Sunday, October 7, 2007


Some twenty dusty and rough kilometers north of Lianga is the small barangay or village of Salvacion. It is actually part of the municipality of San Agustin just six or so kilometers just a little further up the national highway.

It is a small, quiet and sleepy little village set amidst gently sloping hills mostly planted with coconut trees and surrounded by the yellow-green mosaic of rice fields broken here and there by the dark green of idle and uncultivated land thick with grass, wild shrubs and trees. A typical and little, rustic community in many ways like so many other similar small villages in this part of the Philippine countryside.

My father was born there more than seventy years ago and in many ways he was always tied to it by both sentimental and practical reasons. He did leave Salvacion first temporarily when he went to school in Cebu and Manila then permanently when he got married and transfered his family to Lianga in the early 1960's. But his emotional ties to his home village remained strong. That and the fact that his parents owned real properties around the area insured that he would always be a frequent if somewhat harried visitor always trying to manage the time between his duties as a physician in Lianga and his responsibilities as a gentleman farmer there.

Over the years, my father's focus shifted to his medical practice and his family in Lianga. But Salvacion was still in his mind often. He was there regularly although his life was no longer intrinsically intertwined with that of the village. He had, in many ways, moved on. When he died in 1996, he was buried, like his deceased parents, in his adopted town and not in the village of his birth.

Our family still has a house in Salvacion and although it's a bit decrepit from being unused, it remains a testament to our strong sentimental links to the village. I am usually there at least once a week and when I do go there there is always a sense of getting in touch with the roots of the family, the familiar feeling and sense of coming home.

But there is also a sense of alienation, some inner realization that this may be home but the truth is one does not really belong to the place anymore. The person that is inside has grown and changed so much over so many years of exile and sojourn in far and distant places thus the feeling of separation and estrangement. One feels the need to belong once more but also understands that that is, in many ways, no longer possible and might be even impossible to achieve even though the desire and the effort is there.

But still one goes back time and time again because duty and obligation demands it. One sees the old and familiar places, greets old friends and forgotten relatives. One strolls through the quiet, shadowy and dusty streets and breathes in once again the sweet and unspoiled air redolent with the scent of tree leaves and verdant grass. In the distance, one hears as always the distant rumble of the surf and waves of the nearby sea.

Too many memories of times past, some bitter and others sweet. And yet when one goes home there is always a sense of things left undone and uncompleted.

So one returns to visit time and time again to this village by the sea and hills. Not only because he has to but because not to do so is to deny the fact that he is, in a sense, incomplete and this place, whether he likes it or not, is a large piece of that part of him that remains missing.

So like the salmon who swim upstream, risking life and injury, to return to their place of spawning, so does one go back to the place where, for him, everything began. Hoping as always that life will finally come full circle.

And then, by the grace of God, he will be finally and fully complete.


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