We arrived in Samar on a direct flight from Manila to Calbayog Regional Airport and touched down at around 8:30am. Once off the plane it was obvious that there was an entire entourage of family to greet us and everyone was brimming with smiles. Big ones, little ones, young and old, and a few my asawa had only seen when they were in still in diapers (or pant-less). It had been nearly 10 years since Teri last visited her home. Some faces were recognizable, some not so much. I had only met two of Teri’s sisters years ago so my mind was quickly being overtasked with putting faces and names together. Many faces looked familiar from family photos and excursions into the Facebook realm, but it was a monumental task to now add all the nicknames to the names you thought you had connected to the many faces of a large rather large family.
By now it was about 0900 and I was already craving for my first cold grande bottle of SM (it was way past 5pm in my time zone by the way). After finishing all the greetings, we collected our bags, piled whatever and whoever we could fit into the family Motorela and away we went.
With 11 people and our luggage loaded into this overworked little machine, it was senseless to even expect the shock absorbers on this thing to even slightly function as designed. Needless to say, it was a bumpy ride to the homestead. It was only about a 5km ride so my butt fared okay. All the other family members who were not fortunate (?) enough to ride along all cramped up with their U.S. visitors had to find an alternative means home. There is never a shortage of “In Service” vehicles at the ready when flights arrive in this quiet little corner of the world. We all made it to the homestead safely and the celebrating (eating) commenced.
Our first day in Samar was filled with my wife Teri and her kinsfolk reminiscing about old times they shared with many discussions about this and that (mostly that), while I enjoyed funning with all the nieces and nephews, pulling little random surprises out of my hat, some consisting of chocolate favorites like M&M’s or little Snickers or Milky Ways, etc. Nonetheless, the kids quickly learned to never take their eye off of Tito Randy as they didn’t want to miss a thing. It’s pretty amazing how a kano and a few mini bags of M&M’s can keep a young audience captive seemingly forever.
Later in the day I was also a big hit with the nephews, big and small, when I produced two brand new Spaulding basketballs (deflated) from my suitcase. Because the family basically lives in two separate locales’ just some 5km apart, I gave a ball to each locale where they will happily share its use. That way there is always a ball available regardless of who is visiting who. The end of a long first day came early for us and we decided to retire our first night at the Almira Hotel in
Calbayog City to get some quality rest in air-conditioned comfort. No way were we going un-rested for this adventure. We adjusted with some room service food, a couple of SMB’s for me, and nearly 11 hours of restful sleep. Now we were ready for anything! More information and photos about the Almira Hotel in Calbayog City can be found at another Calbayog resident expat site, Texan in the Philippines .
The next few days we simply spent eating, relaxing, eating some more, and watching the girls be girls and the boys be boys. I especially got a kick out of our little nephew Jay, 7, and his trained and talented entourage of spiders suspended from several fingers by their little silk threads. It was like watching a puppet master in a spider circus and was pretty comical…as long as he kept his distance. I told my asawa that as much as I enjoyed little Jay’s performance, he was to go nowhere near our sleeping quarters. She agreed.
Life really is simple here in the province and before I knew it, all the little aches and pains that have plagued me for the last few years, just seemed to vanish. Much of the everyday worries and stresses I came here with also seemed to just melt away as the days passed. I eventually became delirious with visions of going AWOL from America. But, a simple mention of it to my asawa and she delivered me “the look” which immediately derailed that thought process. At one point however, I did suggest that she return to the U.S., begin the liquidation process and sell everything else. I would stay behind to safeguard and finish the new house and wait for her return. She then suggested…well…I really can’t repeat what she said. I just raised my empty San Miguel bottle and it was quickly replenished by one of a never-ending supply of volunteers. Looks like we would be returning together to empty out the reality tanks back home. Then we can make the next trip a one-way event. Ahhh, sounds so good to me!
One of the reasons we timed this trip when we did was in honor of Lola’s 89th birthday and the ensuing fiesta party at the beach. Although we really needed no reason to have a party, just our return visit was reason enough for a lechon (roast pig) beach event. But to the family, combining our arrival with a special birthday event well…that was an even better reason to have a second lechon at the beach fiesta. The special day actually began the day before, with mass cooking until about 2 am, a little shut-eye, and up again to continue the cooking at 4 am, with two pigs roasting all night long. The duty lechoners did not get any sleep.
We had 4 cabanas rented at the Mondejras Beach Resort which is located just a couple clicks up the road from where we will be living in Tomaligues. Supplies arrived early (and often) by trike, car, SUV, and even by boat…literally from all directions. It was going to be a beach fiesta to remember. With plentiful food, abundant drink, cold beer and fresh tuba, some would argue this is paradise. I say if there is a heaven, it must be close-by.
My asawa had the foresight to reserve two air-con cabins for the night – just in case – the just-in-case odds in my favor that I would be in no condition to or would want to leave the beach, and rather than let me sleep in a cabana on the beach, she thought I would be better served by having a bed and shower close at hand. She is always right! Damn. We ate a lot, enjoyed many beach activities, swam in the resort pool, watched the kids have a blast, and indulged some more. Everybody had a grand ole time. For the real guest of honor though, this was not only Lola’s first ever birthday party, she also got to swim in a real swimming pool for the first time in her 89 years. She smiled a lot this day. I’m sure it was an event to remember.
The next few days were filled with trips into Calbayog City for this and that, mostly that. I especially liked treating the kids to Jollibee for chocolate ice cream sundaes. At P26 each, this was an affordable way to treat the kids and satisfy my own ice cream needs (hey, I can’t just leave home and go cold turkey). One day I decided to spring for lunch for anybody that wanted to come, so 15 bodies piled into the family Motorela and off we went like sardines in a canning factory. We all ate lunch with a drink and a few desserts were had. The bill was a whopping USD27. Can I splurge baby, or what!!!
Before we knew it, our visit to Calbayog City came to an end and we were on our way to Mariveles, Bataan.