Inay Fesing Homecoming

It took more than a year and a few months since her passing when Inay was able to return home and be buried in her hometown of Dolores, Abra. She now rests among her closest families and friends, and kababayans in Talogtog Cemetery. Her tomb by the hillside faces the mountains of Abra and Kalinga. Hers was a long, tedious, adventure: from her hometown in Abra, to Manila City, to Quezon City, to California, back to Quezon City, and finally going full circle back to Abra.

Abra, classified as a 3rd class province, is 417 kms away from Quezon City. It’s a land where you’ll find stark contrast between well-to-do families and land-tillers; where caretakers live in grand houses, because the homeowner is either working abroad as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW); or migrants who have found little hope and means to survive in the province. So, they seek greener pastures.

Abra—being part of the Cordillera region—you have to snake your way through the poblacion and other municipalities, hilly mountains, and the great Abra river. It’s not easy to get there. But when you do, what a reward it is! No wonder Inay had wanted to return to her hometown.

We departed at 8:00am on the morning of 19th of April. We were already behind schedule, as the original time was supposed to be 5:00 am. We sat Inay’s urn at the back chair along with her framed pictures and portrait drawing. Almost unsurprisingly, EDSA greeted us with heavy traffic, up until Balintawak exiting to NLEX. After being cooped up indoors for more than 2 years because of the pandemic, the city felt unfamiliar and almost foreign. Swarms of car go bumper to bumper on the widened roads of EDSA. Everything felt new and at the same time old.

After a year since her passing, there is still sadness and longing in my heart. This might surprise others, but losing my lola also meant losing a best friend. This Loneliness intensified during the mass we held in a local parish church, because I felt Inay was really home. It only felt right that this last mass for her was in her native language. I can only imagine her joy had she known she was blessed in Ilokano. I didn’t understand a word during the mass but it didn’t matter. What mattered was how it felt.

During the course of our stay, people shared stories of Inay’s childhood and teenage years, how she and her siblings were always invited to dances. She had loved the tradition of padasal, with singing and dancing to Ilokano songs after. They told stories of how she was unable to visit Abra as often as she would’ve liked, because she devoted her time to being a mother to her children, so much so that even with the death of her own mother, she couldn’t make it. They told stories of her generosity by way of giving away sacks of rice to those who don’t have enough; and by helping relatives finish their education.

After mass, it was time to bring Inay to her eternal resting place. The sun was friendly that day. The bright blue sky stretched as far as the eyes can see. It was a lovely day to lay Inay to rest, Mother Nature’s birthday gift to her. Once we reached the top of the hill of the cemetery, everyone congregated to say a final prayer. Then, Gab, Auntie Milo, and I were tasked to deliver her to her grave. Carpenters were waiting by the tomb to close it off. We placed her urn at the middle, and said our goodbyes. We promised to visit as much as we can. According to a superstition, no one should look back on the grave, lest they follow Inay homeward to the hands of The Creator. And so we have begun moving on.

Inay was brilliant, resilient, a no-fuss person. She had lived a full life with dedication and flair. She had loved her hometown as she loved her children and grandchildren. Given she had more time, she would have returned to Kalapaw and made flowers, plants, fruits, trees bloom. To honor her is to give back to the land that made her, to enrich the land that honed her, and to help the people who have made her who she was. Inay would be overjoyed that her vision for her hometown would come to fruition.

We love you Inay! Happy Mother's day!

Special thanks to:

  • Auntie Milo, who took care of everything: from overseeing the construction of grave, scheduling of mass, buying groceries for padasal, and being our guardian.

  • Ate Joy and Kuya Ebong and their children for hosting and welcoming us in Kalapaw; their immediate relatives who helped in preparation and cooking the meals for the burial and padasal.

  • Balonzo relatives for being there during the food preparation, lamay, mass, burial, and padasal. We felt the warmth, and we are thankful for your presence.

  • Atty. Andin for offering a ride from Blueridge to Project 2, when I picked up Inay’s urn.

  • Gab for designing Inay’s grave which was different from the fancy graveyards in Talogtog cemetery. Though, we are still missing plants and a kalachuchi tree.