Babag has not changed much in the nine years I’ve been away. The sharp tartness of nipa vinegar still welcomes me the moment I enter the barangay. The coconut trees cast long shadows on the streets. There are newly paved parts of the road now, but swamp still sprawls everywhere. The chorus of crickets and frogs, the line of firewood occasionally left on the sidewalks to dry, the half-naked children playing on the streets—it’s all the same.
Manang Gloria greets me the moment I alight from the trisikad. She has streaks of gray in her hair now, still pulled into a tight bun that seems to almost rip her scalp. She helps me with my stuff and guides me to her house where Tatay’s wake is being held, which is only across the street from our old house. Tonight is the last vigil.
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