san carlos city: presently revisiting the past for the future

82 kilometers from the suburban aura of Bacolod City lies an almost non-existent city, and that i have mentioned it is solely because this is the hometown where i grew up.


2 hours and scenic after scenic views later, the city of San Carlos comes into view with the lush, green mountains as the backdrop and the coastline up out front. except for the presence of motorcabs that have started operating since the start of the millenium, the city is still dominated by pedicabs.


the city i knew was a city where everybody knows everybody, where the achievements of the children were the successes of the parents, where the grandparents talk about their grandchild more than they talk about anything else. it was a city that looks like a town and behaves like a barangay.


if you are looking for a tourist destination, this is not it. there are, of course, beaches that boast of white sand and pretty corals. but it is not a place you would spend a roundtrip plane ticket to for a weekend getaway. it is a place where its true beauty can only be explored after spending considerable time in the city. it is a city that isn’t made to satiate temporary elation but rather, permanent satisfaction.


i didn’t realize this then.

sitting outside our humbled front yard now, i’ve watched my uncle taking a nap at the motorcab he was renting from us (i have learned from him a day before that he usually does this once he has reached his “boundary” -e.g. daily rental fee- and has about a hundred or more to take home at the end of the day), to the old woman next door who was busy cleaning up her store, and then to the young people at the end of the street helping out the preparation for the barangay fiesta.

there was no hint of stress on their faces, inspite of the fact that almost everybody was having a hard time financially. i guess this is something inherent about being filipinos: we can laugh at our own expense. if laughing would be too painful, we can always manage to shrug at it.


mother bumped me off my thoughts with a cup of brewed coffee she bought from the old woman next door (it is perfectly brewed and it only costs her Php3!) and called the attention of a man in his late twenties, “Tom! you can get the battery now, we are done with it.” she was referring to the car battery that was sitting right outside our doorway, whom Thomas lent to us so we can jumpstart my ailing ford lynx. Thomas, whom i dated briefly on the summer of 98 and whom mother strongly disliked then, grinned and nod his head in recognition. it took a common-law wife and a charming 3-year old daughter for mother to start liking him, and by then, it was already irrelevant to both of us that she did because we were so long over each other anyway.

at this point, a woman in her fifties did a double turn and stared at me. “you’ve arrived.”

i smiled at her in blank recognition. she turned to my mother and said, “she didn’t age a bit. you couldn’t even tell she’s done college and all.”

i saw mother smiled. the woman, whose name i do not know but whose face now seems vaguely familiar, beamed at me and continued walking away. in that span of the moment, i realized, i have become a stranger of the place i grew up with.

this was my mother’s town and hers and hers alone. not mine nor jesse’s nor of the siblings that followed after us. not father’s because his visits twice a year has become more and more an awakening for him.

this is my mother’s town. and i wonder no more why after a week of being with us in our makati apartment, she cannot wait to go home.

the city holds the past of her marriage and of the children she bore from it. and although it is not entirely of this past that we come back to san carlos, it somehow gives her the comfort.

this is my mother’s town. and though we fly high and spread our wings, we always know the way back home.


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