“There is no place like home” — this is never truer to anyone than the sea turtles (and to some other chordates). For these home-loving reptiles of the seas: Home is where their cold-blood pumping heart is. They say these animals are imprinted with magnetic fields leading them back home to reproduce and, for some, to die. But, I am not going to talk about these amazing animals today. I am excited to talk about home.
Humans are naturally nomadic. History tells us that we started as hunters and gatherers who settled in one place for a period of time until there was nothing left to gather or hunt. And, we moved on. Despite our apparent wanderlust, humans hold the same longing for home – if not greater. Whoever we will be, wherever we will go, there is always that one place we go back to. It is home.
Such was the peg (so gay!) of the day, when I found myself on the road to home one weekend. It had been years since the last time I smelled the saline breeze wafted about along with the sweet scent of the morning. And, boy, did I miss the crowing of my Lolo‘s roosters at dawn, the smell of tsokolate and puto in the morning, and the eerie chanting of the village women reciting the rosary interspersed with the rhythmic tick tock of their wooden sandals (bakya). I missed home.
Nueva Caceres is what you call a sleepy little village where people believe in quack doctors, love potions and lizards kissing the ground goodnight. Well, I exaggerate but not much. Though the village practically has rebuilt itself mentally, socially and, perhaps, spiritually, it remains the same village which takes joy in the spellbinding songs of birds, cockfights on Sundays and the never ceasing gossips here and there. Nueva Caceres is part of Oslob – the famous town with the whale sharks and the falls. It is a village of innocent children with simple but colorful dreams. It is home to withered prizefighters broken and wise.
Typical for a Philippine coastal village, Nueva Caceres boasts of a clear blue-green sea lined by a stretch of fine white sand. As the sea ebbs revealing the vast expanse of sand and shallow water, people flock to the shore for a stroll at the hunasan (exposed sea bed due to the ebbing of the sea). Seashells. Sea cucumbers. Crabs. Sea urchins. People literally pick them from the seashore feeding the family perhaps a day or two.
Men from the village gamble their lives and their families’ by braving the sea hoping it is kinder than the last time. Fingers are crossed and prayers are said wishing the next big haul happens sooner. I’ve heard stories of fishermen caught in the middle of a storm. Some came home alive. Others didn’t.
Life in the village is not unlike the soap-operas the villagers love so much. At least twice in a year, somebody is caught sleeping with somebody’s wife while somebody else’s daughter gets pregnant or elopes. Somebody is always almost sure to see someone’s girlfriend holding hands with someone else. It is either too dark or too far, however, to be a hundred percent sure; but, apparently, sure enough to tell people about it.
This is Nueva Caceres. Sleepy. Small. Sometimes, hateful. Most of the times, dear. This is where the impetuousness of youth is spent dreaming of that pot of gold at the other end of the rainbow. This is where the wisdom of old comes home bringing the rainbow itself. This is where the journey begins. This is also where it ends. This is home.
Here is a view from above courtesy of Google Map: