By: Kaitlyn Cheung
“Mayangnaga, Breakfast?” My host mother greets me as I stumble out of our room groggy and probably still half asleep.
It’s my fourth day in Guimaras, and the slow but steady way of life has already found a home in me.
My roommate Velina and I are staying with the lovely Gacita family in Cabanos, San Lorenzo. Nanai, as well call our host mother, is the real mother to five daughters, all wonderfully accommodating and radiating with their own unique personalities. The father of the household works throughout the day but always comes home in time for dinner. One can find the cozy orange and white house calmly nestled among the windmills and plains of San Lorenzo, or bustling with feminine laughter and chatter throughout periods of the day.
I often find myself lounging on the front porch trying to catching a breeze, watching the windmills spin slowly in the distance, and observing the vehicles pass by as they kick up dust on the wide path that runs through Cabanos. Meanwhile, Velina immerses herself in a Bulgarian novel (I’m still dying to find out if the couple ends up together, Velina!) The dirt path takes us down the road to Horace and Mike, staying at relatives of the Gacitas. Painted a vibrant cerulean blue that you can’t miss, the walls enclose a home to another lovely couple and their sons who were so kind as to take us for a day trip around Buena Vista:
Thoughts often come to me while the wind tussles my already messy hair on the jeepneys, motorbikes, and tricycles. To be honest, coming into Guimaras I was apprehensive and unprepared, not knowing what to expect and not knowing how I should act. I was always accustomed to playing out the formalities that I was taught as an American (and even as a Chinese)—making small talk, saying certain things at certain times and acting a certain way around people that aren’t close friends or family, but I realized that its more important here to just be genuine and be you. I want to get to know my host family and the people around us for who they are, raw and all. I’m beginning to warm up a lot to Guimaras and hopefully it to me. It’s been a pleasure so far and I look forward to hopefully being able to make an impact upon the local community just as they have made upon me.
Back home at dinner, Nanai and her daughters tease the baby of the family, “Little pig, look at your tummy, you’re a balloon!”
Seven years old, adorably plump and yet to realize what conventional beauty standards are (and arguably its absurdity), bebe laughs and continues to eat her full, then pauses to reply in Ilongo curtly. They laugh.
“What did she say?” I ask curiously.
“She said she’s not a balloon.”