A childhood at the foot of Mt. Maculot

The mountain sits majestically and looks over the sleepy town of Cuenca in the province of Batangas. It seems almost stern as the great green foliage look unmoving. More often than not, a cloud of fog covers its top. On its other side is the renowned Taal Lake, where a huge part of the town make a living. This is where my family was born, my grandfather having hailed from one of its lakeside barangays.

Mt. Maculot bore witness to my own childhood. It watched as my father and mother brought me there to be raised and nurtured by my grandparents while they earn their keep far away in Manila. It saw and listened to my cries at night, and stood still as I learned to crawl, sit, stand up, take my first steps with trepidation and eventually run. Like a doting parent, it soothed me and kept an eye on me as I slept. It heard me as my coos turned into babbles and endless tattles. The mountain is the first thing I see as I look out the bedroom window when I wake up. It always bodes promise of better days. And while I don’t see it at night, I know it is there looking over us with omniscient eyes. It shaded me from the harsh rays of the sun as I merrily and carelessly played in the streets of our town, and made friends with other kids who I sometimes wonder where they are now. I observed curiously as mountaineers of every sort-seasoned, amateurs, backpackers, etc. trekked the mountain’s trails. Since my grandmother operated a huge sari-sari during that time, they normally pass by and stop over for a drink and a minute to catch their breaths. It was an idyllic life, one that I haven’t lived in a while, having lived in the suburbs for most of my life since leaving our ancestral home.

It made me sad when I had to bid my beloved Lolo and Lola goodbye as I embarked on living with my parents and little brother by the time I was five. Truth to tell, I was the favorite apo. In that house and in that town, I was the star, the princess, the apple of the eye, and whatever else you can call it. I felt a little out of place as I started a new life with my family. My mother sometimes resented that I would always compare my life at home with the one I had with my Lola, she would tell me years later. I would always try to say bakit kay lola pwede ang ganito? bakit kay lola kung ano gusto ko kainin yun ang lulutuin? I eventually adjusted but I never really forgot that different feeling of belongingness and acceptance in my grandparents’ care. I terribly, terribly missed them, especially my grandfather who absolutely doted on me. Although I regularly visited when I was younger and my grandparents were still alive, now, I get lucky when I can swing by in a year.

Going back last undas made me wax nostalgic as I brought my own daughter “home”. I was transported several decades back as I looked at her and saw myself in her. She could have been me, only prettier and brighter. My Tita Ana, the one who took care of me and served as my second mother growing up in that old house, never fail to regale us with tales of me, a.k.a. Ineng, as I messed up the place back then, akin to what Mischa the terrible is prone to these days. She is so my mini me. I wished she could have met her great-grandparents, they would have been proud. Of her. Of me. And they would again shower her with the affection they never failed to give me.

I love Lolo and Lola. I miss you.

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