This is my 3rd year returning to Donna’s village for their Fiesta, honoring the patron Saint, San Ignacio. I look forward to this every year. We take a 3 day motorcycle ride getting here, which forces us to go thru Manila, the traffic Hell on earth. This year we out smarted the traffic, did the first leg getting right to the outskirts of the massive city, then transitioned at 4 am on a Sunday, albeit in the rain. It worked, zip and thru we went.
The rest of the trip to the southern reaches of Luzon Island is fairly pleasant. Riding here is a trip, busses, trucks and big cars ignore you if they are in the oncoming lane. They must know how much I love life as they pop right out in front of you assuming you will head for the side and miss them, yikes!
The last stop is my favorite, a wonderful hot spring carved out of a mountain side. We arrived in the afternoon and could enjoy the morning as the last leg is short and so we did.
We arrived, to great cheers from Piam and the family. After the initial greeting, we headed to our hotel. We found a picturesque place to stay right on the Pacific Ocean, actually a surf destination in the season but we are in the off season so pretty empty. Our suite faces the ocean, has air con and a large separate bedroom, for $26 a night. The manager has become a friend.
in front of Rizal Beach Resort
Ol Arlo Guthrie, in Alices Restaurant opens with “Let me tell you about Stockbridge Massachusetts…. His small town,, well let me tell you about Gubat, Sorsogon. There are no cops (usually) no ATM, I looked in the 3 stores for mustard, French’s would have done fine, nope that is in the city, haha. I am the only “foreigner” here, so I stick out. First day all the family knew I was in 3 stores and what I bought before I got back to the house! Small town. And the village of San Ignacio is tiny, about 4 blocks, there are 42 such villages tied to Gubat.
This is the real Philippines, not the westernized Subic Bay but the real thing, English is barely spoken, families are paramount as is community. The people redefine friendly with a shy twist.
each graduating class has a “batch”
The Fiesta goes on for several nights, the events are in the public court next to the family house. Night one is Ballroom dancing, where pro male instructors take their prize student to twirl about, like Dancing with the Stars Filipino style. It is quit an unexpected show in this setting. The following nights are for: alumni, where all the classes of the local school have tables, then seniors then teenagers, all dance all night long.
The actual Fiesta Day is Monday and a neighborhood party, starting at pre-dawn with the “killing of the pig”. The main families, Donna’s included, raise a pig just for this day, it is a great day, ok for everyone but the pig.
We strolled from house to house where copious amounts of food were put before us. Every house is jammed with visiting relatives, most related to Donna. As we strolled she would point out “this is the house of my cousin, this is the house of my uncle” up and down the street. I have never seen such open, warm and friendly people. People living in small packed primitive houses sharing all they have. I hugged ancient rugged skinned grannies, kissed babies, danced with teenagers, and sang Karaoke.
Karaoke goes on and on in about every 5th house this gleeful day. I just read a piece by an Irish chap who lives here, he nailed it, the Filipinos sing! Whether they can sing or not they sing, there is no holding back, no self-consciousness the just love to sing.
stone deaf and no English Grandma seemed to know what I was thinking, and brought out her 1953 wedding picture #2
So normally this ends the Fiesta and all relax, eat left overs and get back to normal life, not this year. After about a year of contemplating, debating, praying, and soul searching, I came to the conclusion that fear was holding me back, not my normal stance. My history with marriage is a dismal train wreck, as it is with most my family. Swore it off! But I find myself in love with a wonderful girl who loves me and my lifestyle. PLUS she comes with a kid I adore. As with all Filipino girls, even more so than other cultures, the wedding is the pinnacle of their lives, they are raised to dream about it as are their families. So, for the first time in my life my decision to marry was not a selfish one, it is for those I love.
Add my “go big or go home” dogma to the huge family forces here and I had to do this right. The sisters and the two ladyboy friends and I started planning this caper weeks before I arrived. By the time I arrived the whole village was in on it, we had secret meetings, always telling the somewhat fearful (she knew something was up) and curious Donna to “go away” when we met, drove her nuts.
The resort has an excellent venue, and they went the extra mile to make it spectacular. Thirty relatives and friends showed up. When we sent Piam to get his mom, who had been banished to our room, she walked into a huge surprise!
I love the traditions here and respect them so my first move was to ask Donna’s Papa for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He beamed like a light house and said yes. then I got on one knee and proposed to my love in front of everyone, gads she better say yes!
Well Yes was the answer, the room exploded in confetti and loud poppers, the banner was rolled out “SHE SAID YES” and the cake presented, with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and inscribed SHE SAID YES. The cake also had a Spiderman for Piam, I am marrying a package deal you know.
We all had a feast, drank, sang and danced for hours, it was a wonderful time! I am very blessed!
Make Your Dream Your Story
Capt. Brian Calvert