Last night, I met up with two friends/colleagues who had come back after chaperoning our kids to an out-of-town immersive exploration of Cebu the past week. We had dinner right after they made sure the last kid got picked up by her parents.
They were visibly darker from all the outside work and sightseeing they had done, and I could see they were tired, but all I felt was happiness that they were back safe and sound. I asked them about their trip and their faces lit up when they recalled this and that, and it sort of made me wish I were there, too. (But I’m actually still glad I didn’t go haha)
Their stories made me want to go back to Cebu. My parents and grandparents and all my immediate and extended relatives are from there. Many have emigrated to Manila or other countries, but if you ask me about my “roots,” my answer is Cebu. I haven’t been back since my lolo‘s burial some years back. The rest of my family had been back since, though, and I wish now I could go back.
I don’t want to stay with relatives. The thing is… I never know what to say to them. I’ve lived all my life in Manila, and even though I was a semi frequent visitor to my grandparents’ house there when I was younger, I never found the appeal to go back when I was older. Aunts and uncles would make the requisite comments about how much I’ve grown or if I were already in a relationship (when I hit puberty). I had no cousins who were my age. They were all older or much younger (read: babies), so my brother ended up being my only playmate back then. I do remember having a childhood friend there, but we were never really close. Add to that the fact that I was never really comfortable speaking the language there. I knew conversational Cebuano, but I’d always get tongue tied, so I just stuck to listening to people.
When I had gotten older, Cha (my childhood friend) had become easier to converse with because we kind of had an unspoken understanding that she could talk to me in Cebuano while I would reply to her in Tagalog, my first language. I made it a point to see her whenever I go back there. Actually, I didn’t have to put in much effort. My uncles and aunts would just send out word that I’m around and next thing I know, she’s at the house. 😀 I met one of her kids in my last visit–a lovely but wary little girl who should be in the second or third grade by now. The same holds true for me and my relatives. They talk to me in Cebuano; I reply in Tagalog. It’s win-win for all of us. 🙂
Anyway. My aversion to staying with relatives basically stemmed from my not being able to establish MY roots there. My parents lived and grew up there; I didn’t. I hated it when my parents dragged us around the town because we ended up doing NOTHING. The adults talked with each other and caught up and all we could do was WAIT around. I didn’t have cousins I looked forward to seeing there because I simply didn’t have any I could relate to. My sibs have it easier because they are better conversationalists and are all around more outgoing, but in my case, I take forever to warm up to people. By the time I would’ve gotten comfortable around my relatives, it’d be time to pack up and leave.
This makes me want to go back. I want to explore the place as a tourist and not be under any obligation to visit relatives and tell them when I plan on getting married (they always ask this. I hate it). I want to ENJOY Cebu.