Familiar Yet Different

“What has changed here?” Adrian implored one time. It has been 16 years since I had left La Trinidad for college, then for work, then for marriage. Since 2004, I don’t think I have spent more than a week in my hometown. Now, Adrian, Marikit, and I have passed our fifth month here.

“A lot,” I replied. “That drugstore wasn’t always there. There used to be a bakery nearby that marked the boundary between KM5 and KM6 for jeepneys bound for Buyagan.”

I think I could have gone on and on about the ways the years have caused La Trinidad to change. Even sleepy towns like ours are not exempt from urbanization. But I guess the biggest thing that has made our town more different – just like everywhere else in the world – was COVID-19.

If things were different, it would have been lovely to come back to the familiar viridian town where you were sure to meet at least one person you knew while taking a stroll outside. It would have been wonderful to return to the place where you could easily crisscross between a city and a slower-moving municipality (Yes, I’m talking to you, KM4 traffic). Yet the La Trinidad we have come back to only has handfuls of masked people who’re likely to be strangers walking about; the La Trinidad we have come back to now has border restrictions that constantly divide Baguio and the surrounding towns, making me think that La Trinidad has already become like North Korea and Baguio the more open South.

Well, there are also certain changes that have been a big plus for us. We now have Grab Food and Foodpanda here in addition to various errand and delivery services. There are also fiber Internet providers making our work-from-home set-up much easier. Shopee and Lazada delivery fees are also not that high thus much of the items we have bought were actually only a few clicks or swipes away.

If there was something though that I would have wanted to remain the same but didn’t, it would have been the ability to meet up with my high school friends. Were it not for COVID-19, we would probably have had several coffee meet-ups already, several mini-reunions during special events. But this is our situation now – most of our interactions have just been online.

I apologize if this is yet again a melancholy post. But though it has been sunny here, you can’t help but feel that there are still notes of sadness in the air.

Well, there is a time and season for everything, as Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says:

3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Our hope and prayer is that this season will pass soon enough.

Viridian.

La Trinidad Summers

It’s starting to get hotter here. The other day, it was around 27 C and in the coming days it might reach 30 C. A friend of ours living in Metro Manila said, “Nakakahiya sa 40 C dito!” (How embarrassing for our 40 C here!)

Quite true. At night, we still wear jackets when we go outside. Our bedroom still feels like the air conditioning is turned on 24/7. But Marikit can now wear sundresses and I can take ice water baths at night without complaining about the cold. (We don’t have a shower – we go by the tabo system in our new home).

“Do people look forward to summers here?” Adrian asked me one time.

“Hmm… I don’t think people look forward to the warm weather in particular… I remember looking forward to summer when I was a kid though because it meant not going to school…” was my hazy reply. To be honest, I don’t think I looked forward to the heat because – prior to living in Los Baños, then Malaysia, then Metro Manila – I avoided hot weather as much as I could. But when I left home, it was an everyday part of life.

I remember summers though when we would make ice candy using Milo, melon, and buko juice. I think we were also able to have avocado flavored ones one time and that was a treat! It also got hot enough for us to crave for the halo-halo our neighbors sold only during the warm season. It got to a point when we would eat halo-halo everyday.

I still remember summers more though for what we did rather than for how high the temperature went. Daily Vacation Bible Schools when I was young. School-schoolan with my cousins wherein I got to be a student, and then eventually a teacher, then a principal at some point as the years passed. Ten days fieldwork as an initiation to high school. Violin lessons and voice lessons. And finally, UPCAT reviews and then eventually graduation parties.

Now it’s Marikit playing with her cousins at the compound pointing at bugs, butterflies, birds, lizards, and frogs. It’s supervising them running around, throwing mini-tantrums every now and then.

If the heat wouldn’t give way to the rain and to the cold yet again in the next few months, it would somehow feel like an endless summer here. Everyday I feel I am experiencing the summer of childhood with work sandwiched in between.

It’s a pity we can’t take Marikit to the beach like our parents would take us at least once each summer when we were young. And that GCQ has kept us from parks nearby. But she’s happy with our yard, with the compound, and with our parents house. I guess that will have to do for now.

Summers bring me back to simpler days. I guess the three of us are lucky we can enjoy these simple days here. For what it’s worth, with all the chaos happening in this world, it still pays to pause for a moment to look for and be thankful for uncomplicated things like these…

Oh to be a child enjoying the summer life.

Mountains and Valleys; Ponds and Playgrounds

It’s ECQ/MECQ Season 2 at the National Capital Region. As in many places in the world, COVID-19 cases have kept on increasing in Metro Manila. Yet we have hopes that the stricter lockdowns implemented the past month have somehow helped slow down the spread caused by the early reopening of the economy and the emergence of more infectious variants.

In Benguet, we are under the less strict GCQ. I know, all the terms (MGCQ, GCQ, MECQ, ECQ) are all confusing. Truth be told, they seem to be all synonymous with each other. We are still on lockdown, mass gatherings are still dangerous, and – if you can help it – please stay home as much as you can. For my hometown, GCQ means Market Passes valid only for specific days per Barangay, disinfection Sundays, border restrictions among neighboring municipalities, and home-quarantined minors and seniors. As one friend put it, “You guys are technically in ECQ, the ‘G’ is just there to keep the people happy.”

True. But at least our family’s situation here in the province is still better compared to our quarantine life a year ago in Makati. What I mean is, we made the right decision to move back here and we are blessed because our jobs actually allowed us to do so.

One year ago, Marikit was stuck crawling around a tiny one-bedroom apartment (it wasn’t tiny pre-Marikit, but all her *stuff* have made it smaller). One year ago, her interactions with people were limited to me, Adrian, and pixelated faces in Zoom and Messenger calls. One year ago, we always caught her looking out from our fourth floor balcony and I would point out to her cats and dogs from afar.

Here, Marikit has more space to run. Our family lives next door and the compound has a pond, a playground, and dogs and cats that Marikit can now see and play with up close.

By the pond at the compound.

It’s sad and infuriating because our country’s situation has come to this while there are others who are already on the journey to herd immunity, who have been maskless for months, whose healthcare systems have not been overwhelmed. But as pandemics do not immediately come to an end, if we can do something to make the most of the situation we are in (and even help out), by all means let’s do it. For our family, it means moving to the mountains – to this valley.

We’ll be staying here for a while. I get homesick for Makati like I got homesick for Malaysia and Elbi. But home is wherever family is and home is wherever God has placed and called us to be.

All that said, let’s continue to stay healthy and keep safe. Wear a mask, follow minimum health protocols. In the meantime, our family hopes to send you good vibes from Benguet. See you in the next post!

Naimbag nga aldaw!