Is there a place you visited or stayed in that haunts your memories or continues to live in the heart? There is such a place for me. It’s my grandfather’s farm called Auayan or Awayan, an immense stretch of land in the northern part of the province of Camarines Sur in the Bicol region. Nostalgia prompts me to write about Auayan, more than 600 hectares acquired by Lolo (Grandfather), a surveyor, and which eventually was subdivided among his ten children. He also generously offered some hectares to Grandmother’s two sisters, spinsters who devoted to helping Lola (Grandmother) care for her children and the family home.
Auayan is a wide expanse of rolling hills and valleys bordered on one side by a river that gently snakes toward a bay in the far town of Libmanan. The puzzlement about this river, especially where it flows beside Grandfather’s farm, is that its slim banks glisten with white sand. Often, I wondered how the sand from the ocean’s shores got carried to Auayan’s river banks. The river beach, as I call it, stands out in a picturesque way against the turquoise glow of the waters. That’s another of my puzzlement: why the river always looks the rich shade of blue-green. Perhaps, because of abundant vegetation underneath the waters, like a thick blanket of vibrant moss on the river bed. But in the evenings, the waters turn a deep mysterious green that cascades in eerie silence.
This river in Auayan, the loveliest I’ve seen, became both fascination and nightmare to me. I have vivid memories of a balmy afternoon when my auntie and I, only 11- and 10-year olds then, played at the river bank and got enticed to brave the gentle waves. My auntie was a swimmer and I was not. Yet I dared to wade in, thinking the water was shallow. To my shock, the bottom underneath my feet suddenly dropped, and I found myself flinging my arms and kicking my feet horrendously, fighting for dear life. Thank God, by some miracle, the current carried me to the edge of the water and my feet hit ground. Since then, I stayed away from the river and admired it only from a distance. But I continued to marvel at its rare beauty, and feared it for its beguiling calmness.
That, however, is not my best memory of Auayan. There was a magic about it, even now as I reminisce about it. I remember it best for the rural liveliness of its festivities, the simple livelihood of the tenants, the strenuous but cheerful activities of harvest, the tugging fragrance of its orchards, the moonlit nights when guitars accompanied singing wafting through the air from hills beyond — and especially, for the endearing moments with Lolo and Lola’s family on my visits at summer. Highlights of these memories are the five years Papa and Mama, both seasoned academicians, took a sabbatical from teaching to try their hand at farming in Auayan. Ever determined yet lacking in experience, they survived drought in the land and tropical storms that flooded the rice fields. Yet, in some strange way, they seemed happy and liberated. I still don’t understand it all, but perhaps, it was the raw draw and rough magnetism of the land. The summers of my youth in the farm are clearly the nugget of the magic Auayan held for me. And the magic is still there … waiting for me to reach out.
I have reached out. I started writing a story about Auayan in the category of fiction, inspired by memories of the farm and events that hold a special place in my memory chest. The novel carries fictitious names – and of course, episodes mingle with what was real and what are creations of the imagination. Auayan is the vortex on which revolves developments in the lives of individuals. Like Tara in “Gone with the Wind” though in less epic and spectacular ways, Auayan moves the stream of human endeavors and outcomes. The literary piece emerges from my fascination for a place that persists to claim a niche in my heart. Nostalgia for Auayan becomes so real in this full story that someday I will share with you. Wish with me that this fascination and magic will morph into a heartwarming novel for everyone’s delight … and maybe, you, too, will remember there is a place that consolingly nests in your heart. The bitter-sweet sting of nostalgia.