TUDELA is, for me, a moveable feast. The town, which was once part of the nearby municipality of Poro, was my favorite vacation place when I was, okay, young and restless. I felt happy and serene when in the town, a feeling conjured by a rustic surrounding vastly different from the chaotic city where I grew up.

Tudela shares with Poro the island of Poro in the Camotes group of islands. That link, for me, is symbolic considering that while Tudela was the birth place of my father Tiyong, Poro was where my mother Juling was born. The entire Poro can thus be considered my home island.

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It is apt that the first book I would write would be about Tudela and, to a certain extent, Poro town. In writing the book, I got to know better the place that my parents had to leave for economic reasons when they were starting a family. I can now share the sense of loss that the departure conjured in my parents’ hearts.

I wasn’t intending to write a history book, much less one about Tudela. What obsessed me before then was that “great novel” about a love that blossomed in the “golden years” of the revolutionary struggle in Cebu in the ‘80s. But while writing that novel remains an obsession for me, I have to accept the fact that it couldn’t produce my first book.

It was almost two years ago when I received a call from Linda Alburo of the Cebuano Studies Center of the University of San Carlos (USC). She asked me if I was willing to be a part of a history writing project that USC is undertaking for the Cebu Provincial Government.

I thought I could do the writing in my spare time and said yes, with the request that I be given a town in the Cebu mainland where travel won’t be tied to the weather condition, like say, Ronda. Days later I was told that it would be better if I wouldn’t stray from the familiar. So why wouldn’t you write the history of Tudela? I was like the turtle thrown into the water.

Little did I know—and so do I think the more than 60 history writers that USC assembled—that this wasn’t just another so-so project. We were not writing a coffee table book but a “definitive history” of the town or city assigned to us. And I was floored when the editors told us of the minimum length required for the book: around 60,000 words. For a one year endeavor, would I be up to the challenge?

I was sure early on that my knowledge about Tudela wasn’t enough to complete the book.

I did join an archaeological survey conducted by a University of the Philippines team in Poro in the ‘90s and had an idea of the islands’ pre-Spanish past. The other information was nebulous, culled from conversations I heard and actual visits to the town when I was younger. I needed to research more and is thankful I did it.

My own efforts and the tons of supporting materials made available by the Cebuano Studies Center opened my eyes to a Tudela/Camotes and a Philippines different from what is being pictured in school, if these ever were narrated. It made me realize, for example, that if we want to regain our pride as a people, we should not tarry long on the period of Spanish colonization and our Christianization but must move on even earlier.

In the old days, Tudela was Tag-anito, a communal community with beliefs and values that are pure because these have not been mutilated by years of subjugation by foreign powers. That one is given the chance to raise points like this is what make this particular project of the Provincial Government commendable.

(khanwens@yahoo.com/myblog: cebuano.wordpress.com)4.