Never Eat Alone

      Most of you who were born in the late 40’s or in the early 60’s may still remember riding on a kareta, along with your luggage, on your way to the pier to catch a “train connection”.

      A “train connection” is the only bus of the ALATCO that leaves Bulan to catch a train to Manila which in turn departs Legazpi City, somewhere between 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening. Anyone who misses that bus will have to wait for the next day for yet another trip of the Manila Railroad Company.

      In those days, a trip to Legazpi is like a trip to Manila via the “South Road” (the name taga-Bulans call the Maharlika Highway).

      The trip’s preparation starts in the morning finding the freshest buraw in the market. Your mom would either have it fried or grilled, wrap it inside a banana leaf, together with ripe tomatoes and another wrapper of rice. And voila! It’s good to last you two square meals – a meal during your bus ride to Legazpi and another for supper on the train.

      But, were you ever surprised seeing the other passengers from Bulan having the same balon as yours? I guess not, because no one has a monopoly of this safe, economical, sumptuous, and yes – “exciting” provisions on our various journeys to Manila with our parents.

      We never ceased to be thrilled by the slow unwrapping of the banana leaf with its breath-taking revelation of the fried buraw inside (as its head pops-up with an almost smiling eyes and lips), followed by the glistening red tomatoes moistened by a previous steam –  eagerly waiting to be munched.  

      And if this is not enough to wet your appetite, the subtle scent of freshly-cooked rice, blending with the aroma of blanched banana leaf, makes you forget you are dining inside a wobbly train.

      That’s how it was. Every trip is an excursion.

      With the advent of fast food, however, we swept away our traditional food preparations.

      We would rather buy a chickenjoy combo than grill a fish or cook rice for our balon. Or better still grab a sandwich or a slice of pizza, all in the name of convenience.

      Pardon my waxing sentimental, but sharing an inihaw na buraw or pritos na kanase while on a trip, draws us closer to one another than solitarily unwrapping a Big Mac, oblivious of what we really are – a race never wanting to be alone.

      From our first moment on earth, our father was there clutching our mom’s hand as she endures the pain of delivery. In baptism, I think we are the only race on earth that can’t do it without, at least, two pairs of ninongs and ninangs to lead us to better life. The same is true, too, when we wed our love ones. Or send them to their eternal rest.

      So that whatever we do, wherever we go, we never find ourselves alone. Kaya ngani maski sa irintrisan may leader pa gihapon!

      In traveling, our parents handed down to us a unique way of sociability expressed in the sharing of food. Reason why we are not surprised to be offered food by a fellow traveler and, never fail to do the same before eating our own.

      In food, as in governance, mas nasiram an kaunon kun may kasaro. Naka-empacho kun sinusolo!


 “Do you still remember riding on a kareta with your luggage?”

A view of the lowly “kareta” parked along McLane street from Bulan’s Victory Hotel in 1957. 


 “The train is Bicolanos’ favorite ride.”

My father-in-law, Col. Salvador T. Villa (Magsaysay’s general manager of the MRR.), followed by President Ramon Magsaysay, during the inaugural run of the rehabilitated Manila Rail Road Company.


“The trains of the Manila Railroad Company were the purveyors of the Bicol Express

Pres. Magsaysay and my father-in-law (man with glasses in the background) inspecting the “third-class” section of the trains.


The legendary President Ramon Magsaysay during a surprise visit of the Manila Rail Road Company’s operation circa 1950’s.

Our parents handed down to us a unique way of sociability expressed in the sharing of food.”   

Shown in this photo are, [Standing, from L-R]: Salud Panelo, (unidentified), Lilay Grones. [Foreground, L-R]: Enggay Delumen, Seling San Juan, Basyon Gonzales, Beyay Paredes, (unidentified), Etay Geronga, (unidentified) Naning Chavez and another unidentified lady of Iraya, Bulan, Sorsogon.