Waking up early in Antipolo City in Rizal province, especially on late December mornings, is like getting up to a blast of cold wind from the frigid north. It is cold enough to rudely wake up what is half asleep in your body and mind and jerk you to full wakefulness by the time you sit up in bed and your feet touch the chilly bedroom floor.
I should know. I was in Antipolo City from December 21 to January 7 after deciding to celebrate Christmas and the New Year with Mari and her family. Two weeks away from family and friends and, of course, Lianga, and something I have not done for a really long time.
From the bed you stumble to the bedroom door, unlock it and stagger outside, the chill of the morning having no trouble getting through the thin fabric of your pajamas. You then watch your breath condense into vapor, wispy streaks of mist like the low lying fog that covers the tops of the hilly landscape that is so characteristic of the city.
In many ways, I was only occasionally homesick of Lianga during the more than two weeks I spent there. There is a lot of the provincial ambiance of the rural countryside that remains in Antipolo particularly in the suburbs off the center of the city. Even the city itself feels a bit provincial and has the flavor of many of the small yet progressive cities that dot the surroundings of major urban centers in Mindanao like Davao or Cagayan de Oro City.
But Antipolo is only a short distance from the nation's centers of political and economic power. All it takes it a short drive (minus the traffic, of course) and you are in the national capital. It lies in the shadow of Metro Manila and that is what makes the difference.
So as I stood those many mornings outside Mari's house in the outskirts of the city gulping in the cold, wet morning air, I marvel at the panorama of green, misty hills amidst the urban sprawl of houses and buildings. It may sometimes feel like Lianga but that is a delusion. All you have to do is listen to the rumble and noise of the traffic that never ceases outside the main highway outside the main gate and the loud whining of the passenger planes that pass overhead on their way to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
That is when I get somewhat homesick and pine for Lianga that seems, at those times, so far away.