by Pablo A. Tariman

In this latest trip to the island, I am with my two daughters and three grandchildren and another one I’d like to call my German grandson.

Sunset at Mamangal Beach with the author's grandchildren. Photo: Kalon Tariman

Sunset at Mamangal Beach with the author’s grandchildren. Photo: Kalon Tariman

It is some reunion of sort because it is not often that I visit the island with nearly all members of the family intact (except for one who remained in the big city to give moral support to the Kidapawan farmers).

I cannot avoid nostalgia every time I visit the island. The last time two of my daughters were here, they were under the care of their grandmother who could see that I had a hard time beating deadlines and taking care of growing children.

My eldest daughter used to see a Virac doctor who was also the town mayor and my youngest had a good glimpse of island life even before early schooling.

But they would soon be transported back to the big city because my work was there and their first schooling awaited them.

My eldest daughter used to live with her grandparents in Sta. Elena in Virac and that’s the same barangay where my grandparents (on my mother side) lived. In the grade school years, I remember attending those Arcilla reunions while I wondered why the Arcillas were all over the capital town.

The author's daughters and grandchildren and a German "grandson' at Marem Pension House.

The author’s daughters and grandchildren and a German “grandson’ at Marem Pension House.

I am a Guerrero on my mother side and part of my early memories was taking typing lessons at Farmacia Guerrero, the first pharmacy in the island. I met the remaining owner of that pharmacy (a Guerrero who was former Miss Virac and wife of former judge) and she struck me as full of wisdom, full of wit which was natural for someone who had lived in the island for years and never left.

As I see my grandchildren enjoy the peace and quiet of Mamangal Beach, I couldn’t help recalling my own childhood in the island. I used to read the dailies and vernacular magazines (Liwayway and Bulaklak) and comics (Hiwaga, Pilipino) in the newsstand of Tia Merly (an Abundo I think) near the San Jose chapel. I actually sold newspapers (Manila Bulletin) in Baras from the same newspaper dealer and I remember peddling them as far as Macutal barrio, passing through rivers and rice paddies. I thought a part of me died when I heard that Tia Merly had passed away only last year.

Now the eldest and youngest daughters who used to live in the island are now mothers of one. The eldest now lives and works in Frankfurt and it must be thrill for her to see the island once more in her adult life.

Where we stayed in the island (Marem Pension House) is also full of memories. That’s where we stayed when my parents died and the place gave us private place in which to cope with our private sorrows. I have treated Marem as my own private home because I could occupy its dining area at four in the morning and write until breakfast time which is seven in the morning.

The author with grandson Emmanuel at Balacay Point. Photo: Kalon Tariman

The author with grandson Emmanuel at Balacay Point. Photo: Kalon Tariman

Most of the artists who visited and performed in the provincial capitol lobby also stayed in Marem and they include Romanian violinist Alexandru Tomescu, conductor Redentor Romero, pianists Mary Anne Espina, Reynaldo Reyes, Ingrid Sala Santamaria and Najib Ismail, among others. The latest well-received guest was classical guitarist Aemilio Cecilio Enginco who obliged with two encores at the end of his well-received concert at the Marem Function Hall.

Indeed I was overwhelmed by nostalgia as we visited Balacay Point in barrio Benticayan in Baras town. My mother used to teach in barrio Benticayan and the woman who took care of me was a weather-beaten islander named Marla whose fisherman-husband died in the deep blue sea during a freak weather.

Passing Tilod barrio also in Baras, I told my daughters and grandchildren I was born in that village by the sea and I used to hike from Tilod to Baras town proper passing through the seashores.

I spent my grade school years in Baras where a former mayor, 94-year old Jesus Torrente, remembered that I played Jose Rizal in a school play and recited “Mi Ultimo Adios” in Spanish.

From a close relative’s vacation house on top of a mountain range, my grandchildren and I could see my hometown in all its idyllic glory and in all its quaint smallness.

The Marem Pension House. A pension house full of memories.

The Marem Pension House. A pension house full of memories.

Frolicking in Puraran Beach and rowing boat in the nearby sea, my daughters and grandchildren had a grand time of their lives.

They will probably remember this moment when — many years from now — they descend on the island with their own children and grandchildren and with their own set of memories.

My own life cycle – attending weddings of nephews and nieces and grieving over friends who have moved on — is about to end.

The life cycle of my daughters and grandchildren are just about to begin.

You can only hope that they cope with life the way you did and accepting fate and destiny for what they are.

Where we are now, we live on the opposite of the continents but brought together once more by this rare island reunion.

After this visit, they would have a complete picture of their father’s (and grandfather’s) birthplace in an island they may now call their own.

As Margaret Wise Brown had once intoned —

“…it was good to be a little Island.
A part of the world
and a world of its own
All surrounded by the bright blue sea.”

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