After 17 days in the Philippines visiting family and then enjoying some island time on Palawan, we are back in Texas. We picked Betsy up from storage and drove just 85 miles south to rest and get over our jet lag at Lake Texana Park and Campground in Edna, Texas (Steve’s review here).
It had been a whirlwind trip packed with family bonding and fun with friends, and as they say, time flies when you’re having too much fun. In our case there was some suffering of sore butts because of our 17-hour flight back home with a stop in Seoul, South Korea.
Our priority in flying across the Pacific Ocean was to visit mom, who was delighted to see us. She is now 96 years old and in fairly good health, still mentally sharp but weakening physically. Since she loves to tell stories about her past, Steve was fascinated to hear her WWII tales – particularly about the Japanese invasion in our hometown. She recounted how the family evacuated to the hills, living in caves and burying their treasures as Japanese soldiers burned all of their homes to the ground. And during this 2-year period she even added two more children to the clan while they were in hiding!
As my mother is the only surviving witness to these events, she recently told her story in a documentary that detailed the Japanese aggression in our town. Steve was blown away by her detailed recollection of what happened all those years ago.
Mom also showed Steve the U.S. map and pictures of Betsy that she had plastered on the hallway wall to keep tabs of our travels. I had provided her with a map of the U.S., and each time we talk on the phone I tell her which state we are in and my sister updates the map. Well, it was a bit out-of-date when we arrived, so Steve made it current and shared memories with mom about the places she has visited in the states over the years.
When not listening to mom’s stories, Steve made himself handy during our stay. He helped my brother Edgar change a flat tire, and worked on my sister’s kitchen drawers. Everyone was happy to have someone in the house who could handle some of the maintenance issues.
We both instantly became “tech support”, as Steve worked on sister Thelma’s mini laptop, and I figured out her WiFi hotspot. Just keep the cold beer coming and we’ll do anything!
Night life was mostly restricted to the battle of words, as Steve played Scrabble with Thelma and my brother-in-law, Boni. It turns out they were pretty well matched, as each of them won games during the marathon.
Like any other Filipino home, food is served/offered several times during the day. Steve had never eaten so much rice in his life before coming here! Rice is serve for breakfast, lunch and dinner, along with fresh fish, seashells and vegetables. We ate so much that we both got sick on our second day – just too much of a good thing that our bodies weren’t ready for. But it was hard to say “no” to Thelma’s awesome cooking from scratch with all fresh ingredients and organic vegetables.
One day Steve was offered cooked sea shells and he had to learn how to remove the meat from inside the shell using a safety pin 🙂 He’d never had it before and was willing to give it a try. He was also introduced to a local fish called Rabbit Fish (known locally as Kitong) and he said it was one of the best white fishes he had ever eaten. Served grilled or fried, we devoured it with gusto as we won’t see it served anywhere back in the states. There’s a huge benefit to living close to an abundant supply of so much seafood that we could buy fresh off the boat every morning or delivered to us.
In every Filipino celebration or gathering, lechon is always at center stage. As usual, when Steve and I were invited to my sister Eyen’s party, the whole roasted pig was in the middle of the table. Lechon has been hailed as “best pork ever “by Anthony Bourdin in one of his “No Reservations” episodes. Steve is no stranger to this offering, but he looked so sad in this picture as we were both still feeling sick from the previous evening’s meal, and lechon is very rich and fatty. It was the saddest day of our trip 😦
We were able to see about half of the family during this visit, since my brother Juhn was also in town.
When the typhoon rains let up I was ready to be Steve’s tour guide, and happily showed him around the area. Like most other towns, Moalboal has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years. With the growth comes traffic congestion and bigger businesses, but the roads have not kept up with traveler’s needs. Many years ago I would stroll down the streets and be flagged down by neighbors and friends so we could have a chat. Now I feel like a stranger when I walk around to do my errands, and it seems like nobody pays attention to me. And they call this progress? I don’t think so!
Here’s a peek at what Steve saw in my not-so-little hometown of Moalboal:
Fresh fruits are in abundance all year round, and fruit stands line the main drag. Mango was Steve’s daily treat, and he only missed it once when he got sick.
Scenes of everyday life that made Steve smile and shake his head in wonder and awe:
Our visit was just too short, and we made sure Mama’s time was filled with our presence and spent quality time with her. She was even happier when she learned I will be back for her 97th birthday next year and she gave me a big smile 🙂