TUDELA, the hometown of my late father Tiyong, celebrated recently its fiesta in honor of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I have been to Tudela a number of times and even wrote a history book on it but I have never attended its fiesta because of the date. I have instead been to fiestas in some of the town’s villages during my past summer vacations. Specifically when I was still a bachelor.
During my student days, I would often spend my summers in the Camotes group of islands, particularly in the island of Poro, which is shared by the towns of Poro and Tudela.
My mother’s hometown is Poro but we no longer have close relatives there. Her brothers and sisters have left the town for either the United States or some other parts of the Philippines. Her cousins and relatives who are still living in Poro are not that close to us except for one family, that of my uncle Benjamin, whom we fondly called Longlong. But Longlong struck me as strict and he passed away years ago (his wife and some of the children are in the US). So I stayed more in Tudela than in Poro.
It was in Tudela where I stayed after I was released from the old Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center where I was jailed for a rebellion charge. But I was forced to leave the town when a cousin, who was a policeman (and who passed away a few years ago), started looking for me there.
I did my own long walk from the mountains of Tudela to Poro before going back to Cebu and then leaving for Bohol where I was arrested a second time. But that’s another story altogether.
I used to go to Camotes during summer vacations on my own because my brothers and sisters were not fond of going there. The place was economically backward and no investor built resorts there unlike these days.
Soon, my summers became lonelier because many of my childhood friends there looked for greener pastures, sort of, in the Cebu mainland or other places in the country like Manila. The others got married. I no longer had barkadas in doing the rounds of the villages that held their fiestas during summer time.
Fiestas in these villages were special events, just like the kalag-kalag in the mountain barangays of Cebu City. Your friend or the friends of your friend in the village prepare food (“maghikay”) and drinks. That taught me a lesson or two on fiestas.
One, don’t eat too much when invited to one house because chances are you will be invited to dine in another house.
Two, when called to the table to eat, don’t hesitate or feel ashamed to do so because that is the reason why you are there, which is to eat.
Three, drink sparingly because the worst thing is when you end up drunk and vomit or end up too weak to enjoy or to go home.
Tudela’s old name is “Tag-anito,” which refers to the pagan ritual of “Pag-anito.” The priests who took over the town wisely replaced it with the Catholic celebration called fiesta.
For the “Pag-anito,” Tudela has replaced it with the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.