The Homecoming Trip: Better Leyte Than Never
I'd like to begin this story by letting you know that this is a trip of many firsts—my first airplane ride, my first time to visit our province, Leyte (mom's side), my first time meeting our relatives. The past few years, I've missed out on opportunities to come home because I'm such a workaholic—I still am. Born and raised here in the city, I've always wondered what living in the province would be like. So I booked a ticket (thanks to Philippine Airline's seat sale), packed my bags, left my work (kidding, I've finished all of my to-do's before I flew to Visayas) to see what Leyte has to offer. And also to find out what it is about this province that has my mom kept coming back every year.
En Route to Tacloban
Since this was my first time riding a plane, can you humor me? Imagine my enthusiasm: There I was at the boarding area with my family, trying to play it cool that it's no big deal when in fact, I was sweating bullets from both fear and excitement. What if there's a turbulence? What if the plane crashed? Thankfully, the weather was kind enough to give us a smooth flight. Also, can I just say that I had several "Inception moments" whenever the plane turns? I took the window seat and I felt like a kid in a candy store. I may or may not have said "wow'" a bunch of times too, though I couldn't care less if I look wide-eyed really.
Maupay Nga Patron, Dulag!
Our trip to Leyte was also in time for the fiesta, so there's no better way to pop my cherry than this. My grandma's relatives are from Dulag, Combis to be exact, and I've always heard that the way they celebrate fiestas in the province are far grander than what we have in Manila. They butcher pigs for the celebration, regardless you're a well-off family or lower classmen, though I could've said they have Lechon (it sounds less extreme) but I want to tell the story similar to the way I've experienced it. My relatives belong to the latter. They also have tons of food to offer (my uncle's Embutido recipe is to die for!), lots of festivities in the plaza, so I'd have to agree: They really go big during the fiesta. You'd also go door-to-door to visit your neighbors (you still consider them neighbors even if the next house is 500 meters away or so) so it's totally a pig out session (we're only there for 1 week and I felt like I gained so much weight). Also, it's fairly small municipality, everyone seems to know everyone. And I mean everyone, it's amusing to see. You'd also go door-to-door to visit your neighbors so it's totally a pig out session (we're only there for 1 week and I felt like I gained so much weight), though you couldn't help but feel like an outsider. But I had a blast so that's what matters.
Out And About For Scenery
Leyte was one of the places that took a toll during Typhoon Yolanda and it's been 4 years, the place was able to get back on its feet like nothing happened. Tacloban looks more urbanized than ever. You could see constructions wherever you look. It's a good time to go out and about to see what Leyte has to offer—beautiful landscapes and the endless view of blues of the Pacific Ocean are to be expected.
On day 2 of our trip, we've decided to indulge on some vitamin sea. We visited Sabang Surf Camp, it's a small resort (if you could call it that) at Daguitan. If you like some peace and quiet with the sea, this is a good place to visit. There are cottages where you can stay for the entire day/overnight. You can also surf and do other activities like beach volleyball. The entrance fee is very cheap so it's perfect for budget travelers.
It seemed like we haven't gotten our fill in the sun (sans my continuously darkening tan), we went swimming again on day 3. This time we settled for a pool at Camp Kawayan (nope, Bamboo wasn't there), a resort located in Burauen. The pool is filled with running water so that's the catch, but aside from that, it's just your typical pool resort in the city.
We also went to this one church in Dulag, the Our Lady of Refuge, that is believed to be miraculous after all of what happened during Typhoon Yolanda—you would never believe the stories, I had goosebumps after hearing them! Also, you know the superstition that whenever you visit a church for the first time, you make a wish and it'll come true? My other aunt and his husband visited the church last year, specifically wished for a baby (they've been married for a few years already but they're having problems conceiving a baby) and guess what? Two months after their visit, they found out they're pregnant. My mom also wished at the same church for a partner in life (she and my dad are separated) and she got it. She's got a steady relationship since then. My mom's sister was also a first-timer like me so we made a day out of it and made our wishes. I'll keep you posted if mine comes true.
