I love my hometown. Small-bodied she may be,
but the Mangkasanons (A native of La Carlota
named after folk hero Mangkas or Mantas)
live in her crown a million varied lives
from OFWs to public servants to tillers of the land
to sugarcane mill laborers to fruit-and-vegetable peddlers and more.
From valleys to mountains, their last names may vary
but their faces are almost always familiar
regardless which part they come from:
“Mangkasanon indi bugalon”
(A Mangkasanon is not a snob).
I love that her small body is landlocked
(probably the reason why she has the Bureau of Plant Industry in her bosom)
so unlike all other cities of Negros Occidental that stretch beside the seas.
I love that her arteries are sugarcane fields
plus the fields that produce the staples
from rice to cassava to corn and sweet potatoes.
For her seafoods – fish, oyster and seaweed –
she has the nearby towns of Hinigaran and Valladolid.
For her vegetables – cucumber, carrot, and cabbage –
she has the not-so-far oriental city of Canlaon
(Where ranges of Mount Kanlaon begin)
For her fresh meats – mutton, beef and carabeef –
she has the neighboring municipality of Moises Padilla.
All these bounties within her arm's reach
on top of her own tilapia and milkfish in the ponds,
malunggay, kulitis and lupo in her yards and fields,
and various farm animals in her backyards.
I love that she is a warm home rather than a busy city.
Her water is light and sweet, it being sourced from her belly in Masulog Spring
which also fills the cool pools of Hill Top Resort in Brgy. Haguimit.
One need not own or live in a hacienda to taste her fresh fruits:
indian mango, guava, star apple, atis, banana and many more;
they can be bought on Saturdays, the town's market day
or from the neighbor's freshly picked display.
In her navel, she kept a few banks and a number of bakeshops,
which sell, among many varieties, pandesal,
kuwakoy, biak na bato, ensaymada and piaya.
And after she provides food for the body,
she also supplies the food for the soul.
In her vast lap, she has the Roman Catholics,
Aglipayan, Iglesia Ni Cristo and many more faiths than one's fingers.
Her warmth is so welcoming that in her folds,
Chinese-descent (and surely more race) like me assimilated so well
that I and my ancestors did not experience alienation.
Her children lived and continues to live in the fold of the sugar central
and now place their stakes in biomass and solar energy.
With a folding knee, she asks that her verdant forest in Brgy. San Miguel
will multiply rather than die.
She also asks that her land will all be distributed as the program nears end
and all her landed children to contribute to the program's promise of abundance.
Despite her seemingly simple aspirations,
I love her thriving spirit which extends to her children.
She may have stood up for a long time with only one drab public library,
and a lone city college (no university yet),
which does well in criminology, midwifery and agriculture
but she has gathered in her feet many professionals schooled everywhere.
Yes, my La Carlota, my hometown is a small community
but like her Pasalamat Festival's unique drumbeats,
she will live on with a strong heartbeat
that will someday be heard by the country and the world.
*An Ode to my hometown La Carlota is a poem inspired
after reading an anthology edited by Ruel De Vera called
"Writing home: nineteen writers remember their hometowns"