It was 1987 when we first moved to Taguig. There was where I lived the longest in the Philippines.
History. I remember the time when it was spelled as T-A-G-I-G (minus the U). In grade school, through a research homework, I learned that the inhabitants during the Spanish regime were called “taga-giik” (one who threshes harvested rice). And so the name evolved to how it is pronounced now – tuh-gig.
Geography. Taguig is a part of the National Capital Region. It is by Laguna Bay and has within it two rivers. Around it are the town of Pateros, the province of Rizal, and the cities of Pasig, Makati, Paranaque and Pasay.
Weather-wise, the whole region gets months of rain (and storms) and months of sun, sun, sun!
In 2003, after winning against Makati City over Fort Bonifacio, Taguig has since proudly claimed and collected taxes from everything that is seen or held within the Bonifacio Global City. In my belief, the victory fueled the push for city-hood which it was granted the following year. I think one of the earlier bigger recognitions of the city was Manny Pacquiao’s fight in 2004 titled “Yanig sa Taguig“.
Since my column is more about my personal recollection of my life in the Philippines, I want to share more about the barrio I grew up in. Taguig has 18 barangays, one of which is my home barangay – Wawa.
Wawa is basically and understandably where I feel most comfortable living in. I used to work nights at a call center in Quezon City and the minute I got off the trike at the end of our street to get on a jeepney, I always felt the need to ‘wake myself up’ and be alert. While when I used to come home late, the minute I stepped off the jeepney right at our street, I felt like I was already home. I used to walk that quarter mile however late it was. And I felt as secure as when I was out in daylight.
I guess you can say that Wawa is a typical urban community. It is not a private subdivision, although I have always said, it has the feel of one. The houses are not all big. If there is grass area, it’s at the bottom boundary of Wawa. So mowing the lawn is something I only learned when I got here in the US.
With people working all over Metro Manila and some in the province of Laguna, Wawa wakes up at around three o’clock in the morning.
When Jeff visited me there for the second time, we lived with my parents. He told me about this sound he heard exactly at three in the morning. It was a “wack-a-wack-a-wacka-a” sound”, he said. Finally on the third day, he got up and went out to find out what it was. It was a teen-age boy honking a traditional horn on a bicycle with a box tied at the back of the seat. That was the first round of the hot pan de sal for the early birds. (Since then Jeff and I refer to pan de sal as the wack-a wack-a bread.)
Water is also one of the reasons why people get up early. In the morning, there is always more pressure and of course it is faster to fill water containers. Jeff also did that when he was there.
There is a little vegetable area near us where they plant sweet potatoes and harvest the leaves (yes, we eat the sprouts and the leaves) and then delivered by tricycle every morning.
At four o’clock, the students are definitely up and start to take their cold showers. We have a saying in the Philippines that “only the first dip (make that dipper of water) is cold”, meaning after you get yourself wet, your body evens out the temperature and that the water would seem not that cold.
On Saturdays and Sundays, the early risers are those who go to the big wet market that is actually in Pasig City but only about a thirty minute jeepney ride with little or no traffic at that time of the day.
Breakfast is big in the Philippines and definitely in our barrio, it is served quite early. We have about three to four spots where you can have breakfast for at least seven pesos. They serve lugaw or rice porridge, to which you can add a hard-boiled egg (for five pesos– 2007 price) pancit or stir-fried noodles, sopas or (chicken) noodle soup, pancit palabok, pancit malabon (both a variety of the stir fried noodles), champorado which is basically rice in cocoa and cream and sinukmane (pronounced as see-nook-muh-nhe) which is a clump of sticky rice rolled in coconut shreds and sugar. But if you wake up at eight, there is hardly any left. Breakfast is definitely over by nine.
In Wawa, most everybody knows most everybody. Life, family, work, friends, boyfriends, break ups, cheating, mistresses and children out of wed-lock. Gossip is the favorite past time in the neighborhood. And it starts while and when the pan de sal is baked at dawn.
At about lunch, the moms are busy getting their second shift students to school and maybe fetching those from the first shift.
By late afternoon, kids are home from school and ready for dinner while watching the prime time soap operas. Those who got home from work come out to get some fresh air and some fresh gossip of the day.
The little retail stores close late. One that sells footlongs and burgers close at about one o’clock for those who eat a ‘fourth meal’.
There is a small chapel, a big and four-century old Catholic church, a wet and dry market, a few dental and lying-in clinics, two public and one private elementary and a public and a private high school, the City hall, a big pharmacy and now even a Joliibee (!) within a walking distance from Wawa. Within a trike ride, there is a good size water park. There is also a hotel in the town of Pateros that is just a short jeepney ride from Wawa. That was where Jeff and I and his parents stayed that morning of our wedding day.
There is absolutely no time of the day when you look outside that you see no people. There are kids running, people walking, talking or just hanging out. Always. You could imagine how puzzled I was when I first I got here in the Midwest. At nine o’clock, with beautiful weather and all, I look outside and…. silence. At first I thought, was there a big rally or something that everybody in the neighborhood attended that left the area looking like a ghost town in the middle of the day?
Even right at this moment and in between typing, I look out the window and see only my neighbor’s cars and boat and a few vehicles every so often. I have gotten quite used to it. But I always remember how it is where I came from. Almost always, the people -like the sun, are out and smiling.