My Naga: A postcard from a local

Author: James Z. Carpio

After more than two years of writing for Bicol Mail, I have become a certified writer. Yes, I have to admit I drink gallons of coffee. And being home-based and staying out of the sun for that long period of time my general appearance has become paler. A fact that has evoked amusing reactions from my family and people in general.

I am surprised when people especially sales and customer service staff would start and carry on a conversation with me in English. I assumed that it is the standard operating procedure now. People are trained to conduct sales or service in English. It is puzzling and interesting. Why not Bikol or Tagalog? (A local and national language respectively.)

So I asked people at home if they get the same treatment when they go to the city center. They replied that greetings are in English but then the follow-up language is in Bikol or in Tagalog. Consequently, the realization that my foreign features accentuated by my paler appearance has become more pronounced are the reasons as to why people are speaking to me in English.

One time while walking along the sidewalk downtown, a group of strangers by the bank was intently staring at me and one of them could not control himself and hollered at me, “Hey, Joe!” I just smiled and walked on.

By now, one should have gotten used to this but then again it constantly reminds me of my uniqueness. The few times that I go to the mall or at the city center the probability being mistaken for a non-local is very high.

Essentially, if I was indeed a foreigner and a tourist at the same time I would feel happy and welcomed. The quality of English that I have listened to in my experiences is of very high standards. Naga City is truly a cosmopolitan and international tourist haven. Even with basic English conversation skills you will survive in this urbanized place.

One morning the drum beats from afar can be heard in our house. I surmised that, most probably, a school band was practicing for a region-wide competition. The calendar says that it is the last week of July and just one more month and it will be September. The Peñafrancia festival is fast approaching. I felt excited and expectant. Amazing!

A multitude of people will once again converge in the Pilgrim City of Naga. A year has almost passed. There are changes and new developments in the city. There are some things to look forward to when visitors troop to the historic seat of the Marian Pilgrimage.

I intentionally have not specified the names of the different establishments that have sprung up in Naga for you to discover them yourself. But here are hints nonetheless. A mall hypermarket along Panganiban Drive offers competitive and affordable quality goods to shoppers. There is also a new smaller scale supermarket with a food court along General Luna Street. A specialty bake shop/restaurant opened recently along Elias Angeles Street. A fusion restaurant of European and Asian influences is now providing food and drinks at Barlin Street. Two restaurants have opened at the hip Magsaysay strip, one is an all-you-can-eat buffet type serving mostly Filipino cuisine while the other caters to American cuisine gastronomists.

There are other new attractions but the aforementioned places are the ones making waves with local patrons’ discriminating tastes. Furthermore, you may find smaller and less known places that are worth your time and budget.

The Naga Metropolitan Cathedral has a new look and the fences are newly painted just in time for the festivities. The park in front of the Universidad de Santa Isabel was reconceptualized with a more accessible design. The fences were removed and one can freely take a closer look at the statues on the small park.

Some parts of the riverbanks have been developed into walkways. The riverbed had been deepened for greater flow of the waters. The effect is a cleaner and a more spruced up environment. The over all impact is an upgraded city ready to welcome its guests.

With just a month away, we have been getting our own property ready for the fiesta. The lawns are cut short and the gardening has become more intensive with pruning and cleaning. The city streets in the neighborhood area have also been tidied up and well maintained.

I remember back in the olden days when we used to go to the city center at the Plaza Quezon to watch the grand parades. My siblings and I and years later with friends, we would look for a great spot to enjoy the sights and sounds of the free spectacles of the well organized performances at the Plaza. The crowd became much thicker through the years.

With the thought of giving chance for the out-of-towners to enjoy the parades for themselves up close and personal, we now stay at home to watch the live coverage of the events on television instead.

If you are a foreign tourist, an English phrase book will surely come in handy if you are not a native speaker of English. For local tourists, Tagalog is widely spoken in the locality.

I hope you do enjoy discovering for yourself and your companions these new and exciting gems that Naga has to offer for the Peñafrancia Festival 2015. Visiting Ina will be more memorable with these side trips.

Upon reading this primer on the Peñafrancia Festival 2015, it is advisable to book right away to secure reservations on tickets and rooms in hotels. The ideal schedule is to book at least two months in advance to avoid hassles and other travel inconveniences.

Having lived in this city for quite a long time and oftentimes treated as a foreigner to my bewilderment that later on turned into amusement, I can attest to the superb Bicolano hospitality. Imagine a glorious, picturesque city on one side as I send this postcard so to speak with welcoming, kind and friendly words ending with- wish you were here and see you soon!




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