There’s no place like home

Rosanna E. Momblan (right) and her friends, couple Linda and Lito Dumlao.

    Rosanna “Rose” E. Momblan has been a resident of Nice, France since the 1990s but she visits her country of origin, the Philippines, from time to time.

   She has a degree in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Major in Accountancy, from the University of the East (UE).

       Recently, like lightning out of the blue, she arrived to the surprise of relatives, friends and others who know her.

          What could be the reason for it? One may say it is normal for expatriates to visit the old country regularly to see relatives or friends. It may be they want to see what has happened to their birthplace, reacquaint with kith and kin and friends and attend reunions organized by former classmates, co-workers or fellow members in a club before leaving for another country.

        Whatever their reason is for crossing continents or traveling across time zones to come home may be purely personal and without any intention to stay for good.

        The German-American historian Hannah Arendt says, “Loving life is easy when you’re abroad… where you hold your life in your hands all alone, you are a master of yourself than at home.”

         Rosanna, now  62, comes for a visit  because deep down in her heart she misses the country. She has an emotional attachment to it so that, when worse comes to worst, she will not hesitate to come back for good  because she still considers the Philippines home.

     As we have heard time and again, “There’s no place like home.”

    This resonates when one reads Leonor Aureus Briscoe’s book “Ben on Ben”. She said that when she received a call about the famous writer Bienvenido N. Santos, “All I wanted to hear was that word, an exile’s comfort: “‘H.O.M. E.’ At last…” Santos lived with wife Aquing and son Tom in the United States for years.

    Rosanna said, “I’m not yet a French citizen,” although she and her Bacolod-born husband Arnold have their own house in France. They met  there when both were working on a cruise. Their two kids— Ross Arnold (RA) and Sophie—are now studying in France.

    RA, who was born in the Philippines, pursued a sound engineering degree while Sophie, a teenager who is now a French citizen, is about to enter college.

    “She’ll (Sophie) wait until she reaches the age of majority before deciding whether she’d like to be a Filipino also and be a dual citizen,” Rosanna said.

    But having adjusted to French life, found new friends and assimilated into European culture, why would Rose come home and settle down in the Philippines to spend the rest of her life?

    She neither talks about it nor makes any reference to it in conversations although she could have disclosed it to people close to her like Erlinda “Lyn” Hernandez-Dumlao, a childhood friend who works at the VC Building Trades and Woodworks, a construction firm based in Pasig City.

    But like Rosanna, Linda does not talk about it. By nature Rosanna is reserved so Linda is discreet and unwilling to disclose Rosanna’s purpose in coming home after only two years since her last visit.

    It could be important considering the high cost of a two-way air ticket, the tiring flight over a long distance.

    From the Nice Côte d’Azur Airport in France, Rosanna’s Gulf Air flight made stops in Milan, Italy to pick up passengers bound for the Middle East and Manama in Bahrain, which owns the airline, before heading eastward toward the Philippines.

    But it is not really impossible for her and Arnold to decide to come back, dividing their time between the Philippines and France.

   Starting afresh is not a problem. She had acquired a property in Karangalan Village in Cainta before she left to work in Europe in the 1990s and had a house constructed on it.

    It is well-maintained by Teresita “Tere” Sarco as caretaker. She was already a family employee when Rosanna’s parents were still alive.

    Being in a prime location, the property she acquired while still working at the Metro Manila Development Authority is now worth millions.

    Rosanna  also worked as accountant at the Perez Trucking Company.

   It is in the Karangalan Village house where she and sister Rowena (Weng) and Rowena’s Canadian husband Fred Preston stay when they come to the Philippines for brief visits or vacations.

   Rowena and Fred own and manage a bed-and-breakfast place, Rowena’s Retreat, in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada.

   Twice in the past, Rowena and Fred came for a vacation and stayed in Karangalan Village. They visited Puerto Princesa, Palawan where they have relatives, and Pagudpud, the last town of Ilocos Norte which has been called “Boracay of the North”.

    While in Pagudpud, Rowena took time to visit the village Bobon in nearby Burgos town, where their late mother—the former Lolita “Loling” Flores Calixto— came from before she moved to Manila to stay with her eldest sister Isabel or Sabel.

   Loling and a friend used to sing during programs at the Bobon Community Elementary School, according to Editha Lagpacan Padaong Merto, now a resident of Dededo, Guam. 

      Nenita Queddeng-Ravelas was the friend that sang with Rosanna’s mother. Loling died at 59 years of age. According to  Ravela’s nephew Nelson Queddeng and  grandson Marlon Ravelas, Nenita, also called Nenet, is  still alive.

    Loling’s family originally came from San Ramon in Vintar town east of Laoag City, where the Calixtos are quite popular. She also has relatives in the Puringit-Margaay area, which is near San Ramon.

    The late Jeremias A.  Calixto, a first cousin who retired as College Dean in Laoag City, was quite well-known. He was a short story writer in Bannawag, a magazine in Ilocano. He published a collection of short stories, “Ti Sari Iti Alad ken Napili a Sarsarita” or “Break in the Fence and Other Stories”, which is now out of print.

    Rosanna built a 14-door residential building off Commonwealth Ave. in Quezon City with oldest sibling Armando as administrator.  Her family and siblings are financially stable so she does not have to depend on the old house her parents built to raise cash.

    The house has been subdivided into rooms that are being rented out with Teresita, their long-time trusted employee, as caretaker.

    The siblings decided that the proceeds of the  house be given to their youngest brother Norman, now living in Surrey, British Columbia, with his wife, the former Shirley Masangkay, and their only child, son Norman Ares.

   Rosanna may be living in a faraway land but she is close to her siblings. She is always ready to help when her brothers and sister are in need.

    She helped facilitate the departure of Rowena when the latter decided to leave for Canada in 1997.

    Rosanna is generous but knows if and when she should be. For her, material things and money can be acquired if one has the skills and talents to do so. But friendship, generosity or goodwill and trust should be earned.

    This is why it is understandable if friends or people close to her are careful about what they say of her and her visits.

    Rosanna treasures reputation, family tradition, unforgettable memories and good  standing in the community.

   When she considers you part of the family, she reminds you about it  jokingly or in her own subtle way. If she does, it feels like a badge of honor.

    “Di ba bahagi ka ng pamilya? (You’re part of the family, aren’t you?),“ she would tell a person she likes.

     But probably the reason why Rosanna keeps returning to the country of her birth and thinking of staying is the fact that her father, Aresio P. Erediano who came from Minglanilla, Cebu, founded what was originally called Tanglaw ng Nayon, a community with a few residents.

    He passed on at a relatively young age of 55 in the 1990s.

   He made quite a reputation as barangay chair. Troublemakers stayed away. He was generous but he  instilled discipline among his constituents.

    He managed to have Tanglaw ng Nayon  declared as  Barangay Botocan. As of the 2020 census, it had a  population of 7,051.

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