Last May 12-21, 2011, Mama and I had vacation in our relatives in Bicol. We took the Elavil Bus from Cubao on May 12 and stopped in Bulan, Sorsogon the following day. Mama celebrated her birthday together with my uncle at Nanay’s house in Brgy. Aguinaldo in Bulan. The next day, May 14, we rode aboard the passenger boat (‘lantsa’) from Bulan Pier to San Fernando, Masbate, our ancestral hometown. Both my parents and their forefathers are from San Fernando. Hence, they are “royal-blood inhabitants” of that rural municipality.
We stayed at the house of Tiya Isay Ricarte. That week marks the town fiesta and the start of the first ever Tabon Festival. I met the seminarians there: Jerome Llacer, Ray Bajar, Gerald Morales, and Richard Bisnar. My distant cousin, Yves Bergantin, a graduate from the seminary in Legazpi, and his classmate Ohlan, were there in the festivities. We served at Mass at the Holy Infant Jesus Parish on Sunday, May 15, where Fr. Jose Mari Amores was the presider and parish priest. (Three days later, Fr. Jomari would be succeeded by new parish priest Fr. Emerito ‘Litong’ Castillo.) The next days I witness some of the fiesta’s major events like Beauty Contest and Cultural Dance Showdown. I also had frequent visits to Yves’ house, to my aunt’s house in Benitinan, to my relatives in Sitio Guintad-an and in Progreso, and to the Bajar Residence nearby the parish. On May 17, there was Pagoda Float of the image of Sto. Niño by the sea of San Fernando. Fr. Jomari, Jerome, I, and numerous parishioners and bystanders joined the float as many small boats came after the big “lantsa” where the holy image is safeguarded. Grand Fiesta Mass followed.
I noticed an obviously high number of pilgrims and tourists in the place. There were even foreigners, many among which are friends of some residents there who went abroad or stayed in Manila. The entire fiesta week transformed the customary tranquil, simple town into a busy-bee, Binondo-style town bombarded with visitors from other towns in Masbate, and even outside Masbate. Various colors, lights, smiles and buzzes highlight the fiesta which has turned its start just this 2011.
On May 18, Mama, I and the seminarians were privileged to join the Whole Day Island Hopping tour sponsored by Ate Glenda Bajar and her family. Could you imagine that we circumnavigated the entire Ticao Island? We started from San Fernando Pier, glancing through the waters leading to the neighboring town of San Jacinto. Monreal town was fascinating with her exotic beaches and gleaming islands with the likes of Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan. We had an hour of stop and lunch break at a Boracay-like islet with crystal clear blue-green waters and unique bliss of stones and sands. In the afternoon, we passed the back of Ticao overlooking the mountain ranges of Masbate Mainland from afar. We passed Lagundi shore where my mom exclaimed that this was her second time to reach there after 40 years. After Lagundi, we had a relaxing bath in the sea down the ravaging falls of Catandayagan, whose view from a distance resembles a seemingly haunted scene with the looks of faces of spirits as if they are ghosts of World War II soldiers who died near that place. Scary! Don’t peep much!
The next days after this enjoying whole day tour, Mama and I spent quality time visiting our other relatives. On May 20, we headed back to Manila where we arrived the following day. Indeed, I will never forget this colorful memory of San Fernando. As I looked back, my 2011 summer experience there was a follow-up trip to our last life-gnawing visit in 2004.