A walk in the past! (Part 2)

By Emmanuelle

AY, naglaing! The unnamed town whereby the gypsy walked in the past was instantly identified by some of our readers here and abroad who, too, had walked in its past. They had breathed the same air, they had sniffed the same dust. Their feet and toes had crunched and curled over the soil and pebbles of its barrio roads before these same roads were cemented in the national mania to concretize the connection of the farms to the marketplace.

As if farms and market were not effectively connected before barrio roads were cemented; as if being connected dustily and pebbly was as bad as not being connected at all. Anya met! The connection was always there, though it was a slow-going process. It was the dictate of supply and demand after all. What the market demanded, the farms supplied. It was as true here as there and everywhere.

The cement just made the going fast and easy. It also made the going-away faster and easier. And vice versa, it made the coming home mas lalo nga faster and easier. Lately, though, the going-home had been occurring not so very often, even rarer than rare.

In this town that we had been writing and reading about, they had lived until they left; they, who had guessed its name correctly. It was here where they were born, reared and schooled; it was also here where they felt the first stirrings of love, and pain, and loss. Gamin, the Filipinos are ranked first as the most emotional among the peoples of the world!

With these deep personal attachments, it is a wonder why the old hometowns had been missing out with the number of native returnees beyond their 50s. We have so much less of them that we appear to be a nation hindi na binabalikan ng mga balikbayan. What we have are more of the turista or bistangbayan – the children of the children of those who had emigrated before. They come with the elders, or they come in behalf of their elders who are too frail to travel having grown older still or ill. These younger ones look around. They scratch their heads. They raise their brows: Why did Grandpa and Grandma go back to this old, hot, dusty place again and again? They lose their savings to endless donations; other things do get lost here, and sometimes people too. And the dreadful bugs! They bite day and night. 

Were they not told, that when Grandpa or Grandma donned the official identity of a new person over that of the former self . . . the old face, the old body, the old bones, the old heart stayed the same. One could not erase one’s minute beginnings. One could not soak in brine and wring the mind free of one’s memories. One simply must go back to where one breathed one’s first. All of one, everything that one is, had sprung from the smallness of that humble start. Which is truly very small . . . a microscopic dot.

The gypsy of this story had done this and more. The gypsy walked the past and told of the past and inbilin na that past. Write it; then tell it true. Make your words live it, then relive it for me, for us.

The many names and faces – some gone, some lost, some still of this world. Imelda, Elisea, Wilma, Manuela, Emerita, Claudia, Gertrudes, Jane, Victoria, Nenita, Thelma, Doring, Saling, Sahlee, Ramon, Wilfredo, Nolasco, Vicente, Jose, Jaime, Jimmy, Eduardo, Constantino, Reynaldo, Romeo, Rodrigo – etc., etc.

Memory did not fail the gypsy; this space did. But do go on, taste the sigh in the vowels, the thud in the consonants.

As the gypsy walks away, the names still fly in the air and play like motes of notes. At the turn of the corner, the gypsy is gone. But not! The gypsy leaves me with another story, another yesterday.

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