When I am in Antipolo City in Rizal just outside Metro Manila, my friends there often ask me if I miss Lianga especially when I am there for extended periods. I often find the question superfluous if not totally irrelevant .
For I do miss my hometown, in many ways even when I am just away from it for a week or so. And the strange thing is, it is always the small things about Lianga that I miss the most.
I miss waking up in the darkness of early dawn to the clarion call of small boys shouting or singing, "Pan init!", as they peddle around the still gloomy streets and dimly lighted houses the freshly baked, piping hot bread of the town bakeries snugly tucked in corrugated paper boxes. I miss the loud, peremptory tones of the town church bells as they call the faithful to the daily, early morning mass while I try to snuggle deeper into the warm blankets of my bed to escape the biting chill of the new day.
I miss the deliberate and measured pace of life in Lianga, where the exact day, date and hour is often less significant than the actual accomplishment of the tasks you have set out for yourself in the course of the day and where one does not have to feel guilty about taking the time to enjoy the sea breeze, the occasional nap during hot, muggy afternoons or stroll around and watch the play of colors in the western mountains as the day ends.
I miss the fresh bounty of the sea that is so difficult to get in Antipolo - the still wriggling dangit and budas, the fat lapulapu, the firm fleshed malasogi and, of course the scrumptious shrimps and crabs that Lianga is so well known for.
I miss the sea, the smell of it and the feel of the salty air on my skin. I miss the hissing sound of the surf and the thunder of the waves. And I miss the feel of white sand underneath my bare feet and the warm caress of the sea as it gently froths and swarms around my bare ankles while I wade through the desolate beaches of Pugad, Lawis and Kansilad.
And I miss the sight of the purô, the old light tower on its rocky outcrop beyond Lianga's shore, the seemingly eternal yet strangely vulnerable and imminently venerable symbol of Lianga rich past, its troubled present and uncertain future. I miss its reassurance I get from its stolid presence and from its aura emanating solidity, resiliency and hope.
But Antipolo may not be Lianga but it has its compensations .
Waking up there in the morning is no sweet, gradual transition from restful sleep to full wakefulness. Rather, its like a rude jump from the oblivion of somnolence to the jarring state of full activity as one rushes to meet the challenges of the urban day. The day tends to start too early and end up too late.
But I always try to spend time to savor, in no small measure, the beginning of each new day and early mornings there are always special. Breakfast is always in the open air since the dining room of the house I stay in while I am in Rizal is open on one side to a stunning view of a large backyard full of fruit trees and the green, misty hills of Antipolo.
There while sipping steaming hot coffee and trying to ward off the cold of misty, chilly mornings, I find comfort in the fresh, pungent scent and aroma of green grass, damp foliage and rich, loamy earth. Like in Lianga, there is still a sense of life renewing itself. Enough of the hints of rural, provincial life still remain there although in the distance one can sense and hear with foreboding the intrusive presence of the sleepless city and the incessant hum of the concrete jungle.
But I always hold on to the sense of familiar things, the sight of golden shafts of morning sunlight piercing through the still dark canopy of brooding trees, the shimmer of dew drops on the wet blades of newly grown grass, the clean smell of the morning mist as it drifts across the grassy hills, the subtle play of light and shadow on the landscape as a new day begins, and the occasional twittering of birds feasting on fallen fruits on the damp, grassy ground.
Antipolo may not be Lianga but there are times when it can be so close to it that it hurts.