As a number of my novels have been set in the Philippines, I thought I’d take the opportunity today to introduce you to the location of one of my stories; Just A Drop in the Ocean. It is the tiny village of Rizal in Occidental Mindoro.
As Rizal is the birthplace of my beautiful wife and as many of her family are still living and farming there, I have had the opportunity to visit and stay on numerous occasions. I’ve often called Mindoro and in particular, the western (Occidental) side, the “forgotten island”. It seems like time has stood still there and much of the twenty-first century has passed it by. The roads, even the main road down the western coast of the island were appalling, the first time we traversed it, with enormous potholes and roadworks everywhere. I’m pleased to say it has improved over the last few years, but still, the juxtaposition between the hustle and bustle of a modern, westernised city like Manila and the rural backwater that is Rizal, is something that always strikes me.
Geographically, Rizal covers quite a large area, from the coastline of the West Philippine Sea, right through to the base of the spine of mountains that splits Mindoro in two. Rizal, although technically listed as a third-class municipality, is, rather than one single town, a collection of small villages separated by valleys as you head from the coast to the mountains. The village where my wife grew up is actually called Rizal, but to distinguish it from the other parts of greater Rizal, it is often referred to as Limlim.
When I walk down the main street of Limlim and glance around me, if I ignore the odd tricycle and car that is plying the road, I can easily picture my wife heading off down the road, in 1965, with her books over her shoulder, to the local elementary school, just a few hundred yards from their house. Nothing, it seems, has changed much in fifty odd years. It really is like a time warp has kept this serene valley the way it has always been. Oh yes, I know there are a few cars around and many residents now have satellite television, but still, there is an ambiance and atmosphere about the picturesque place, that I’ve rarely seen elsewhere.
The locals are hard-workers, with many still surviving by semi-subsistence farming and there is little time for the pleasures of life for these people. My father-in-law at 78, still visits and works on his farm regularly and every morning he fulfills his daily routine of sweeping up the fallen leaves from the large property, before burning the rubbish. There is a real rhythm to life there, that is still dictated by the rise and fall of the sun and the seasons.
There is not a lot of spare money for luxuries or celebrations, so when there is one, the people tend to go all out to enjoy it. Weddings, Significant Birthdays, the Annual Town Fiesta and yes, even funerals are reasons to relax, let loose and imbibe freely. If you’re lucky, there will even be a goat or a pig donated to roast over the open fire. Although I’m not a great fan of watching the poor animal being slaughtered and prepared for the fire, I am one of the first in the line when the food is ready to eat. There is nothing quite as delightful as Lechon Baboy (roasted pig) cooked over an open fire, with the succulent fat, the crispy skin, and the, oh so luscious meat. It’s definitely not good for the waistline, but oh, so good for the soul.
I live in the middle of Metro Manila, a thriving, bustling city of some fifteen million people. The traffic is horrendous, the heat is stifling and the throngs of people, at times, overwhelming.
Rizal, Occidental Mindoro
To have a place to head, like Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, to unwind, to relax and to just be, is one of the true benefits of living here. Yes, I love the beaches here and there are none of those in Limlim, but what there is, is peace, tranquillity and a pace of life that we’ve all but, sadly forgotten.
Oh yes, there are also one million mosquitoes per square inch there (just kidding), but for me, our regular trips “home” to see Papang and the rest of the family, help keep me grounded and sane. For me, it’s like a week at a health spa and I return to Manila, invigorated and ready to face the battle once again. We all need that place of respite, where we can let it all hang out and just be. For me, it is Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, the Philippines.
About the author, Grant Leishman
I am an expatriate New Zealander, now living in the Philippines with my beautiful wife and two lovely daughters. At age 55, after careers in Journalism and finance, I finally discovered my true passion in life – writing. I am now a full-time author who has written or co-written seven novels, across differing genres.
My latest project is a Historical Romance set to the backdrop of the Philippine revolution of 1896, against the Spanish.
I believe in the power of the written word and the mantra that I live by and finish each of my blog posts on my website with is:
CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY!
EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES LIFE PRESENTS TO YOU AND ALWAYS, ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS!
HAVE A GREAT LIFE AND SPREAD THE LOVE!
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