I’ve never been to my mother’s hometown.
When my mother asked that I accompany her there, it took a series of unexpected events for me to agree, all of which made me grateful. For one thing, it has been years since I traveled to the province via bus. And a night bus at that!
Granted that a night bus ride limits the view because of darkness, I see it as the dimming of the lights in a theater just before the curtain rises to start the show. And what is the name of that show?
Daet, Camarines Norte.
Sunshine uninterrupted by buildings higher than three stories. Air so clean and crisp you could almost taste it. And a language both familiar and strange to me.
My mother’s hometown is the northern gateway to Bikolandia or Region V (or as I would call it, Storm Land). Daet originally was a small, unknown settlement which was discovered by Juan de Salcedo in 1571 because of the gold hunt. As the capital of Camarines Norte, it is a first class municipality and continues to be developed. It has gained worldwide fame for its challenging surfing spots and other places for water sports.
From my view at the hotel, I saw people line the streets. I immediately thought that it might be a parade. Even at just a little past 8 AM! It could be the provincial way. What does a city boy know of it? Turns out, not only was I ignorant but also wrong.
Of all the things that would greet me first thing in the morning was a bike tournament.
After our breakfast, my mother and I walked along Justo Lukban St. then on to a bridge that spanned the Daet River, an 11.25 km (6.99 mi) stretch of freshwater that meets the waters of Basud River and Labo River then empties out to the Philippine Sea.
Our destination was Rizal Park, an open green space that is about 56.66 m (185.88 ft) long and 36.01 m (118.13 ft) wide. The small field has playground fixtures and a number of trees.
But what drew us there was what is locally known as the Morga Monument, a three-tiered, 15 ft stone, whitewashed pylon with a lone 8-rayed sun and three 5-pointed stars, all painted yellow gold. In actuality, it is a Rizal monument and it is the first one created for the national hero, Jose Rizal. The oldest surviving memorial was conceived by Lt. Colonel Antonio Sanz with the efforts of Ildefonso Alegre, both of the Revolutionary Army. Two of the sides of monument show the titles of Rizal’s novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.
The “Morga” in the monument is tribute to the author Antonio de Morga, the man behind Sucesos de las islas Filipinas (1609), a book that covered the early years of the Spanish Era.
A couple of miles from the Rizal Park is a replica of the Morga Monument. Where that is exactly is for another post.