after a long and exhausting trip in pampanga, i decided to pay my mom's hometown a visit and stay for the night there. i texted my uncle that i'll be coming over and asked him to fetch me in concepcion, tarlac.
you see, my mom's hometown, in lapaz is your typical remote barrio were riding a tricycle is as expensive as riding a bus from manila to somewhere in pampanga. it only has one jeepny trip in the morning and the next or the last will be late in the evening.
its been a long while since i have been here. i remember when we were little, my mom would use to bring us here during vacations or if there were long weekends. within the trip, we would usually raise our hands and asked her in a range of five, how far is it? then she would reach our little fingers and gently fold it one by one, to let us know how long we would still wait. we never knew exactly what it mean but somehow it ease us from the long wait of travelling.
its already past 11 when i reached lapaz. i immediately went inside and approached my apong to kiss her hand. my apong was no longer the same woman i have in mind. i always have this picture of her rushing outside the moment she hears us coming and just literally grab our faces and give us harsh kisses in the cheeks. she was silent but always moving, busying herself with almost everything inside the house. she cooks us the best inabraw (another version of pinakbet) and would chant us with "labay, labay, sidaun ni (my ilocano nickname) na napigsa nga balong ko, just to convince us to eat vegetables.
but the traces of the apong i used to know was no longer there. yes, she was still silent. but she no longer greeted me with those harsh kisses. instead, i just saw her sitting on the couch and already holding a steel cane on her left hand. she stared at me, unmoved and just gave me a brief smile. i wondered what happened. my uncle told me that perhaps she already reached the toll of her age. there are times when she would no longer recognize the people around her, would often throw tantrums and even cry alone.
i couldn't stop wondering what i'll be when i grow old.
but then i just realized that i was just blankly staring at her when she slowly stood up. scared that she might lose her balance, i immediately approached her. but in my surprise, she held my arm instead of her cane and looked at me. i never saw her in that distance. when suddenly she moved her face slowly towards me and gave me a gentle and warm kiss. then she smile.
for a second, it felt like i have been victorious against time, that i have defied the natural course of things and that i had my apong back even just for that moment.