Like most mornings this summer vacation, my daughters and I woke up late. However, this day was sort of different. I woke up to the smell of fish being fried as well as voices–so many unfamiliar voices. Both were coming from our neighbor, whose house is separated from ours by a mere wall of hollow blocks. For such a small family like ours and a house nearly the same size as ours, their home is always filled with people, especially on weekends. At night, even on weekdays, you would always hear them singing on their videoke like they are doing now with their guests. Somehow, this scenario–except for the videoke part–reminded me so much of my early childhood days, especially when my family was still living in Manila.
My parents are probably the most generous and helpful people I’ve ever known. Many of our relatives from the province who would like to have a taste of Manila or find their destinies in the city would always first stay with us until they could finally make it on their own. Hence, I’m used to having our home filled with people–adults. Almost every morning, I would wake up to the sound of unfamiliar voices, whose faces I would usually see only briefly during the day. Some of them, I got to see for a week or two, especially women, but mostly in the evening.
I miss our home in Manila. I can still remember our address as well as nearly everything that’s in the house even if I only spent the first four to five years of my life there until my parents bought our house in Las Pinas where we all eventually lived. While my parents and I started to live in our new house as soon as I began my formal schooling, my brothers and sister continued to stay in our old Manila house–a rented place–until they all finished college. I only got to see our first home on weekends or when my mother needed to give my siblings their allowance.
Sometimes, I wish that the house my children and I are renting now is big enough for us to have guests almost every weekend. And that our refrigerator and cupboards are always full, so we would always have something to serve our guests. Sometimes I wish that our house is huge, lovely, breezy, and comfortable. But whenever I would look back to our old Manila house, well, I can’t say that it can be described using all those adjectives. Breezy, yes, because we were on the second floor. It was a huge two-storey Spanish-type wooden house with wide windows, but the landlady decided to have both the ground and second floor rented out separately, each with its own entrances, of course. Our house only had two rooms, but they’re both big. In fact, one bedroom was big enough for all of us. I remember having one of the bedrooms rented out by my mother to help with the family income. All of us had to stay then in only one bedroom where we all comfortably fit in, with two bunk beds and a queen-sized bed, plus closets and probably three electric fans.
With regard to food, I couldn’t care whether we had so much food on the table then, and if they were very delicious or not. All I knew was that everyone around me was happy and at ease, and everyone seemed to be doting after me since I was the only young person in the company. So why should it bother me now if we don’t have a huge beautiful house and our refrigerator and cupboards aren’t always full? It’s really the welcoming attitude of the people who live in the house that counts. And that’s what my parents had been trying to teach me. Everyone were always welcome to our home regardless of their reasons for coming.