arrived in zamboanga in one piece!
the trip from manila to zamboanga seemed faster than a trip from our house to baclaran. we squeezed our way into the crowded domestic aiport. it was palm sunday so a lot of people were trying to get home to their provinces or go to beaches and other local water holes. funny thing is, we were like going to disneyland, mom, ian and me were wearing green (a coincidence) and when auntie lita arrived to fetch us, she WAS wearing green too!
we were carrying a LOT of flowers for the carrozas for the good friday procession. my auntie lita’s side of the family owned the pieta and the santa cruz used in the traditional good friday procession. also with us were electric fans, sleeping bags, and tents to be used for my multitude of relatives. a little history: my auntie lita’s (our host) mother and my grandfather are brother and sister.
we arrived in zamboanga city just in time for breakfast. auntie munti, auntie lita’s sister served as a hearty breakfast in a covered table outside her house in zamboanga. we then proceeded to go around the city.
our first stop was fort pilar. we offered candles to the shrine there reputed to be miraculous. the story is that there was a flood so high but when the virgin went down from her pedestal and her feet touched the water, the water receded back to the sea.
trying out stuff at the barter
we then went to what they call “barter,” a place to shop for local goods for pasalubong. i bought sarongs for my classmates and my mom bought sarongs and malongs. being the philippines’ backdoor, we bought coffee, candies and other grocery items that had malaysian writings. they were cheaper than manila prices of course.
we went to a famous local restaurant “mano-mano” and ate “sinigang na blue marlin,” “ampalaya stir fry,” and a lauriat of “daing na bangus,” “dinuguan,” “calamares,” “lechon kawali,” plus a side dish of tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. WOW! is all i can say. i totally forgot about my hyperlipidemia hahaha.
we rode the mmmm i must say… “nice” boat/barge (it HAS seen better days) called "leonora". 3:00 p.m. from the port of zamboanga to lamitan. the trip took about 1.5 hours. the sea was calm, and i went outside to the rusted portside deck and took pictures of the boat, the sea, and some ships i saw.
after we arrived, we settled in our big room in my auntie lita's compound. we agreed we’d just share a big bedroom for the “chismis” sessions. our group included auntie lita (my dad’s cousin) and her daughter, jeng-jeng; uncle matt (another of my dad’s cousin) and his wife, auntie letty; my mom, my brother and me. i went around my aunt’s compound and took pictures of the chapel, the grotto, the pavilion (rented out for parties, weddings and stuff) the old restaurant, and the tennis court (used by local businessmen for free for their exercise, they have a bulletin board of their trinity tennis club there).
of course a vacation wouldn’t be complete without something nasty happening to me. i developed an allergic reaction to our dinner, tulingan. i must say I didn’t like being angelina jolie for the next several hours. my lips got so swollen, i could not breathe, i had rashes all over. it was lucky i felt it immediately and drank loratidine and salbutamol. i could not sleep until 3 a.m.
the first real day - monday
we woke up around 7. after breakfast, we got on the pickup and drove to palm beach. this beach and all the surrounding area used to be part of my auntie lita's side of the family's land. i took pictures of the nice beach but i didn’t get in the water. it was lucky we were the only visitors around.
i then accompanied my mom and aunt to fix my dad’s and his brothers’ birth certificates in the “municipio” (town hall) and then visited a few of my relatives. we had lunch back here in my aunt’s house and it’s after eating that i’ve been reflecting on the first two days here in southern philippines. (1213H)
(tuesday, 2208H) i remember sleeping through the rest of the afternoon yesterday (siesta). my aunt neneng and his husband uncle eddie arrived later in the afternoon with a franciscan brother and another companion from her church group. dinner was sumptuous, fried talakitok (loved this ^_^) and tinolang manok kept coming like a big deluge.
for the second night, i had difficulty sleeping. i could not breathe. my nose was congested and i twisted and turned until i don’t know what time (i didn’t bother to check this time).
no more room for more – tuesday
we woke up and had a very minimal breakfast because of our trojan feast last night. we waited for our “sundo” to go to my father’s town, “buahan.”
my dad's school
the land of the elementary school was donated by my ancestor don sergio santiago, my grandma’s father. my grandfather, alfonso sr. decided back in the 60’s to bring his entire family to manila (all his 11 children, my dad, alfonso jr. is smack middle). he gave up his share of land from his family and my grandma sold her land to one of my uncles. we lived in my grandpa’s compound in caloocan until I was 7 but it was just today i learned he studied in university of the philippines, he didn’t finished his engineering course though. everybody remembers tata ponching as the most religious man in the family. it was true. i remember his house (my dad built his house in caloocan with his bare hands, we shared the first floor with one of my dad’s sister and my grandpa and grandma lived upstairs) having a very big altar with a retablo of santos (more like santossssssssss). my mom always asked “di ba nagaaway ang mga santos sa dami?” (won’t the santos fight because they’re so many?).
