13° 00 N, 122° 00 E
15° 00 N, 100° 00 E
Hello from Thailand! Ryan is off getting a massage (well deserved and necessary after 40 hours of travel in 48 hours) so I figured I'd visit the internet shop to wrap up my trip to the Philippines. I never thought I'd tire of $7 full-body massages but after four massages in as many weeks, I'm starting to feel a bit gluttonous ...for now.
Day 20: Bayombong
As I mentioned in my last post, the final destination of my Philippines trip was Bayombong, the capital municipality in the province of Nueva Vizcaya. My dad grew up in Bayombong until he left for university. It is also where my mom took leave from her station in Basa Air Base to give birth to me.
My mom, dad, brother, and I arrived in Bayombong early in the morning by bus and took a couple of tricycles to my Uncle Oscar's house. Uncle Oscar, my dad's younger brother, is the one of four siblings that decided to stay in the Philippines. I was surprised to find an almost identical resemblance between him and my father, though ironically Uncle Oscar looks about ten years older. Although my uncle speaks little English, he made sure to tell me several times that his heart was happy to see me. I hope I was able to get across that I felt the same. His wife Mirna cooks for a small eatery right next door to their home. While the "adults" caught up on their respective goings on, I enjoyed watching the different customers - school children, university students, small families, and men on motorcycles - come by the window to order their breakfast.
Day 21: Bayombong
Family friends were kind enough to spend they driving us around Bayombong. We drove through the university that is currently driving the population and commercial boom. My dad explained that when he was growing up a river used to flow right through the land where the university now sits. I loved to hear him recall how he used to catch spiders and fly kites by the river. As the eldest child he was responsible for caring for the family caribou. He pointed to where on the university grounds he and his friends would bring their caribou to pasture. At around 10 in the morning, he remembered, the caribou would get hot and restless. The children would then walk the caribou to the river to bathe, and would themselves take their bath. My dad laughed aloud when he recalled that the children would use the caribou as makeshift humps, splashing and playing water games.
"I never imagined, as a little boy playing in the river with my caribou, that I would make it to the United States," my dad said. Looking around his small town in the country side, I'm not quite sure how he found his way to the U.S. either, though I can tell you it was not without its setbacks.
We also drove to the hospital where I was born, Veterans Regional Hospital, similar to a county hospital in the States.
Day 22: Bayombong
Throughout our week in Bayombong we paid many visits to relatives still residing their or in the surrounding area. My dad's aunt, Ason, cried tears of joy when my dad walked through her doorway. Ason spent most of her life working in Saudi Arabia as a nurse, sending wages back home so her children could attend school.
My cousin Darryl, Uncle Oscar's son, brought out a photo of my dad's parents. It was another "first" of images I had not yet seen before. I smiled to see a hint of myself in my grandma's photograph.
Ryan and I made it to Ko Phangan yesterday evening and have already met some really great people. Our new friend Christian, a German man visiting Ko Phangan for attempt number two at a month-long yoga course, is three for three with good recommendations. Last night he took us to an eatery called Mama Pooh, where I had easily the best meal (mixed vegetable tempura, pad thai, spicy papaya salad, and Chang beer) I've had since the beginning of this trip. This morning Ryan rented a motor scooter for the duration of our stay and we zoomed off to have breakfast at the coffee shop Christian recommended ("Puts me to shame," Ryan admits), and now Ryan is at the massage place that Christian frequents. I should get off the computer so that we can explore our island destination, but I'd like to leave with something that Christian said during a conversation he had with our taxi driver/resort owner Olan last night:
"When you recognize that the ego is not the center of everything, it is the beginning of something."