(Our Iloilo trip would not be as fantastic if not for friends, classmates and former mentors. This post is dedicated to them, no matter how long overdue.)
Joy and I agreed beforehand we will be maximizing our visit to Iloilo’ lumping several activities (Mt. Napulak climb, Dinagyang Festival, place visits) in 6 days. Hardly sensible, but yeah, we’re on adrenaline high of excitement. So, shoot!
Having been away from Iloilo for almost 15 years, I’m pretty sure this city’s urbanization altered some if not most of the familiar landmarks I know. On our own, it would be hard for us to find our way through the city without banging into some dead end or worst, get lost in the festivities.
Even before Joy and me set our foot on Iloilo City, a friend and a former classmate, made our travel easier, convenient and so much fun!
Sheila Alcazar-Java, a HS teacher in CPU, an ardent mountaineer and very good friend to us, made sure we were chauffeured the moment we set foot on Santa Barbara International Airport. That was one pleasant surprise for us. Mam Sheila, was basically our eyes and ears in Iloilo that time. Also, Mam Sheila made our Mt. Napulak climb smooth and well coordinated with the climb organizer Jay Platinos. Sheila and her hubby Ivan were kind enough to accompany us during our la-ags and eating binge. I think mam Sheila missed some of her classes because she was with us most of the time! No kidding!
And then there is Joselito “Joelits” Trandio Mendoza, a former classmate and close friend during my UP Visayas days. Joelits is also a biology teacher and was responsible for billeting us near a catholic church. (We didn’t hear any mass Joelits as we were off the house most of the time, sorry!) Joelit’s innocent wit and humor is almost always disarming. You’ll collect gas inside your stomach laughing at his jokes. He’s one of our inspirations during our UPV days, as he is a living monument for simple living and irrepressible happy disposition in life. Imagine, he brought us buko juice all the way from Maasin and shared it with us during one lunch he prepared! He also gave Joy a handmade bag from Maasin! How cool is that? You rock Joelits!
Joy and I made it a point to have time with our friends, even if our schedule is filled to the brim . I couldn’t imagine how we will repay the kindness of these people. We were simply moved by their accommodating gestures towards us.
On the last day of our stay in Iloilo, Joy and I headed to Miag-ao and re visited my alma mater UP in the Visayas. We were the first batch of Biology students who graduated from UPV Miag-ao campus. Formerly, the division was housed in UPV’s Iloilo City campus but transferred to Miag-ao during our junior year. Anyway, the same buildings were standing at UPV Miag-ao campus. The CAS building ( now known as Fonacier Hall), the cafeteria (who looked old now when during our days there, it was all brand new and proud). The library, the ATM corner its all there. And then are more buildings and renovations that were not there before, like the Alumni Hall and the student tambayans. Joy, the ever understanding and observant that she is, “reverted” into her supportive “enjoy-your-nostalgia-honey!’ mode. She is excited knowing she’ll see a part of me in those places
I met my former mentors mam Diana Corda (Plant Biology), Jane Katalbas (Genetics/Molecular Biology), Mam Tayo (Zoology) and actually coaxed (sorry po) them to pose for a souvenir picture with me! “You are all nostalgic Rem. I can see the glitter in your eyes!” Joy told me. Indeed I am. Chatting with my mentors, walking the halls (where I used to burn days dehydrating my brain cells, and rehydrating them with enjoying college life), I can’t help but be very nostalgic and happy. I must admit my stay in UP Visayas was one of the more memorable and significant years in my life- meeting some of my closest friends, learning from the best in the field and of course, the never ending enjoyment of my extra curricular collegiate life! Uh, did I mention, that the cabinet full of biological shells we hauled from the city campus to Miag-ao is still there? Nice. Really nice huh!
Joy and I also went to my second home in Miagao, the Nicolasura‘s house. Unluckily, no one was in the house so we didn’t get any chance to see who’s living there. Joy took photos, and frankly It haven’t changed a bit ever since I graduated from that place. How I wish I can talk to who over is still living in that house. My former foster parents passed away years ago, I heard. It’s just unfortunate I couldn’t even visit their resting place.
Obviously, we will not go home without visiting the famous Miag-ao church. This centuries old church is one of the oldest in the Philippines, perhaps more picturesque, and one of the better preserved catholic church. A site wide restoration is going on when we went there. The church was however close, as the priests where in Manila, said one bystander nearby. So we just took infinite pictures of the church – its balconies and facade. I noticed the colorful, bishop’s balcony, which I think had significant face lift from the restoration.
I told joy Miag-ao is a very conservative town, noting that when the bell rings at 6pm, all people, whatever their doing, stop and pray. Literally. So imagine how a liberal state university like UP survive such extremely conservative community. Or was it the reverse? UP students, for their freedom and liberal, uncatholic ways, was a common figure in this church’s sermons.Whether that was good or bad, it didn’t bother me. I rarely go to church anyway that time, knowing all people will stare at me during sermons.
We also visited the old UP Iloilo City campus on our way home. Previously, the city hall of Iloilo, this American Period, pre world war II building has a unique style and architecture. It’s Greek (was it?) statues symbolizes UP’s zeal for learning. It was once believed that this building have dungeons underneath used by Japanese and Americans alike during world war II. No one dared confirm that rumor ever since anyway.
Joy and I spent our last dinner in Iloilo with mam Sheila, Joelits and Paul, my nephew studying there. We all had fun sharing stories and updating with each others whereabouts. I’m pretty sure they too enjoyed our company. And frankly, they are some of the best people I went with in my lifetime! Thank you both!!