It is so good to be writing again. Having been away has brought me to many places outside of myself and my country, but all of which have also brought me back to this time and place where I wish to belong.
In the years I’ve been gone, the changes impacting this one life has not made it more unique than the rest, but, hopefully has injected a perspective worth the space it will occupy. And, maybe, contribute to adding more to a population of readers out there.
The tone of my return writings will probably be neither as punctuated with some humor as before nor so serious either, but hopefully have a balance of both. This is what I am wanting to do in my head, but, as I know the process of putting my thoughts down in black and white does not necessarily correspond to what actually comes out as the finished piece, it is what I shall try very hard to do anyway.
If there is something that must be said at the outset, my love for adobo has not waned, nor my craving for paksiw na bangus, which tastes so much better cooked in my mother’s house, because the fish is bought fresh from the market instead of the frozen ones from a Filipino store. I still love durian, the native-est, the better. In the time I’ve had to be in Davao lately, my mornings are endlessly, and delightfully spent with good old pan de sal, which has been “improved” with smatterings of moringga leaves in them. The combination of morning coffee and this small and warm and fluffy, sweet and savory roll surfeit to a hungry and homesick fool.
There is also the crunch of lechon skin on my niece’s birthday spent by the beach in Samal Island. Swimming in a bluish-green expanse of salty water, transparent and warmed by the sun. The afternoon merienda of tea and ensaymada, in my sister’s house. The aroma of queso de bola wafting up from the moist and buttery dough that must certainly be only made from scratch. A traditionally morning after Christmas fare, but which is now enjoyed year-round. Yup, food gihapon.
The things I miss most, the food notwithstanding, is the feeling of being in your own skin. Speaking the language you are most comfortable with, which in my case is a hapless mixture of Taglish and Bisaya.
I still call Davao my home. Though my significant other has said that “our” home is in the state of our present abode, which is to say in America. I cannot disabuse myself from these everyday references unless there is a concentrated effort to do so. My children have carved themselves places they call home. And in the energy of youth, sometimes also think they have two homes. One in America and another in Davao. And, why not? If there is a way to define what must require for a place to be called “home”, it would be easier to deal with this ever conflicting feelings of loyalty and/or disloyalty to one or the other.
Davao is my Philippines, as one friend has said to me. I was born here at the old Brockenshire Hospital down Magallanes Street. I grew up near the old bridge in Bankerohan, the river a mere walk from our old wooden house. The smell of coconut meat being dried under the sun in front of our house a constant memory of the season of copra. The Chua-Hua store across the street from our house. The nuns of Immaculate Conception College. Father Lu of Stella Maris in Agdao. Mrs. Munda and Mrs. Daniel of the Philippine Women’s College. Father Ocampo of Ateneo de Davao College……. even the quiet desperation of the Marcos years.
Inscribed in the pages of my own history and times, are these remembrances that continue to form the things that mold my writing muscle memories. I continue to learn and absorb and conform and confirm to what calls for it. Reaching a certain age has not made me “wiser” I think, nor has it made it easier. Patience and forgiveness are virtues I have had to constantly re-learn. Virtues, I confess, I must apply to my own mea culpas.
At sixty-years-old, I continue to try to adjust to situations in places that may be or not be home. The irrational intransigence of refusing to finalize my place in the sun continues to scratch at a place between my heart and my mind. The temporal nature of it all has not been the easiest.
But, there is another side to it too. It sustains a state of suspended thoughts and affections that must fall somehow in an order that reflects a moment’s notice. Like writing. This is how I would put it anyway.
In short, it is with the hope that as much as I enjoy writing these vignettes, I wish only for those who read my two-cents, that they may derive pleasure from reading them too. Hopefully, I can tell you stories and happenings that take you away, even for a short minute, from the grind.
And so, I would like to say how privileged I am, and not without a sense of honor too, that I wish to extend my thanks to Carol and MindaNews for allowing me to come back and suffer their readers with my meanderings.
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Margot Marfori is an author and visual artist from Davao City. She taught at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao from 1996 to 2002. She is currently based in Henderson, Nevada.)