Of course, we wouldn't pass up the opportunity to visit a few famous landmarks too. We did the tourist thing and went to see MacArthur Park and the San Juanico Bridge (a bucket list for me) before we head to the airport to catch our flight back to Manila.
I feel like I should mention this—being in the province means a much-needed break not only from work but also from the nightmare that is Manila traffic. Traffic lights weren't a thing there and they're able to skip all the traffic. Places weren't near so you'd have to commute or take quite the drive. Remember those jeepneys that have passengers even on their roofs? It's true! They even have small benches inside the vehicle to fit passengers. Asides from tricycles and pedicabs, they have what they call Habal-Habal—a motorcycle with a roof and has an extended seat than your usual scooter/motorcycle. It could fit up to 5-6 people (or even more than that). I have no idea how they all managed to fit in or how the driver manages to balance all that weight and drive like he's the only one on it so I have so much respect for them. That's a talent! And talk about maximizing space. As for the driving, you could be going beyond the speed limit and no one would care. Our uncle drove us for the most part and felt like I was in an episode of Grand Theft Auto (cars were so fast, it's like... flying!), and to be honest? That's part of the thrill of the entire trip. I hate traffic so it's nice to get away from it for a week.
The Waray Way
Filipinos are widely known for our hospitality, and it's no different in Leyte. Being one of the newbies to visit our hometown, our relatives, or even everyone really, were very accommodating. They would even do things for you, or you can ask a favor and they wouldn't bat an eyelash and do it.
As for the dialect, my knowledge in understanding and speaking Waray is good as none. I was born in the city, my family rarely speaks the dialect at home so that's the catch for me. I've had a trying time understanding what anyone was saying (so I was tied to my grandma's hip because she's the only one in the group who speaks the dialect fluently), although, for the most part, they can get by speaking and understanding Tagalog. That's quite a foreigner moment for me.
Let's get to the food. Did you know that they don't use fish sauce (patis) on anything they cook/eat? We had Sinigang Na Baboy for lunch that one time and I asked if we can have some fish sauce because it's Sinigang and my aunt told me they don't have any. So that's a surprise. Also, who would forget their signature delicacy? Moron. If you haven't tried it, you're missing half of your life. It's rice cake (suman) with chocolate and nuts on it. It tastes divine! If you ever get to visit Leyte, look for it. Plain suman would look tame to your eyes after. Trust me on this one. As for their market (palengke), they call it Mercado.
Our stay lasted for 7 days and it all went like a blur, probably because we were always out going to places and visiting relatives. The weather was similar to Manila's—it's hot though you could easily get the tan because the location is near the ocean (we did try to swim with an umbrella just to save our paleness but eventually gave up). I was also able to get back to a reasonable normal sleeping pattern because most establishments close at around 7 or 8 in the evening and the night time seems longer. We would be in bed by 7 PM and be up by 5 AM, I kid you not. I usually sleep at 2 in the morning and wake up at lunchtime here in Manila. Every hour seems to drag itself and with their laidback lifestyle (and probably the humid weather), I was always sleeply, hence with the all the naps whenever I lean on anything concrete, lie down or in a long commute. I have never taken that many naps in all of my 24 years. I felt like a completely different person.
The people seemed to be always happy, regardless of living a life with a lot less than what people have in the city and that's really admirable. Life is a lot simpler youThough one thing I noticed is that they easily get uneasy whenever there are strong winds (there was a twister one afternoon quite far from where we are), a manifestation of what Typhoon Yolanda did to them and their livelihood.
I had a terrific time getting to know my hometown, relatives, and the life in Leyte. I have found a new appreciation for traveling, a renewed vow to discover the beauty of our country and a deeper gratitude for what I have right now. This definitely won't be the last visit. I might even start taking yearly trips similar to my mom and grandma.