it was graduation day so i took pictures of my nephew who had honors. after a lot of chismis and eating (we had to eat in every house we went to), we went to the beautiful calugusan beach and took some pictures.
after we returned to lamitan, we were “kidnapped” by my uncle roger (history: he’s one of the brother of my relatives in buahan. they’re 13 siblings plus more. and he’s one the richest people in lamitan hehehe - so he says [I believe him] – a very animated person) and had merienda of delicious pansit (one of my most favorite food) and more kwento (2229H).
amang’s stories – wednesday
our breakfast was eggs and fish this morning. i think about it now and i realize that since we’ve been here we’ve never repeated the kind of fish we’ve eaten. tulingan, talakitok, hapon-hapon, lapu-lapu, and cutot (and more).
after breakfast and more kwento, we were fetched by my uncle roger in his “pajero” (aka. tricycle hahaha) – (i digress you should see tricycles here in basilan, they’re big, 6 lean people can ride comfortably). he brought us to amang sylvio’s house. he’s one of my dad’s cousin too. he told me “he and my dad are “pinsang buong-buo” referring to being them cousins in both mother and father side (my story earlier about my lolos and lolas being siblings).
i took pictures of him in his backyard (in his pj’s). he told us he supplied all the wood used for the modern hotel being built by the local government. he has a lumber yard in his backyard and of course i have to boast again and say he’s one of the richest person here hahaha. the chopsticks we are using might be from the trees here because he supplies wood for chopsticks made in china. his eldest daughter has just passed the medical board exam and is in cebu doctors hospital for her residency.
uncle sylvio in his bacyard hammock under the mango tree
his most fascinating story was how he escaped his attempted kidnapping. he told us that when he was taken, he was praying that they be ambushed because he knows by god’s intercession he will not be hit by the crossfire. CAFGU indeed caught up with them and killed one of the kidnappers, he frightened the kidnappers by telling them it’s the marines (marines come in groups of 60s he says) even though he can recognize by the type of fire who were present. the kidnappers started to run for their lives and he ran in the scrubs of kamoteng kahoy. he said he ran fast and tried not to disturb the flora because the CAFGU might mistake him for as the rebels and gun him down.
he also told us that during the basilan siege, all his neighbors went to his house because he had his bodega made entirely of reinforced concrete (even the roof). he was cursing the heli-pilots because their helicopters were already raining their ammunition even when they were still a distance away from the fightscene (his house is near the crossing where the battle was taking place).
the paneling inside his house is impossible. a small house in manila made with the kind of work in his house will cost millions. his ceilings and walls are paneled with almasigan naturally colored with a deep red. his doors are of mahogany and langka.
after we returned to our homebase, we celebrated auntie letty’s birthday with pichi-pichi, pansit (wow), and cake. mom and the others had ice cream when they went to another of my relatives when my brother and me fell asleep (hehehe siesta time!).
my brother ENJOYED dinner because it was the famous “curachas” on the plate. these are creatures half-crab half-lobster. they have trapezoidal shaped bodies (see picture) which looks like crabs and a lobster tail. i ate auntie lita’s arroz caldo (yum yum) because I was afraid of another and worse anaphylactic reaction sigh...
water from the gods – maundy thursday
today uncle roger fetched us and we went to “bulingan falls” and my uncle peping’s house with my “primos” (cousins). the falls is magnificent! it was a pity it wasn’t the rainy season so the water flow wasn’t that strong but it was still a sight to behold. the stones in the ravine looks like a stepladder similar to the hexagonal shape of the boulders in the giants’ causeway. the mayor developed the place for the enjoyment of the people for free. it has toilets (the runoff doesn’t go to the water) and picnic huts which can be used for free.
me and my look-alike cousin at bulingan falls ^_^
we visited my uncle peping’s coprahan and he showed me how the copra is harvested and made. he also had rubber trees and animals ^_^.
when we returned back to our headquarters, i saw that the santos were already garbed in their procession clothing and already in their carrozas. i overheard something new though (hahaha eavesdropping) my ancestor moved here from baliuag, bulacan in 1922 and they were only the 2nd Christian family here aside from the cuevas who were also non-natives though the family’s roots back from the ilocos region if i remember correctly. they always say that all alipios are relatives because the surname is not proliferate. completing my history, i remember that my grandma’s father is pure spanish, his name was Don Sergio Santiago (I referred to him earlier donating the land for the school), while her mother was visayan.
dinner tonight were leftover curacha, corn and crab(actually curacha) soup, fish(ask), bagoong gata and ginulay na ampalaya (2025H).
the passion of the Christ – good friday
(1330H) last night, mom and i slept earlier so we can take our turn during the late hours for the traditional “pasyon.” i woke up around 1 am and joined my mom, auntie neneng, uncle matt, and the manang (auntie neneng’s visitor). funny, everybody was trying to fight sleepiness. sometimes, the manang will suddenly hit coloratura notes (hahaha) and all we’d bolt awake. i went out for a while to go to the bathroom and when i returned they lost the tone and they had to ask me to remember what was the fast tone we were using earlier (hahaha).
we finished around 0900H and we had pandesal as breakfast while the other people started dressing up the carrozas for the afternoon procession. i started cooking ube (harvested from the backyard) around 1030H for the afternoon merienda. i had ian, my regular partner in cooking, help me in cooking. i asked for a raincheck in the procession because I was mixing the ube for three hours.
