These letters to our children are also reminders for us. That we remember how we want to raise them – to love God, country, neighbour. Here is our attempt at what Ate Anna W. calls “Patriotic Parenting”, and bringing up Faithful fellows. Here’s hoping J will always be proud of Naga City, his hometown.
To Our Little Nagueño,
You are going to be five months old in a few days. Amazing how quickly time has passed.
In a span of five months, you’ve more than doubled in weight, grown longer and have added a few tricks to your repertoire of cuteness.
You are sleeping now – hopefully, for a little while longer. I am still trying to master the art of taking advantage of the few minutes I have for myself – to sleep or to write or to clean. By the time I decide, it is normally too late.
This is my first letter for you from our home in Naga, the city of your Tatay.
If I am crazy-passionate about Manila, then your Tatay is crazy-passionate about Naga. Even if he spent more years abroad than he did here, Naga has always been home. Naga has always been the best place to be for him. He knew deep inside that one day, he’d come home. And he did. They call Naga the “Maogmang Lugar” – and for your Tatay, this is truly a happy place. It is where he is happiest.
Now, Naga is very different from the Manila you were born in. Although it is a smaller city, it is not a place of less importance. The history of this city is just as rich as the history of my Manila and the culture and faith of her people, maybe even deeper. They call Naga the “Queen City of Bicol”, the heart of the region and the home of Ina. It is the city of Raul Roco and Jesse Robredo – men who lived for the Filipino people. It is the city of Conrado de Quiros (your Nanay’s and Tita Coco’s request when Lolo Tony asked who we wanted to have dinner with). It is the city of a beautiful and proud people.
I won’t pretend that I questioned the future that we will be able to provide you when we considered living here. The condescending view of your Manileña mother (and those of many from Imperial Manila) on growing up in the province is one that is unfounded and arrogant. Thinking that you can be given a better future there in the big city (or even in Vancouver) is debatable. You will grow up different for sure, not necessarily better nor worse – but definitely different.
Here, I am certain of several things. I am assured that you will breathe fresh air and will play in greener parks. With Lola Loly’s farm just an hour away, you will have access to what was our summer paradise on weekends. Knowing that you will grow up in a clean environment excites me – that you will have the beach and mountains nearby is such a blessing, Javy. May your days be filled playing in the dirt, learning how to grow vegetables and fruits and basking in the sun.
Here, I am assured that we won’t waste time in the traffic – but will get to spend more quality time with you. Here, you will get to go home for lunch during your break at school – something we never had the chance to do. Time is so important, J. For better or for worse, time here goes a bit slower – and I love it! I hope you learn to appreciate all the time that you have – that you be more productive and at the same time savour each moment. Don’t rush things, but don’t waste time either.
Here, I pray you will grow in faith – both in God and the goodness of humanity. Wherever you grow up, wherever we establish our roots, this is my prayer for you. Because of the devotion of the people here to Ina, I know that you will be exposed to something quite special. They say there is a special bond between Ina and her children in Naga. People from all over the country flock to Naga every September to witness that bond. Believe in her and her son, J. Believe in miracles. They exist. You are ours.
I look forward to raising you in this city and I know you will be as proud of it as your father. I am ashamed to think that I once doubted your father’s decision to bring you up in the province. Never let anyone make you feel you are not as bright, as cultured or as exposed as they are just because they are from the big city. Believe me, it doesn’t follow. And when the time comes that you do meet an ignorant person like that, be patient and be humble. There are a lot of people like that in this world – just outshine them and prove them wrong. You look like a fighter, so I’m not worried.
Now, before you think everyone from Manila thinks they’re better than the rest of the country or that there is nothing good about the metropolis, I want to assure you that there are many beautiful things that I want you to experience in Manila as well. We have friends and family there, the most amazing people who have taught me everything I know are there. The dirt, the noise and the diversity there will teach you many things as well. But we will save that for another letter to be written during another nap time.
I am excited to celebrate your fifth month mark! On the 16th, your Tatay and I will take you to a workshop. We will learn how to share our love for Naga and Bicol to our guests. We will practice on you, little one. Happy five months, J! I love you!