The Thirteen Martyrs Monument in Samonte Park.
I have lived in Metro Manila for 25 years. The city was exciting for me, and so was my career in media. Weekdays were a flurry of shoots, events, and TV interviews. Nights were long, as we worked to put a magazine issue to bed. I juggled single motherhood, and in spite of my micro-scheduling, I would come home when my son was already asleep.
There was nothing wrong with that setup, I thought, until the office shuttered my title two years ago. For a week after, I puttered around my tiny apartment, rudderless; with my son looking at me like I was a stranger. Then my mother suggested I stay with her in Cavite City to clear my head.
Cavite City has a few surviving ancestral homes; others were destroyed in World War 2.
When I put my cocktail gowns in storage and packed my shorts and T-shirts for the transfer, I braced myself for the boredom of the small-town life I had rushed to escape when I left for college. Instead, I slowly learned to appreciate its charm, and rediscover its traditions that I had last experienced as a child. I now live in Cavite half of the time, shuttling back and forth from the big city to mother’s quiet home in the small city.
We bought this old-fashioned terracotta palayok set for P80 at the palengke.
Some of the perks of provincial living: wide, open spaces and friendly neighbors.
It is this nothing-to-do-ness that slowly brought my son and I together. The spotty Internet, which bogs down his video games and pauses my freelance editing work, forces him to play with terracotta palayok in the terrace and me to go for a walk in Samonte Park, along breezy Cañacao Bay. I would take my son to the market, where the fishmongers haggle in Chavacano, our dialect of pidgin Spanish. En route to buy his school supplies, we’d stop at the bakery to buy salakot bread and the white cheese we call quesillo.
One of the unique Caviteño food offerings is bibingkoy, sticky rice dumpling, filled with red monggo paste.
On Saturdays, we would go to our favorite coffee shop and then afterwards, like in an adventure book, explore the decaying ancestral home right across it. Even sleepy Holy Week is a treat. Before Good Friday mass, we’d dine on bacalao (salted cod) and drink Aling Kulot’s chinchao, a dessert beverage made of sago and kalamay.
Aling Kulot sells chinchao ingredients only on the morning of Good Friday.
It is also in this sleepy town where my son would forge new friendships with his six-year-old neighbor, countless uncles and aunts, and doting lolas. I, on the other hand, try to reconnect with old friends, but many never returned to our hometown. It was “too slow,” they would say in hurried chat messages; “nothing would come of us if we stayed.”
But for me, Cavite City’s slowness is like a healing potion for my relationship with my son, and a comforting balm for my previously overworked soul; a balm that is as soothing and tranquil as the sea that surrounds it.