(1830H) i backed out on my raincheck and joined the procession, but i did not finish it. it seems the good friday procession is a “mini-reunion” i saw everyone we visited that was based here in lamitan. The family has 5 santos in all, my aunties lita, neneng, and munti owns the santa cruz and pieta; my auntie heling owns two, the nazareno and the stripping of Jesus Christ; and my auntie ditse owns the mater dolorosa. Saw my cousin who (a doctor her grandfather sixto and my grandfather are brothers) who owns farmacia basilan. After the procession, everyone went here to have biscuits and soda and of course, chismis!
When everyone left, people started coming back in trickles bringing some of the food for tomorrow’s grand reunion. A big group (my dad’s brothers and sisters) are still in tacloban because they decided to drive all the way here (roro) and has since broken down roadside three times (sigh… pobrecitos). But anyway, I’m sure tomorrow would still be a blast.
the children are our future – black saturday
everyone was busy when i woke up. mommy noring(my auntie lita's mayordoma) is busy leading everybody in the kitchen. mom was preparing her buko pandan.
i was asked to make the lettering for the backdrop because there was no streamer this reunion. the registration table was manned and people started coming.
first on the agenda… eating! after lunch of calderetang baka, 4 lechons(!!!), bistek chavacano, afritada, picadillo, dinuguan, and dessert of macaroni salad, buko pandan, halayang ube and leche flan, each part of the family was called to the front to be introduced to everybody. funny, all my dad’s brothers have not yet arrived because their auto broke down thrice already and they’re only still in leyte (they decided to use roro) and(!) when the sons of my grandpa was called we (me, my brother and my mom) were the only ones in front despite my dad’s 11 brothers (!) hahaha!
sitting at the supreme council's table hahaha!
more embarrassing was when the formal meeting was called, the “elders” were called to man the “supreme court table” (hahaha) and since none of my uncles were present, i became one of the “elders” because of course my mom isn’t really part of the family. hahaha!
agenda of the meeting were the reunions, grand reunions, and the formal organization/foundation (and its projects) to be put up, the “alipio families of lamitan.” i find it very interesting that the family is concerned on propagating itself to bring together everyone to accomplish meaningful projects both for family members and in improving the community especially here in the “homebase” (basilan). i remember my promise to my dad’s elementary school in buahan to send books for their libraries, i’ll certainly follow through on that.
it’s now 1930H and mom, potsy, auntie letty, uncle matt, and me are now packing and preparing the stuff we’re bringing back to manila. pañala(muslim fried rice cake - they're absolutely yummy!), curacha, durian candies, and marang are our pasalubongs! i’m a little sad, we’re going home. i know that going back means starting the hardships of clerkship. i’ve done a lot of thinking while i’m here and i’ve surmised that i’m ready again to see the color of life (hahaha!). i now go back to living , loving, helping, and praying ^_^.
the trip home – easter sunday
after breakfast early in the morning, we went to the grotto for morning prayers and afterwards loaded the auto to go to the pantalan. we rode the roro vessel this time. we were with uncle sylvio’s two big trucks delivering wood to mainland mindanao (I’m not sure if this particular shipment’s for export). i talked with my cousins who were with us going back to zamboanga. auntie munti’s van was waiting for us to bring us to the zamboanga international airport for our trip back to manila. everybody’s been sooo kind (special mention to our host auntie lita auntie munti) and hospitable to us, and i thank them from the bottom of my heart. kuya lloyd, auntie letty and uncle matt’s son, fetched us from the airport and i’ve since rested… eaten pañala… eaten lunch… eaten dinner (hahaha)… and now concluding the story of my trip to the source of my life.
*n.b. – my grandfather’s siblings names are (in order of eldest to youngest): Hermogena Alipio-Arguelles de Lahom, Olimpia Alipio-Martinez de Lahom, Sixto Alipio de Lahom, Natividad Alipio-Martinez de Lahom (yes another pair of brothers marrying sisters again), Alfonso Alipio de Lahom “Tata Ponching” (my grandpa), Alejandro Alipio de Lahom (soldier, died single during WWII), Dulcesissimo Alipio de Lahom “Tata Memong,” Felix Alipio de Lahom “Tata Piling”, Benita Alipio de Lahom, and Jose Alipio de Lahom. Their Parents are Maria Lahom (from Baliuag, Bulacan) & Luis Alipio