Last month, I went to Tacloban City.
Instead of a less-than-an hour flight from Cebu, I decided to travel for three hours via a ferry going to Ormoc City, then rode a van to Tacloban. My purpose was to take this long trip for reflection while viewing the landscapes of the resilient Leyte Province, the place that is usually hit by natural disasters.
I set to meet (Ate) Paulina Lawsin Nayra, a fellow World Pulse Ambassador, since she lives in Palo. Ate Pauline is a sought-after consultant to NGOs in our country. She's cheerful, generous, smart, and, of course, beautiful.
This time, Ate Pauline decided to bring me along to her mother's hometown to meet the Rosca women bakers. Roscas are local biscuits made of milk, flour, egg, lard, and anise. She suggested that we, together with a volunteer from Canada, meet at Carigara. After a quick lunch, the three of us rode a tricycle going to Barugo to visit the Barugo Roscas Producers Association, a partner of Ate Pauline and her organization WEAVERS.
Whether the trip was quick or not, I could not recall. I was mesmerized by the green fields along the highway. There were more trees than they were houses. Living in an urbanized city, I missed the serenity of the province, but at the same time, I ached at the slow progress of development on this side of our country. There were few vehicles passing by the road as opposed to the heavy traffic in Cebu City. I wondered what stories do women and girls could tell in these municipalities. For sure, they're different from those living in urbanized cities.
We arrived at the bakeshop late in the afternoon. We were greeted by a warm welcome of the women bakers of roscas. Ate Pauline introduced us to them, then she proceeded to discuss production and marketing matters with them. This recipe of roscas has been passed on by their mothers, grandmothers, and even great-grandmothers to them like an inheritance. These women baked roscas to augment their income.
These hardworking women served us roscas for snacks. After their meeting, Ate Pauline and I introduced World Pulse to them. Ate Pauline encouraged them to write their stories in their own dialect. She provided them some guide questions like:
"how did you learn to bake roscas?"; "what motivates you to bake roscas?"; "how did this livelihood change your life?" , and so on.
I told them that each one has her own story to tell, and their stories are inspiring, and no one can write their stories the way they could. One of the challenges, however, is their limited internet connection. I hope they could make a way to write their stories here.
This women association has already received recognition. Above the plaques on top of a glass cabinet, there is a framed newspaper that Ate Pauline kept telling me to read. I took a photo of it instead and decided to read it later. It was only then I learned that Ate Pauline's story was featured on that national newspaper.
It tells the readers how as a young girl, Ate Pauline accompanied her mother while selling roscas to provide for their needs. Ate Pauline lost her mother when she was only ten years old. Selling roscas with her was one of her memorable shared experiences with her. Decades later, Ate Pauline decided to honor her mother by helping the women rosca-makers in Barugo. The rest is history as they say. But I truly hope Ate Pauline will write this story herself. I found an online copy of that paper here.
I have often wondered how Ate Pauline was raised because she turned out to be a strong, responsible, multi-talented women leader who spoke with grace and humor. After visiting her mother's hometown, and witnessing the activities of the rosca-makers in Barugo, I now have an idea of how her mother painstakingly modeled all the wonderful traits Ate Pauline possessed today.
What a treasured moment it was for me to be brought to a place full of beautiful memories for Ate Pauline: the place of her mother's hometown, and the place where daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters continue to immortalize the livelihood began by their mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.
I hope each of you can taste a rosca from Barugo, Leyte. When you do, I hope you can also taste the love shared by women across generations.