November 4, 2011
by Lily Macachor-Fong, San Jose, California
At 3 o’clock in the morning, I was wide-awake, so I stepped out onto the balcony, sat down, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. The air was hot and humid.
I just arrived the day before in El Salvador Resort in Sabang, my temporary home for 2 weeks to celebrate the feast of Sto. Tomas de Villanueva also known as the Danao Fiesta and to volunteer in the DAUSA medical mission.
I still had my eyes closed when I heard a familiar sound “toku! toku! toku!”. I smiled and savored the moment. I haven’t heard that sound in a very long time. I continued to sit and enjoy the quiet moment … then I heard a cockcrow, “cock-a-doodle-do, cock-a-doodle-do”!
Moments later another one chimed in, then another, before long there was a chorus, welcoming the day. I had a lump in my throat; tears streamed down my face, I mumbled, “I’m home”! Strange thing to say considering I’ve lived in the US longer than I’ve lived in Danao. I never expected I’d feel that way.
The next few days were a whirlwind of activities. I began to appreciate what DAUSA has done over the years, from scholarships to the medical mission. I have always been loosely connected to DAUSA based in LA (Southern California) while I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area (Northern California), Hawaii and Colorado.
I know deep down I wanted to be more involved, “someday” I used to tell myself. That someday came, so here I am in Danao after 43 years of being away, and looking forward to helping out in any way I can.
I don’t have any medical training and I know nothing about pharmaceuticals, so I did as I was told and enjoyed every minute of it. I must say, I really enjoyed interacting with the locals and speaking Bisaya again was a lot of fun.
Having been talked into becoming a candidate for the Balik Danao Queen, I became a willing participant when I was told that it is for a good cause and the money will go to a special project.
I enjoyed it all, even the part when the Balik Danao Queen and I missed out on the parade because we arrived late. Well, we didn’t miss it completely, we were able to get on the float in front of City Hall and rode it for one block, to the delight of my cousins and Tia Lagring that came all the way from Cebu City just to see me.
They were on my cousin’s balcony waving, yelling and screaming. They made it all worthwhile. The queen and I had front row seats on stage to watch the Karansa competition. It was my first and I loved the pageantry, beautiful, colorful costumes and the performances were awesome.
The only drawback…Wa gyud ko makapamista! I have to publicly apologize to all my cousins for not making it to their homes as promised. I missed out on all that food.
Fortunately for me, I had enjoyed the ultimate luncheon that was so generously provided by Sani and Tita Barriga Tomayao in their farm in Guinacot for the Medical Mission volunteers. I tried all the dishes and they were all scrumptious, some dishes I have completely forgotten about because you can only get them in Danao.
With a newly found freedom, one day I ventured out on my own, taking a pedicab from Sabang to Danao, 3km away. Danao is no longer the quiet little town I grew up in. Now, it boasts several bakeries (there used to be only 3), cyber cafes (there was none), beach resorts (there was only Sands) and an Eco Adventure Park in the mountain of Danasan where you can ride a zip line, go caving, watch a waterfall and go horseback riding.
I didn’t recognize the streets, the houses or any of the people. It is now very crowded, people and vehicles everywhere. Crossing the street is very challenging because there is no such thing as pedestrians’ right of way.
My cousin Catherine and I were reminiscing about how we used to play “tubig-tubig” in the middle of Pio del Pilar St. Those days are gone forever.
I attended mass and lingered to enjoy the church and noticed the electric fans, nice! We won’t be needing the “pay-pay” as much. The altar is grand, beautiful and much brighter than I remembered. At the end of the mass the Philippine National Anthem was sang, hmmmm very interesting!
I crossed the street to Sto.Tomas School where I attended high school 44 years prior. The old convent where we held classes is still there and the grotto of the Virgin Mary where we used to pose for pictures has been moved a few feet away.
I continued on to Rizal Plaza where we trapped humungous frogs to dissect in our Science experiment in Sto. Tomas School. I caught a glimpse of two girls in school uniforms, looks like one is going through the hair of the girl in front of her. OMG! Nanghinguto!!! I had mixed feelings, I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be grossed out.
I was very disappointed to see Sands Resort shuttered and in disrepair, such a waste of a beautiful area. I hope to see it back to its former grandeur soon.
In the 60s, it was the best Danao was to offer with it’s bowling alley, snack bar, beauty salon in the back where we used to have our hair done when there was a special event in school. I remembered the cottages… there were stories that it was the favorite place for lovers/sweethearts to rendezvous.
My cousin Grace and her husband Arturo treated me to lunch at the new Macapagal-Durano Fish Port. Now that’s progress, downstairs is where the fresh catch is dropped off and upstairs is the restaurant. I had kinilaw…yummy! I have to go back there and try the other dishes.
I never made it to the market, so I have to add that to my list of things to do next time . I missed out on the procession too, that will be on the top of my list. I’ll spend a night or two in Danasan Eco Adventure Park, and then there are the churches that my cousins promised they’d take me to see.
Since I came back, I miss the camaraderie, the food and the funny stories and jokes especially the ones Celia Barriga was telling me. They sure brought back a lot of wonderful and weird memories.
God willing, I will be back.