Childhood dreams of summer in the country

I have a friend whose kids spend summers with their grandparents. My friend and her husband, or both, bring their kids to Capiz (about an hour by plane), spend a few days there then go back to the city and work. The grandparents and the kids have a month or so together and they make the most of it. The grandparents’ house is five minutes away from the beach, the grandfather taught the kids to swim, appreciate freshly caught fish and shrimps, drink water from coconuts plucked from the garden…

I envy them. I grew up in the city next door to my grandparents’. Although, by city standards, we could afford a quasi suburban life with a large property filled with coconut and fruit trees, it wasn’t quite the same as spending summers in the countryside. Although we have distant relatives in the province, we didn’t see them very often much less actually vacation in their houses. In fact, weddings and funerals were the only occasions I remember seeing them.

The seeming lack in my life got even more pronounced when I went to college and had friends who did exactly what I always wanted to do but never did — go home to the province during the Christmas and summer breaks.

I imagined what it would be like to wake up in the morning, look out of the window and see water and fields and mountains…

Wild birds cavorting where they pleased unwary of being molested by city brats who didn’t know how to appreciate them.

I imagined boat rides…

And a thousand different things that city girls didn’t get to enjoy in the city.

Not that we didn’t venture outside the city. Oh, we traveled. My father liked long drives and we went to a lot of places. I didn’t become the water baby that I am vicariously. The sea was my friend even as a child. But weekends at the beach weren’t the same as spending entire summers in the country and actually living among people who did things differently from city folk.

If, as a child, I could have had the chance to see less of the moronic life in the city and more of the less complicated life in the country, I could be a different person than I am today. Perhaps, I would have grown up more sure-footed. Perhaps, I’d feel more affinity with the earth. Perhaps, I’d be less dismissive of old ways and superstitions. Perhaps, I’d be less jaded.

Speedy, on the other hand, was able to experience the rural summers that I only dreamed about. There was a time when his father maintained a business in the province and, sometimes, Speedy would accompany him. He remembered early mornings and waking up to fried eggs that his father prepared. He recalled breakfasts that included fresh carabao’s milk. The unpasteurized kind — the kind delivered in bottles stuffed in the mouths with rolls of banana leaves.

When Sam and Alex were younger, perhaps experiencing the kind of epiphany I had over summers in the country that never were, there were times when they asked if we didn’t have family in the province with whom we could stay for short vacations. I have distant relatives in the province, for sure, but “relatives” is not exactly the same as “family” in the context of grandparents. Speedy has a lot of relatives in the province, none of whom he knows very well.

And I wonder… When Sam and Alex have kids of their own — if they choose to have kids — I wonder if those future grandchildren [theoretical, at this point] would want to spend summers in the country too. We want to move back to the city, not move farther away from the city, and I wonder if those theoretical grandchildren would have it otherwise.

The photos were taken in various parts of the Philippines during family trips and vacations.


  1. Albert Rendal says

    Hi Connie,

    Yes, you are right, I envy those kids that do spend summer in the countryside with love ones. It really makes a big difference in their view or outlook in life. Even us adult appreciate this “little, insignificant” things in the countryside, how much more in the eye of children.

    Let me give you a good example, our 3rd runner up for Miss Inernational – Chamcey Supsup (i have read in a newspaper… that she’d rather have her shoes repaired than buy a new one. Isn’t that a grand thing to think, and say being an International beauty? I must say being brought up in the countryside helped in moulding this kind of good attitude.

    Love this article….


  2. says

    Nikita, ah yes, you grew up pretty much the same way I did, right? City, city, city…

    Albert, that’s a great example. In the city where replacement for old shoes is so easy, who would think that, right? But they do have ways in the countryside that charm in an inexplicable way. They really do.

  3. Michelle says

    Hi Ms.Connie!

