Sunday in San Rafael

San Rafael

Initially, I had no plans this Sunday. All these downpour made it difficult to plan a trip. Then I woke up this morning and saw the sun up and the weather slightly warm. I thought It would be a waste not to make use of this perfect sunny Sunday. It’s days like this that makes you appreciate the haring arao. So I packed my bag and went straight out of the gate. For some strange, unexplained and eccentric gusto I had San Rafael, Bulacan in mind. I’ve been longing to visit a family in this quiet Bulacan town but whenever I do plan (for the past two years) the journey something unexpected comes up. This trip has long been over due. So this one Sunday was “do it or never” for me.

In this part of San Rafael, ricefields occupies much of the land. Across these vast farm land is Candaba.

I was in Cubao at around 7 in the morning. All alone without a clue what bus to board. I don’t even know the exact address where the family live. All I know is San Rafael, the town, Vizal, the small barrio and some vague knowledge I have of it – and this, oddly, was exciting prospect for me. Those headed north converge around the multitude of bus terminals in the vicinity of Cubao. There’s something about seeing people in provincial bus terminals. These people leave behind their loved ones to work in Manila – today, they’re going home – except me.

A beautiful church reminiscent of the old Baroque that can be found all over Luzon. This one is Daang Cruz.

I reached San Rafael after 2.5 hour or so of traveling. I pass over such historic towns: Plaridel (formerly Quingua) and Baliuag. These provincial towns seemed busy for a Sunday. It was enticing to go down in Baliuag, as I’ve yet to see its celebrated church but I have to find what I came to look for in San Rafael first, so this has to wait.

I went down in front of the church in Cruz na Daan, which I thought would have tricycles. I was surprised, there was nothing there. I had to walk back where to where some shops and some rural banks were and then started asking for directions. I was amazed at the shops that sells mostly farming tools and poultry feeds –   In a world that is fast becoming more and more dependent on technology, life in San Rafael has remained mostly agricultural – at least in these part of San Rafael. They also have these small stalls that sells roasted pugo, chicharon and some local kakanin. I had no address with me, only the name of the person I came to look for. The tambays, usually tricycle drivers and vendors, are always the best people to approach when you’re lost.The people I asked knew the family I was looking for like they were kin. Its true when they say, “everybody knows everybody” in the Filipino barrio.

A cross Dagat Dagatan

Finally, I get to meet them. I was glad to be rewarded with the opportunity to see them after traveling without even an address as reference. The San Rafaeleño clan is now a matriarchal family since the Lolo, a Bulakeño gentleman and a respected figure in the Barrio died a few decades ago. He left behind a well knitted family that has maintained strong relations with each other. The Lola on the other hand is a simple housewife but had long since managed their  modest farms after her husband died. She has dedicated the best years of her life for her children. And with this enormous task – she had been nothing short of being outstanding. She’s a magnificent cook – works her magic, naturally cooking  appetizing Tagala dishes,  inside her quite roomy cucina. I also know for a fact that she makes mouth-watering meriendas. Too bad I never got to taste them since my visit was unexpected. Her children and grandchildren, those that are already living abroad, visits her often throughout the year. The wonderful old lady is being taken care for by her two devoted children that lives with her.

The single lane bridge crossing.

The younger generation of this Tagalog family still follows the traditional values and beliefs of the old Tagalog way of life. The fiestas and all the important religious Catholic events are still observed. Even the art of Bulakeño cookery is handed down to the next generation. I could just imagine how their table would look like this Christmas! What is truly fascinating is their Tagalog – theirs is said to be the most profound of all the Tagalogs. Some had even suggested that Bulacan’s Tagalog is the equivalent of what Castilian Spanish is to the Spanish language. And I can feel that they are proud of this fact.

Everything is uncomplicated and clear inside their household. They all eat lunch at the same time and talk about family. Seemingly routine and mundane for us outsiders but it was refreshing for someone like me. They’ve been exposed to the hardship of life as farmers and perhaps this is why even the littlest of task, like feeding the animals, is important in the house. “Magsikap”, “Magtipid”, “Magsimba” ,”Gumalang”. We find such reminders old fashion, even whine when we start hearing them but these values were the foundation of our old society. We now take these lumang tradisyon for granted – It’s about time that we look back at what made our old society great.

The remaining family members of the clan continues to live a pastoral life near the border between San Rafael and Candaba. Barrio Vizal, where they live, is in Candaba – its fascinating that  when you cross the narrow boundary, you’ll find a populace speaking pure Campampangan. Barrio Vizal remain Tagalog. It is as if a line had been drawn to split the Capampangans and the Tagalogs here.

The San Rafaeleño family for generations has maintained farmlands  for rice planting. They are the quintessential Farmers of the northern Tagala region. Their rice fields are magnificently green this time of the year. They have half a dozen dogs and some farm animals. They feed these animals with old stocks of their rice – those that probably are not good to sell. Thy have a spacious camalig and a modest residence that has  been gradually improved throughout the years. What strikes me as significant is that whereas they’re visibly prosperous country folks yet they’ve maintained a bucolic lifestyle.

I’ve learned a lot that Sunday in San Rafael — small things that I can do to uncomplicate life.

29 August 2010


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