In Retrospect is a series of articles and snippets in which I try to recall my most memorable experiences; memories captured during my unflustered youth before I had cameras and smartphones to record them with.
Santiago City, 1998 – After my high school graduation, my father took me for a vacation at Santiago City in Isabela. It was my birthplace, our home until we moved to Nueva Ecija when I was four years old. The last time we were in Santiago City was four years back, as such, this was a homecoming before I begin a new chapter in my life as a college student.
I was ecstatic because I had so many childhood memories in Santiago City. I would see the old road where we used to play as kids, the aging houses that we visited during summer afternoons, and the school that served as our limitless playground.
But I most looked forward to our trip to Magat Dam, where my Ninong promised to take us to. I learned that he owned several fish pens where he raised tilapia commercially. I also found out that the Magat Dam Hydroelectric Power Plant supplies a significant chunk of the electricity requirement of Luzon.
The day came and my Ninong picked us up from our house. Magat Dam is located in Ramon, Isabela, less than an hour from Santiago City. The dam looked majestic, especially from afar. It was my first time to see a man-made structure so massive and commanding. It was a defiance to nature; unimaginable that it can hold such volume of water.
The fish pens, we learned, were in the middle of the reservoir so we had to go there by boat. It did not take long to get to our destination. Marking the peripheries of the property were narrow bamboo walkways where the workers hurled fish food. In the middle of the enclosure was a small bahay kubo. It wasn’t much but it was good enough for providing respite from the heat. In order to get to it, we had to use the bamboo walkway. It was rather slippery and the sight of the vast water around us gave me a bit of a panic. It took me forever to get to the bahay kubo for fear that I would fall into the dark water.
We caught fish, grilled them for lunch, and ate in the most provincial fashion. There was a lot of chatter, catching up between Tatay and Ninong, with generous laughter in between. It was as if they had not seen each other for a decade. Who can blame them, they have been the best of friends since high school. By mid-afternoon though, we had to head home. It was not good to use the boat when it became too dark. We were home by sundown.
It was a day unlike any other. I did not know how to describe it, really. I won’t pretend that there was anything meaningful from this experience. But somehow, when it was over, I got the unshakeable feeling that this journey was a passage to adulthood.