    We have the same sentiment. I also grew, lived and worked in the city. I remember in my childhood that whenever we go to some out-of-town trips and passed by NLEX back then, I felt so happy just by looking at the wide rice fields and the lush greeneries, watching grazing cows and goats, and smelling that unique provincial scent. I also envied some friends and acquaintances who would regularly go home to their provinces during semestral breaks and long holidays.

    Good thing i fell in love to a man whose dwellings are from the countryside. Though we met in the city during college years, we are now staying here in the province for almost 10 years tending our humble business. Our two daughters, who were born in the city too but were 4 and 2 years old when we decided to transfer to the province, are enjoying their rural lives. This, I believe, is because of the fact that rural life here in our place is not entirely rural at all, and that during summer breaks and Christmas holidays, me and my husband would accompany them to my mother who lives in the city and let them spend their vacation there together with their cousins. They get to have the actual first-hand experiences of both worlds.

    When we pick them up, they share lots of stories and anecdotes which sometimes happened to be like those that I experienced during my childhood days in the city. I guess, unconsciously, I was sharing my childhood life with them by letting them spend some time at the place where I actually grew up, and when they come back to our provincial home, it is then my husband’s childhood life that was being shared to them.

    Have a good day!

      • Michelle says

        With the adjustments from being an 8 to 5 employee to a stay-at-home mom and wife, coupled with shocks on some rural beliefs and traditions, it really is a big move. But as they say, just look at the bright side, and the bright side to this is that I get to live a simple life. Internet connection is such a big help, really, and being just a few hours bus-ride away from the city makes me feel I’m not that far from where I came from.

  4. joji says

    my parents and i grew up in the provinces-nueva ecija,bukidnon and misamis oriental.after finishing college in manila, i got a job, got married and raised our family and did not come back to mindanao. after more than 20 yrs. now our children who have finished college are with us in northern mindanao. my husband,also from nueva ecija, and i did not have an easy time of convincing them to settle here- barkadas,classmates are practically from manila.
    we have a farm here -planted to lanzones,langka,mangosteen,durian,suha,bayabas, rambutan even kaffir lime and other cash crops like ginger, sweet chili peppers,japanese sweet corn, etc. i had to enumerate the pros and cons of manila and mindanao lifestyles, and they eventually were convinced to try it out here. i told them instead of them going back to manila,why not invite barkadas and friends to northern mindanao. we have brown river rafting,ziplines,snorkelling,scuba diving,trekking,spelunking,etc. these can be enjoyed all within 3-4 hrs drive …so far,in a matter of 2 months, 3 groups of friends have thoroughly enjoyed their 3-4 days visit and promised to come back … i am very thankful to GOd for these blessings that we can enjoy and savor both lifestyles with fb,internet, celphones as bonuses only to fresh air,fresh fruits, fish, seafoods, and waking up to singing,chirping birds,insects and even tuko, my husband and i convinced them we can save,save save more for those trips to southeast asia or even boracay,davao,bohol,iloilo,dumaguete,ormoc,and cebu, because of the cheaper lifestyle here.

  5. says

    And I wrote in my blog at how growing up we were in awe of our cousins from Manila who would come to our probinsiya for a visit during the summer when they know all the latest, cool stuff, know celebrities personally and speak fluent english =) While working in Manila gave me an advantage when I went back to work in Cebu but I still wouldn’t exchange the experiences of growing up in the province to growing up in the big city. But I wouldn’t say the same dito sa U.S., malungkot ang probinsiya nila – walang kapitbahay hehehe

    • DJ says

      it is sure an envy dreaming of those idylic provincial life. and I must say that i enjoyed both worlds and it is lucky for me that it is barely 3 hours from the metro, if i miss the simple life in our province, we will spend weekends with my parents there. and true enough, we have saved and bought a modest house and lot on top of the mountain over-looking manila bay in preparation for our retirement. I wanted my only child to enjoy what me & her dad once had and that she too will over and over reminice the fun memories of childhood that we used to have in the province.

