A funny thing happened on our way to dinner last night.
We stepped out of the elevator to a gaggle of giggly teenagers from a local college strutting around in their Sunday best — the girls in their gowns and the boys in their shirt and ties.
No one could explain to me why college freshmen were going to a prom, but there they were nervous and excited. Boys gathered in the middle of the lobby helping each other straighten their ties while waiting for the girls to walk in. Then the girls come strolling in the room in groups of twos and threes.
NEVER LET THE FACTS GET IN THE WAY OF A GOOD STORY
There is something about getting together with old friends, sharing a meal and telling stories. You are reminded of many things that make home special.
Food is one, of course. I had a plate of bangus relleno (stuffed white fish) with seaweed salad (guso, the brown seaweed) and Meg had a stuffed grilled squid. We started our meal with a cream of corn chowder that tasted just like my aunties used to make it. We finished the dinner with a plate of mangoes, apples, grapes and red bananas. You have not had a mango until you’ve had one grown here. It is almost unnaturally sweet. Then there are the red bananas — sweet, earthy almost a cross between a plantain and a regular banana.
Then there are the stories. Filipinos love to tell them. Our culture is chock full of them.
Take the name Dumaguete, for example. The name was derived from an old Visayan word “dagit”, or to snatch. Apparently the people who lived here were known for grabbing things they liked without bothering to ask, kind of like pirates. The irony of all this is that my hometown is known as the “City of Gentle People”.
Then there is the island of Siquijor, which sits a few miles southeast of Negros. As I was eating my seaweed salad, a friend tells me a story that has my salad, guso or deep water seaweed, apparently keeping our neighbor island from floating away.
As the dinner went on so did the stories. Filipinos are proud of their history real or mythical. We never let facts get in the way of telling a good story. If you can tell them, people are sure to want to hear them. The magic of sharing these stories make home truly special.
GOING FOR A PEDICAB RIDE
Meg and I went for a pedicab ride to a little town up north called Amlan. For a local, this mode of transportation would not have been their first choice. But we were up for an adventure and so off went.
It was a slow laborious ride that took us almost an hour to travel 22 kilometers. By then end of the trip we had sore behinds.
A pedicab or tricycle, a motorcycle with a cab or sidecar attached to it, is the most popular way to get around this city, which is relatively flat. But riding in one of these for more than a few miles is crazy. Now we know.
THIS TOWN IS FOR LOCALS
There is nothing like sitting in one of the many bars and restaurants along the boulevard to get a little sense of this town.
Although there are a few tourists strolling about, Dumaguete is built for the locals. It looks and feels lived in. Locals motor around in their motorcycles and scooters to go to the store or just to go for a ride. It is not uncommon to see an entire family riding in one motorcycle.
The vendors along the boulevard peddle their food mostly to locals who flock to the waterfront to get fresh air. In the mornings people can be seen jogging and walking along the sea wall and after sun down the boulevard gets packed with locals just out for an evening stroll.