It was not easy for me to leave my neighborhood, my childhood friends, that sarisari corner store… na puede kang mangutang at hindi mo babayaran hanggang katapusan ng buwan – hanggang magsueldo ang nanay o tatay mo. There is no such thing in the United States. You knew almost everybody in your neighborhood by their first names madalas makipangan kupa kanita karela. In the US, most of the time you don’t know who live next to you and they don’t know you either. Getting old in Angeles is great, you get all the respect from everyone including strangers, tricycle and jeepney drivers, sales ladies at waiters become your extended family when they addressed you as “Bapa” o “Dara” as the case maybe when you are old. No such thing in a foreign country either. Living in the foreign country makes you appreciate the things, the places and people that you grew up with… your “barkada or kababata.” I have had many foreign friends abroad but never did I hear them say when we go out to eat and drink… “Pare, aku namu ing mamayad.” Pantunan ku ita. That is a Pampngo trademark. The food that you grew up with …adobo,, sinigang, kilain, begukan, lumpia; the smell of tuyo or baguk that is being cooked in the neighborhood and the likes… are things that you crave for and dream while in a foreign country.
While on the plane back then, the song “Leaving on a jet plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary hit me hard… the lyrics… I’m leaving on a jet plane and don’t know when I’ll be back again. The longer I listen to it the more I thought of familiar places, distinct personalities and people, things that I thought I might not see again in my life that were part of my childhood… the kalesas, damulag, deng garreta keng barrio; detang “bagun” filled with freshly cut sugar cane in Cutcut that my childhood friends used to steal and bring home and brag like they were hard earned trophies; the games we played back then…”salikutan keng dalan, tambubung, maro, tumbang preso, dama”… mind you… deng tansan kanita were precious commodity. Those were the happy days and we did not even have… computers, cellphones, tablets or electronic notebooks. I missed the disco places like Oasis and Third Eye; the voices of the Junior Madisons and folk songs at 1219 still ring in my ears; the one and only Tigtigan and Terakan keng Dalan; I’ll never forget the swimming pools at Brookside and Del Rosario Compound, the beautiful man-made lake at Yap Park and of course, the nature’s beauty at Paradise Park. Movie theaters like Marte theater, Eden, Devry, Lita, Robin, Sandra and Family to mention some. My favorite then was… RTG where they showed a lot of X-rated movies. That is where I had most of my 1st lessons in sex education.
In Hawaii, Italy, Germany and Korea…I can still taste… Cool Spot’s pancit luglug and tidtad. Iniang’s halo-halo in a milk can was nowhere to be found. In Frankfurt, Germany they had something like our Walking Street in Balibago but was too close to a Catholic church. Bishop Ambo is happy that the Walking Street is not next to our PISAMBANG maragul. likewise in Itaewon, Korea there is something similar to it too but the women were not as beautiful as those in Balibago. Who can forget Johnny’s Grocery – particularly the one at the corner of Miranda Street that burnt down? That is where I had my first hot dog – technically, which and if translated in Pampango…hot dog is a very delicious Pampango pulutan called “asadong aso.” Orchids Canteen… next to Holy Family Academy at that time… is where you can sit next to the richest man in Angeles then, Don Juan Nepomuceno who mingled with the rest of us for a cup of coffee for 10 centavos. “Kanita. magtaka ku nung bakit ya palagi y Don Juan karin… mura mu ing kape… itang metung a tasang kape tsa diyes mu; Ngeni: itang metung a tasang Starbucks coffee, kapitna ne ning sueldo mu patingapun. I vividly remember distinct people who are not rich nor popular politicians of Angeles – distinct personalities like Pending, Kuaho, Apung Pisyuk, Kuati, Bombay, Kuala and Tulindoy; the Eden Boys and Tibagin Boys were part of my childhood vocabulary even before I started wearing long pants. The word “hustlers” came about because of them. “Emula buring kapate o kalabanan!”
Christmas were the saddest moments in my life. Thirty years of Christmas without my family, without the “bibingka, puto bumbong and the parols… simbang bengi and the lubenas” were no where to be found around the world… except when you do a Google search in your computer. Likewise, I will never forget the scary times in our town then… when The Beatles and the Monkees were in town… and did not get along with each other. I don’t mean Paul McCartney and his band. I used to turn on… my small transistor radio full blast every night listening to the songs of the Beatles instead of the sound of bullets and gun shots at night. That was a sad part of our history but we survived and lived through it.
The plane ride was not a very smooth one. In fact our plane went through a pocket ofturbulence…a very bad weather turbulence. While I was in the bathroom, I have to rush back to my seat when the pilot made a loud
announcement over the PA system… “Ladies and gentlemen please go back to your seats and fasten your seatbelts!” Since it was my very first plane ride and naive, I thought our plane was going to crash. I rushed back to my seat, fastened my seatbelt, made the sign of the cross, and closed my eyes. That was a terrible experience… but I bet you it was not even close to what you suffered, experienced and felt when Mt. Pinatubo erupted, That indeed, was a disastrous chapter in our city’s history but it was also a big challenge to all the Angeleños. It proved how resilient we are. We survived the major disaster and came out of it better and stronger. The compassion, generosity and spirit of brotherhood of the Angeleños came alive. “Abe-abe, saup-saup… mibangun tamu!” I can keep going on… remembering my childhood days in a town called Angeles… when the stewardess woke me up and said, “Sir, we have landed at the Aquino International Airport (that used to be Manila International Airport when I left in 1980.) I asked the lady what day it was… she said it was Oct 1st 2011. I don’t know if I was dreaming but that was a nightmare for anyone to go through… missing your childhood days
and thinking you will never see your hometown again. Glad I am back home…Angeles, now a booming and prosperous City. Half asleep, I told the stewardess… “There is no place like home, like Angeles City!” I prepared myself and curious of how she would react. She looked at me with a big smile. I know…”Dagul ku pu Angeles… bapa and proud of it!
Ipagmaragul ku taga Angeles cu, ipagmaragul tamu, taga Angeles tamu!
Always remember…”there is no place like home! There is no place like Angeles!”