Borja compound, I saw how life can be very simple in the province. We're talking about the basics. Despite the allure brought by technology, Baao has remained to be untouched with modernity. Yes. There were some people enjoying their mobile phones but most of them were immersed with face-to-face interaction in a communal setting.
In the province, I saw how people are bonded with camaraderie. I saw the big smiles on kids as they received simple treats from their parents. I saw the respect and humility among the teens toward their elder. And I saw how unstained the rural life with the calls of complex modernity and commercialism.
One of my Auntie's katiwala was preparing the ingredients which were to be cooked for the upcoming reunion.
The place where we stayed was near the market. Having this situation allowed me to see and hear beyond the vibrant and loud busy street of Baao. In the market, you get to feel the authenticity of person wanting to sell a product so he or she can bring home a food on their dining. In fact, when I was buying some mangoes, a vendor told me that people like her in the province are just happy to see bakasyunistas as it's the sign of more income for them. After that conversation, I was hit with the welcoming spirit of a stranger. Truthfully, it made me feel secure and somewhat cared.
Some bananas which my father got in our land.
If there's anything which I will never forget in my vacation in Bicol, aside from the tours, food adventure and bonding with my cousins, perhaps it's the privilege to see the simplicity of life catching up with progress. I saw in Baao the core of being human - to love and care for others without asking in return. Plus, the values of being a Filipino were so much lived. Trash the concept of dog eats dog, the province was a reflection of the old and compact social circle which was threatened by blinding growth.
As we left Bicol, I felt the joy on the people whom we touched. They also touched us in soooo many ways. More than the physical, they reminded us to be human - compassionate, loving and decent. Dios Mabalos Bicol!
After 8 hours of travel from Bicol, we finally reached Laguna to drop off my cousin Lot. I sooo looked dark and fat here. Obviously, I enjoyed my vacation!
I repeat, gaining weight is a sign of an OFW's happy vacation in their homeland! I'm soooo proud of it!