Have you ever gone on a lengthy vacation, enjoyed it a lot but got so tired that you wished to go home? Well, I just have – but I’m not ungrateful for it. I loved it! Just had too much fun, too much food, too much partying, too much traveling on the road, too much packing and unpacking, too much restaurant hopping, too much talking and storytelling. Too much, too much, too much! But don’t get me wrong, I loved it all – just got too tired and wished to be home.
Now I’m back in Palo Alto, resting somewhat from that hectic vacation, so to speak. Let’s break down this “too much” agenda.
Fresh buko (young coconut) juice – naturally and mildly sweet, the perfect respite from a hectic schedule during my vacation (photo by Nikki).
First, it was traveling on roads to far provincial places in the Philippines. Honestly, I didn’t mind that at all (or so I thought). Though the journeys on the road were long, the sceneries along the way were spectacular. I especially delighted in seeing acres and acres of lush rice fields, densely green in rich paddies, not quite ready for harvest but vibrant and promising. Common along the way were lines of banana and papaya trees, many of them laden with fruit not ready for picking but promisingly yellow-green. I spotted ocean and strips of narrow rocky shore behind thatched huts and buildings fronted by some low and towering palm trees. And often, I was pleasantly surprised to see new buildings and business centers in towns and cities. Where there were fields, there now is booming commerce with a lot of activity. My travels were eye openers – and the realization that time ushers in change and great progress.
Then, there was too much food. I had more than my moderate fill of delicious, authentic Filipino cuisine. Everywhere I went, I looked for either home cooking or common dishes prepared the authentic or original Filipino way. You see, I don’t get very much of that here on the Peninsula. My own culinary talent has improved, but not enough to satisfy cravings for many of my favorites like pata-tim (pork softened in rich sauce), crispy pata (pork), bulalo (beef with cartilage in soup, or laing (gabi or taro leaves cooked in coconut milk). My difficulty was, control in my eating. A silly rationalization or excuse: I’ll eat less later for dinner or tomorrow. You guessed right! That never happened – ate too much when faced with too much good food. But don’t worry; I’m back to my regular controlled and moderate eating habits (now that I’m off vacation).
Then there was too much partying and talking. Everywhere I went, relatives I had not seen before would flock to our gatherings. There seemed to be never ending introductions. That was the fun part of the many reunions. I met many I hadn’t known existed or had never met before – my own close relatives! And their first time to meet me, too! Most of them are of the younger generation, and they call me Lola. It was heartwarming to see them politely taking their turn to take my hand to their forehead in quaint traditional gesture of respect called “mano po” (in the modern term, “bless”). That act is meant to seek blessing from the older person, but from my perspective, they blessed me.
I counted three family reunions in Las Pinas and Manila, one reunion in Naga, and many quasi or mini reunions in between, plus a reunion with my former high school classmates in Naga. Every gathering was a lively party. So much catching up, most quite repetitive. Every repeat was like fresh news – the same memories, the same stories, the same updates on one another, even the same jokes, even the same outpouring about one’s ailments and pains. Funny how conversations turn very interesting and engaged, especially when distance and time are spanned. The exchange was always lively, even silly and absurd – like how did one get fat or thin, or how did one’s face get so wrinkle-free. Food was the natural default for topics when personal stories went dry. I actually didn’t tire of the vibrant chats (or so I thought).
Then there was too much picture taking. A lot of posing, both casual and formal. Dozens of cell phones clicked. Every move seemed to have been recorded on someone’s cell phone. There were bursts of cell phone exchanges to see how photos came out, or specifically, how they looked in the pictures or where they looked better. Simply chaotic. You could hear orders like, “Take another one. I don’t look good in that one you took.” Or, “Count before you click to make sure we’re ready.” Or, “You don’t take good pictures!” Horrendous bullying, but all in the spirit of loving fun. But enough, I thought – let me go back to my eating. The truth is, the pictures are beautiful, and they’re precious. And they have a quirky purpose. When we look at them years from now, we’ll be saying, we looked prettier and younger then – or, we look the same. Or, this is one big happy family! Record of how we enjoyed being together.
Best in my “too much” list is the love and care that went around with family members and relatives – abundant expressions of thoughtfulness that didn’t go unnoticed. And the thank you’s for the One Almighty who has been constant and generous in His blessings to us all. I thank Him for that wonderful and heartwarming vacation.
I’m game for another long vacation – maybe next year, maybe the next.