Saturday, May 07, 2005


Before my marriage, I went to Surigao, to revisit the place where I was born.

Until that time whenever I thought of Surigao it was always as it was during the time of my grandparents. In my memory, I still see the smooth expanse of the shining hardwood floor. I remember the solemn stillness that reigned in the living room where the carved narra seats and the huge china vases stood like sentinels.

Early in the morning, the living room was empty except for the dust motes dancing in the sunlight.

Down below in the kitchen, laughter and gaiety ruled, with the long table that groaned under an unceasing procession of food. My grandmother’s helpers made sure that there were always fresh fried eggs or fresh boiled eggs for anyone who came to sit at the table. The plates with dried fish, dried squid, chocolate rice, fried race, all sorts of fresh fruit and longganisa never seemed to empty.

Breakfast in Surigao is enshrined in my memory with a still life of my mother’s youngest sister, sitting at the table eating pan de sal and breaking a raw egg into her orange juice because it was what health fanatics did at that time. Auntie Grace was to me the epitome of sophistication and elegance and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Dressed in her sarong, she represented to me all the tumult and the joy of those sunlit mornings, the ecstasy of bathing in the sea, of sitting on the black rocks and waiting for the tide to come in, of the sunsets that seemed to go on forever into the next day, of the songs and the laughter that ruled in the old house.

With the arrogance of childhood, I imagined that all of Surigao belonged to us. That the late nights of songs and ghost stories were nights wherein all of Surigao joined in, that the streets and the houses were populated by friends and family, and our trips to my grandmother’s small restaurant were occasions that all of Surigao took notice of.

By the time I went on my pilgrimage, Surigao had changed. The quiet that lived in my memory was shattered by the noise and the busyness of a thriving city. Where once the ocean lapped up almost to the door of my grandparents’ house, a road had been built and the sea pushed far back behind a wall where the pumpboats berthed while they waited for their passengers. Here and there I still caught a glimpse of the black rocks, but they looked forlorn and landlocked.

My memory kept on reminding me of afternoons when we lounged under the sky, waiting for the sun to dry us out while the sea surged around us and licked at our toes.

Of course, I remember that it is all changed, that between the sea and the house there lies a stretch of road where tricycles and jeepneys throw up dust instead of surf.

Inspite of this, my mind insists on super-imposing the shadows of the sea where the street lies. I do not hear the rattle of the jeepneys or the static sound of the tricycles, instead, my inner ear insists on hearing over and over again, the sound of the tide coming in, the wash of the waves on the shore, and emblazoned in my memory - the sunsets that lighted up the horizon with fire.


Blogger 7gtg said...

Hi Chie, this is uncle gerry. I inadvertently signed in as 7gtg. Anyway am hoping too that others will come in to contribute.

Among my memories of Surigao, as always was the sea just meters away from the backyard. There was a 'L' shaped break water made of concrete. And during high tide the water goes about a foot higher than the smooth top surface of the concrete. Children take advantage of the 'swimming pool' feel. I'm afraid I prefer not to see how it is Today (that the seas has been pushed back).

08 May, 2005  

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