Traveling in the succor of remembering
Manila — A few weeks ago, work required me to be on the road. There was a writing workshop I had to attend in an upland city; the other one was a press coverage invitation. The first trip was more familiar, as it was the road I pass by when I go to the northern province where I grew up, which is my father’s hometown. The other one is the southern region of my mother’s birthplace.
The northbound travel rolled me through green carpets of newly planted rice and thick shrubbery of corn, the same exact scenes I see at the break of summer when the last semester of college would signal a time to leave the cutthroat urban jumble and retreat to the place where things are simple and basic.
There is nothing like being the child I once was, climbing trees or wallowing under them. There was also nothing as intoxicating as basking in the sun, eating vegetables, fruits and seaweeds fresh from the farm and the sea. But the best part of being home is doing nothing, yet regaining everything that is lost along the strain of mindless living and racing to destinations we don’t even want to go to.
The magic of summer was so exhilarating that when the first rains fall, hinting the end of this favorite season of the year, the first pinch of pain kicks in, especially of the reality of going back to the pressures of school. It would be the portent of the stresses of work years later.
But many of the expanse of rice fields have been despoiled by the sight of metal rods, gravel and cement. The greens have been tarnished by concrete. The saddest thing about this is that the ground digging, shoveling and transport of construction supplies don’t seem to end every time I travel this road.
My trip to the area of my mother’s birthplace began with touching down at the sight of the majestic volcano known around the globe as the world’s most perfect cone. My mother was always proud to say a hundred times that she was born at the foot of this volcano.
When I was in high school, I got to travel with my mother to her hometown when she had to visit her siblings and their children, and their land. This region also boasts of marvelous churches and I still remember visiting each church and attending the holy mass in one of them, only in a different language.
The press coverage, although stamped with motorcades and brief site visits, was helpful in making me remember that rare time I had the chance to be with my mom when she unknowingly retraced her roots, although it’s already vague for me now. What I saw were sights on the road that I could no longer recognize. But what I know was that there were once green fields and tiny waterfalls on the mountainsides in what today are now wide roads and mini malls.
In the other northern side of my father’s birthplace where I grew up, short travels were always hurried trips down memory lane. Any longer tours or stays would mean meandering into deeper spools of memories that can suffocate if I don’t stop holding on to them.
I share the desire of most people to travel to places they have never been. But I also reserve the choice of travelling to places where I already have footprints. They beckon and lure. I may not always be ready to go back, but I like the dreaming part while I’m awake, watching the rolling fields from a car or a bus window and remembering.
Diana Mendoza is a freelance journalist based in Manila.