This is the telling catchphrase everyone has associated with any Batangueno. I am a half-blooded Batanguena since my mother is hailed from such a rambunctious, full-blooded people of this province south of Luzon, where a simple “ungkutan”(get together) may result to such a boisterous shouting match, and the fun part is, no one is actually arguing.
Passionate may be the word that I can describe these Batanguenos. They are proud, gallant, arrogant and can come off strong.
I was born in Manila, but every summer vacation since I was a baby, Batangas has always been the place where I spend my vacation. Batangas is very near from Manila, and can easily be a destination for a quick vacation. Batangas also has glorious beaches found in the Nasugbu part or in San Juan. When you want to go diving, you can shack it up in Anilao. But when I was a child, I’ve gone beaching in Calaca where the waters are clean and crisp, and the sand is pure gray.
When I was not beaching, I usually found myself in the rural sitio in Balete, Batangas City where my mother grew up. I remember how the sitio used to look like back when I was ten. Walking up the dirt road, my relatives’ houses will welcome you in the sitio starting with my Kakang Ayo’s house in the “kahanggan” (end part ). And a few walks further, in the middle, in the more forested part was where my Lolo's (the father of my mother) bungalow, can be found.
Along with the Indian mangoes, camias trees and kakawates, rows and rows of coffee trees lined up my Lolo’s backyard. I often tinkered with the ripe ones and helped my titas with roasting. But what I loved best is when the coffee trees blossom. The sweet smell wafted in the air. And as a kid I pretended that these flowers were sampaguitas. I strung them into a lei and I pretended like I was a princess.
I drank Batangueno coffee for the first time when I was about ten years old because of my Lolo who introduced me to it. And yes, it was my lolo’s fault that I don’t think I can ever live without coffee, now that I’m a full-pledged adult. I especially liked kapeng barako. My lolo had a habit of pouring the black gritty goodness on fluffy white rice. And that was my comfort food back then. Ahh. Simple joys.
this is what our coffee farm looked like years ago. I used to watch my Lolas dry the beans in the sun then afterwards they roast them. (this is a still from a local teleserye I wrote for- coincidentally, the main protagonist worked as a coffee picker when she was a child)
Being the first granddaughter and the first apo technically, you can expect how my grandfather treated me – with fierce protection, with pride and sometimes with such a controlling fist. But with my Lolo, I’ve always felt invincible. I grew up a brat, with a sense of entitlement because I knew that no matter what I did, I have an automatic ally in him, no questions asked.
It has been a long time now that my Lolo is not with us. And yes, changes have been made in the rural barrio where I used to spend summers. I’ve seen the transformation in front of my eyes year after year - some trees made way for more houses as my Titas and Titos get married and build homes for their families. Old houses were renovated. Farms were turned into manicured gardens, The coffee trees diminished in number, and some were replaced with Digitel telephone wires.
my brother and a younger cousin
Whenever I visit other seaside areas of Batangas for a trip with friends I always find the Batangueno accent comforting. Even with the shouting tone. (They don’t mean to sound so loud, they are, as I said, passionate).And whenever I go back to my barrio I always request for freshly ground Batangas coffee and smile.
With its strong, offensive yet full-bodied and strangely comforting effect on me, I am always reminded of my Lolo.