Arya Abra!

After more than a year, I have returned to Abra, the hometown where my mother was brought up, to become the candle bearer for my female cousin’s wedding. Coincidentally, my last visit also had to do something with me participating in a wedding – I was best man for my male cousin, who was the younger brother of my aforementioned female cousin.
Unlike before, our visits to Abra have been frequent – at least twice every year, one during the Holy Week and the other during the Christmas holidays. However, due to the recent shakeups in our family, with my eldest sister giving birth in the middle of last year and our middle sister who is set to get married at the end of the month, I could expect the infrequency to become the new norm. Which is a damn shame, since Abra is the only place where I simply transform from my life working and wasting time in front of the computer to a more simpler yet equally enjoyable life, offering a nice break from the hump and grind of daily life in the metro.
Just a side note, I was able to catch up on some readings for my MA Lit classes. I almost forgot what it felt like reading and finishing a book in less than a week, not to mention the chills that I get before droning out by staring at the ceiling for an inordinate period of time, but these feelings were rekindled after getting hooked on Notes of a Scandal by Zoe Heller. Despite how intoxicating and beautifully haunting it is, I hate the fact that I read it alone past midnight. For a hour or two, I cannot get rid of the “Victorian wraith” image out of my head and saying the phrase, “What’s going to become of me now?” while uncontrollably sobbing on the corner of the room. Goose-fucking-bumps.
Now that the breaks won’t be happening anytime soon, I could at least take a look back on how Abra is like, at least from the eyes of an outsider looking in.
Scratch that. I was never an outsider. My relatives living in Abra have always been welcoming of our visits and always went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable, which can get embarrassing something. I never have wanted my 60-year old aunt to make a fuzz about sleeping arrangements by letting me stay by her room while she sleeps somewhere else. But before I could even object, her room was already prepared for me to sleep in. Realizing that it would be ruder to insist on my terms, I simply relented to my predetermined destiny.
As a rural town, Abra has its own quirks that can baffle even the most open-minded tourist. My recent visit here prompted a situation at a house just in front of us. People were screaming and getting hysterical over something, which led to an middle-aged woman to faint on the floor. She was rushed to a nearby hospital by a standby tricycle who was signaling other people who crowded the scene to move the fuck out of the way. Upon further investigation by my uncle, it was revealed that the husband of the woman who fainted and their son was involved in a bar fight after having consumed copious amounts of alcohol, which left the son wounded purportedly by a gunshot. At least that’s what they say. However, and what makes this whole episode peculiar at the very least, the same family held a children’s party the next day at the very spot where the mother fainted, as if there were no traces of anxiety and stress that was spent from the previous day. Talk about emotional recovery!
Another thing that I found humorous and is pretty much universal in most part of the world is the concept of eat-and-run. Visitors of wedding, after the matrimony rites, were led immediately to the reception area. Food was already served on the tables so they simply had to sit and partake of the meal. Usually, whereas guests of most wedding receptions stay and enjoy the festivities, most of the people simply left and ran off after eating, leaving a table full of leftovers and half-empty plates, similar to how a town gets devastated by a hurricane. It may come off as rude to some, but it is simply how almost all normal weddings operate in Abra.
However, my stay at Abra won’t be complete without having spent a night swimming in booze and hard liquor with my cousins and their friends, all while accompanied by “entertaining” karaoke sung by the seniors of the group. It is funny to see how most of the old people in the Abra and provinces in general are reserved during the afternoons but belt out high notes that will make Ill Divo proud after a shot or two.
Regardless, my musings about Abra is far from a farewell. It is more of an acknowledgement of how a simple rural life still maintains its innocence andis removed from the fast-paced underpinnings and social customs of the ordinary, restless life. And I wish to return here from time to time, whether there’s a wedding or not.

Christopher Jan Benitez

Freelance writer and content marketer by profession. CEO of GoSmrk, a boutique digital agency that focuses on helping online businesses by using the latest and best growth hacking techniques. Magical Tumbong is a place where he vents out about non-work related matters.

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