Old Times, Old Friends (Are we Palaweñas yet?)


I had to smile when Nicole Revel, the French anthropologist and linguist, entered the VJR Hall in the Capital Building. She is a lovely, gracious French woman – and I have known her, and she has known Palawan, for more than 50 years. She has spent a life time with the Pala’wan in the Quezon area, learning their language, culture, and song forms, and she was in Puerto Princesa to launch the book that is the product of her life’s work. Nicole and her husband Charles rented our house in U.P. for a few months while we were teaching in Indonesia, and they were birthing their baby daughter. I came home from Indonesia several weeks ahead of my husband and continued to share the house with Nicole. Now we are both winding down good, productive lives, and Palawan is still front and center.

In the sixties when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, I did some teaching in the San Jose Pilot School with a lovely young teacher named Imelda Fernandez. I knew she was from Palawan, and under her influence I did my summer project for two summers in a row in Culion in the Leprosarium. When we moved to Palawan in 2000, I found that Imelda was related to, and remembered by, about half the population of Puerto Princesa! I still see her every year or so when she comes through the city on the way to doing a medical mission in Cuyo. This past year we met at Robinson’s and marveled at the changes we have seen in Puerto.

When I first opened the Batang Puerto Princesa FaceBook Page, my friend Jimmy was being featured. I’ve known Jimmy since we first came here – the NC folks, along with Big Boy and Efren.

It is very satisfying to age in such a place as Puerto Princesa, where old friends and old times keep coming back! I shared my birthday, just passed now, with my friend Bart Duff, and this year his wife Baby invited me to lunch on that day. I got to La Terrasse ahead of her, and when she walked in, with her son who looks so much like his father, it was like a sudden shift backwards in time. We sang and toasted to Bart in heaven as well as to me.

My husband and I have seen presidents of PSU come and go, countless business establishments start and grow and sometimes fail, tourist attractions develop, politicians step up and step back, people – our friends, ourselves – get older.

And now we are followed by the next generation: our youngest daughter and her husband and two children live here, and are running the incredibly successful non-profit Roots of Health devoted to women’s empowerment through reproductive health education and clinical services. They have a wide circle of friends, some of whom are the children of our friends. My granddaughter loves Gina Tan’s granddaughter! Gina was the first person I knew in Puerto Princesa: she had taught with me in the Ateneo.

I don’t think I will ever learn to speak Cuyunon, but I do feel like I am becoming a Palaweña! This is definitely my kind of place!

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