      your family can also visit our province – bataan and discover the many wonderful places and be surprised of what our place can offer.
      here are FEW of them, you can check these sites:

  6. Thel from Florida says

    Love, love this post, reminds me of my great childhood on a family farm in San Miguel, Bulacan. Age 1-14, I experienced having fresh carabao milk from our own carabao, fresh eggs from our own chickens (native and white leghorn); fruits (guava, suha, camachile, bananas, santol, duhat, atis, siniguelas, chico, etc. from our own backyard; vegetables (patola, sitaw, talong, pipino, etc from our garden; lechon 2-3 times a year (pigs raised in our backyard; fish (gurami, bulig, hito) caught from the river behind our home; snails (my favorite) from our rice field. We never bought rice, we always planted the best tasting milagrosa (tiny and aromatic)

    Age 15-26 the whole family moved to Manila. I worked and attended college
    Age 26-immigrated to the USA and I am now here 35years. Was able to bring my parents and all 6 siblings over here in the States.

    Retired 5 years ago and went RVing full time in the whole USA.
    Just finished building our dream retirement home with spectacular waterview. I designed it myself with an architech. My husband has a 26′ McGregor sailboat also.

    Pero, alam mo, gusto kong bumalik sa San Miguel to live like the first 14 years of my life. Kaya lang my kano husband don’t like to live in Pinas and my mom is 87 years now and after living here 31 years, she doesn’t want to go back.

    Tama ang kasabihan, we can’t have everything.

  7. Nina says

    I am a promdi in every sense of the word, only spending the schooldays in the city. I did not know of jollibee nor mcdo nor sm until college. We grew up eating fresh produce- no stock of junk food in the pantry, only had coke during birthdays. My mom had our dresses made by a seamstress. My husband who grew up very near the city is so amazed and sometimes is taken aback by revelationa from my childhood. But i never felt deprived. I even want my children to grow up the same way, very simple, non-capitalistic, non-commercial life.

  8. joji says

    i can emphatize with thel from florida… i have cousins in the u.s./abroad who feel now is the time to go back to the philippines, but are constrained to do so because of their spouses, and grandchildren. they just come back from time to time for father insisted/convinced them to keep their properties here,so they have reason to visit the province esp our relatives and to continue the holy week traditions. he was right…his purpose was not to break the family ties and the link that connects/bounds us. ( now,fb helps a lot in reconnecting these links,too).
    i hope my daughters will someday realize and appreciate the hard work,patience, diligence and good foresight/planning of our grandparents and parents to save and invest in agri lands/orchards to be one with nature’s beauty. enjoy its bountiful harvests, and not only find enjoyment going around in aircon malls/shopping and live in urban centers.

  9. says

    i’m province-less myself and have been on a search for one where my kids can spend summer vacations, even learn a local dialect. my husband and i finally found the guts to move out of the city to los banos, where we met in college. we love LB, we love mt. makiling, and the fact that we don’t need a water heater. plus tuition fees are half what they would cost in manila. but LB’s pretty urbanized, so somehow i still look for that more laidback, lights out at 6pm, country living. i guess city brats will always have that.

  10. beth says

    As a young girl, i had the privilege of vacationing in the province with my cousins. My uncle’s house was directly across a Sugar Mill. His house was a typical plantation house, with a large veranda that goes across the entire length of the house. There was also a large staircase made of stone that led to the house. I vividly remember the bathroom the size of a small bedroom, with black and white tiles. Trees were every where. But what i vividly remember is waking up the sound of the blast from the sugar mill which emanated from those huge tubular thingy..which i don’t even have the name for. But what really stuck in my senses is the sweet smell of sugar being milled and processed in that sugar central, and the sweet smell of molasses flowing out into the canals…Indeed these are SWEET memories i will always treasure…not surprising that i would have the penchant for sweets, oh and did i mention that my father was born in a sugar plantation in Maui Hawaii? coincidence? guess not.

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