we are back at casa lillibelle in cabangan, zambales. as i said in my previous blog — quoting the terminator — “i’ll be back!” and we are back, back so soon. we were here just april.
today is christmas eve.
my family decides to spend the holiday out in this lovely beachfront resort. we rent a room and occupy a hut on the beach.
one small group (4 persons and 2 dogs) is already there, and they occupy the first hut. we obviously settle for the second (middle) hut. the last hut is empty. these huts are a few steps from the sea.
our solo neighbours are not run-of-the-mill beach goers. they are not loud, but subdued, quiet; like the sea when at noontide, just a few alternate waves splashing on the shore making you aware it is there. our neighbours are there, in the first hut, yes.
dinner time, while i was out and most of my family were starting to eat, the main man, my neighbour, comes over to our hut. he offers my family a couple slices of his inihaw na liempo, which they readily accept.
“eto po, o,” my neighbour said, as he hands them the inihaw on a paper plate. he goes back to his hut without further ado.
i couldn’t offer our neighbour anything in return. the 5-kg slab of cebu-style lechon belly i brought was reserved for noche buena. i couldn’t touch it until midnight.
after dinner, i go outside to buy ice at a nearby sari-sari store. on my way back to our hut, i pass by my neighbour’s hut to thank him personally for his kindness. i offer my neighbour ice for their drinks but he declines and said they had plenty.
wait… that face and that familiar voice!
deep into the night, i wrestle and torture my mind to put a name to my neighbour, the main man. he was that young newscaster moulded in an old cast — the likes of tina palma, angelo castro, harry gasser, bong lapira; and not that of ‘kabayan’ noli de castro, ‘kapuso’ mike enriquez, or ‘igan’ arnold clavio. his was straight news, no squanks. but the name escapes me.
we partake our noche buena before midnight.
our neighbours had already packed up, went up their room, and had called it a night. early. but one of them comes back to the hut and walks the dog on the shore.
i go over and offer him a chunk of our cebu-style lechon belly, which he accepts. he said he’d take it to their room for the others to share.
we have another neighbour — the propreitor/owner of casa lillibelle — MJ. MJ comes over to our hut as we eat noche buena. we offer him whisky and he gladly accepts.
dude speak… then he mentions our neighbour, the main man, and tells us he was also a regular at casa lillibelle. MJ asks if i knew him. i tell MJ i’ve been torturing my head all night trying to recall the newscaster’s name.
MJ tells us his name: jing magsaysay.
december 25. i bump into my neighbour this morning at casa lillibelle’s parking area.
“merry christmas!” i said.
“merry christmas!” he said.