Remembering Cebu

The following article which I wrote 3 years ago first came out in the February 2011 issue of Sugbu News, official publication of the Province of Cebu.

My earliest memory of Cebu was of blue sea waves and the sight and sound of people milling around the pier area at early dawn. This was in the late 70s and my late mother and I had just arrived from an overnight trip from the city of my birth in Bohol. The sun was yet to fully rise and invade the cold morning air surrounding us; I was shivering a bit as we disembarked from the boat. I was getting to know this island called Cebu as much as a six-year-old possibly could.

We stayed in one of our relative’s house along Jakosalem Street with the Ramos market a short morning walk away. It was in that old house in Jakosalem where a cousin of mine led me to discover the delicious delight of eating a boiled bird’s egg. It was my first time and certainly not the last.

In this trip, mother took me to see a doctor who I understood then to be an asthma or lung specialist. My asthma attacks back home had led to lengthy hospital stays and stacks of medication with labels way beyond my reading ability. When we met the doctor, he gave a list of foods I was to refrain from eating to lessen, if not completely stop the attacks. He also prescribed medicines to make the life of an asthmatic child more livable.

Mother then took me to shopping places downtown. I remember seeing tartanillas traversing the streets side by side with cars and jeepneys. I found it interesting then that Cebu could accommodate something of the past along with the new in one setting, or should I say, in one given road.

It was during my high school years when my geographical knowledge of Cebu progressed somewhat. Two Regional writing contests that I was sent to join were particularly helpful. One was held in Danao city where I remember clean parks, the city’s progressive pace, the hospitality of the people. I appreciated the forward vision of the city’s leader that time (late 80s). My trip to Badian (early 90s), on the other hand, was an experience with heavy rains and mud. But this three-day trip ended with a trek to Badian waterfalls which was a literal breathtaking reward. So what if mud was stuck to my sandals and my handkerchief was soaking wet with sweat? I was just so ready for a dip into those falls.

I packed up my bags and my life when I finished high school in Tagbilaran city and moved to Cebu. Life away from home has a way of stretching a person; one’s resourcefulness is somehow heightened. When the fast food companies in Cebu city (downtown, uptown as well as in Talamban area) and in Mandaue and Lapu-lapu cities began sprouting up in the mid 90s, I was among the throng of college students eager to take a part-time job. It was, however, a working arrangement with a then pioneering computer company that worked for me.

When I finally had my diploma at the University of San Carlos, I stayed on for about seven more years. Ah, how sweet and challenging, living the independent life: earning one’s own keep and pursuing dreams.

Photo: Andrew Rota
Photo: Andrew Rota

While calling Cebu home for about 12 years, I also stumbled upon two greater treasures under the sun: a deeper faith in God and gold mines of friendships. That deeper faith eventually led me to more active service for other people, even to mission work beyond Philippine shores. As for that wealth of friendships, it has remained within reach despite the distance. Some of my friends are still based in Cebu but some of them have also gone outside the “Premier Province of the Philippines” living their dreams and calling in other parts of the country and even beyond. But we have marked Cebu as the intersection of our lives.

Since I started writing a new home address in 2002 (Bangkok, Thailand for 3 years, then Davao city, and now Butuan city in beautiful Mindanao), I have had close to a decade of stories of living beyond Cebu shores. My world has expanded beyond its sights and sounds. And yet a full treasure chest of Cebu memories, which maybe dusty with time is still, right here with me.