“MOULI NA KA, YA?” asked my younger sister upon seeing my backpack ready.
“Unsay mouli? Molarga nako oy,” I retorted.
Mouli in my Cebuano mind means “go home” while molarga, “leave. ” I found it rather interesting—even disheartening—that my family viewed me as a city daughter and a mere visitor of my hometown.
But I cannot blame them. I left Tuburan to pursue my degree in the city and hopped from one job to another afterward and visited this unheard-of, yet biggest town in the province when time allowed it.
“Sige lang kag suwat sa ubang lugar, wa gyod ka kasuwat kabahin sa Tuburan,” my father—my nemesis— accused me.
But I’ve written about, of, for Tuburan more than my father will ever know. But such stories, poems, and essays could and would not make it to the travel section in any newspaper.
I found it rather difficult to answer curious wanderers asking “unsay naa sa Tuburan?”
I wonder if they will buy ambiguous—bordering on the melodramatic—answers such as “stories,” “childhood memories,” or “barbecue ni Noy Biran.”
As a kid, my countryside imagination gravitated towards dyHP dramas: romance at noon, comedy in the late afternoon, horror and then heavy drama in the evening, and action and magic realism at night. When radio dramas did not occupy us, we listened to the elderly stories about white ladies standing by a massive tree on a moonlit night, duwendes lurking in a mound by a sambag tree, agtas dwelling in the massive mahoganies behind our primary school, santilmos following our neighbor at Katugasan (a molave-canopied place), a coffin floating at Tangke, and Lily Ungo—the mystical and the feared. Stories like these fed my childhood and imagination.
During high school days, boys who did not have their homework or who were not prepared for the exam, left school as early as one in the afternoon. They traded four hours of class for a dip at Molobolo or any random estuary.
When I started studying in the city, I returned home during school breaks on a rickety, rackety four-hour bus ride. Boys gathered on the short bridges punctuating the road to the lungsod (towncenter) during the highest tides. They took turns showing off different stunts mid-air before making a huge splash in the dark green water.
Limbs—innocent, sun-kissed limbs—could always be seen along the dusty road.
Whereas estuaries are only for boys and men hunting sisi, springs are for everyone, Molobolo being the most remarkable. It is cocooned in talisay, acacia, and dakit with its aerial roots dangling, touching the wet cement.
But change—even as sluggish as a turtle—inevitably makes itself visible in this rather equally turtle-ish town in midwest Cebu.
And perhaps this is the answer of “unsay naa sa Tuburan?” Change.
For kids don’t believe in orphic creatures anymore. Lily Ungo—the terror of every Tuburanon kid in the late ‘90s—has been long dead. TV and Internet killed dyHP dramas. A decent elementary school has now replaced the shack-looking primary school that molded kids, including myself, for decades in our barangay.
The change I found dearest was the shores, which witnessed us buck-naked, innocent, dreamy aboard our father’s little boat. While the coast by the old port was once a despicable dumping area, and the saline air was as rancid as urine, the place is now a boulevard, where lights—and not human rubbish—play on the water’s surface with the cool breeze fanning my face.
Whereas thugs used to linger at the dark old port, it was now a place for blooming and puppy love, serious and newbie anglers, and passing faces on their motorbikes and bicycles with the sun leaving Tuburan once more.
But Tuburan surely knew what to keep. It held dearly to its almost childlike character: to treat fun not as an escape but as an answer to any existing strife.
This year’s summer was exceptionally hot due to the election. Sometimes opposing political parties trading rants and accusations found their way onto my Facebook wall.
I found them rather amusing since they clinched their tirades with a hope of harmony come June—the town fiesta—one of the rare moments where Tuburanons come back home and celebrate this countryside kind of fun.
Molobolo is the noisiest and coolest in June—the place to make amends, to momentarily forget the iniquities that tagged along with electoral polls, to not have sides, to be Tuburanons once and for all.
Molobolo is likely the place to chance across a high school crush who lost his boyish charm and has become preoccupied with his young kids or chance across a female classmate who is having her second or third baby.
Tuburan in June is as hopeful as its rain, gushing with merriment and innocent joy. It is a kid buck-naked taking June rain as a shower without the knob to control its intensity.
A visit to Tuburan in June means encountering faces of the yesteryears and realizing everyone has moved on, that everything has changed more than I want to admit.
Everytime, my officemates see me with a backpack at work, “Asa ka, yot? Mouli ka?” someone always asks.
I will say ‘yes’, with Tuburan in mind.