It was meant to be just a side trip, this boat ride to our salt farm in Bani, Pangasinan.
The main attraction that got my kids willing to endure the long car ride from Manila, was the Hundred Islands in Alaminos. They know about it in school and heard so many things about it from me.
So we all hopped into this small banca, a bit tentatively and unsure of our footing. It was low tide, our driver Joji pointed out, so we had to go slow in areas that were shallow. This was the answer that satisfied the constant queries from my 6 year old: is it far?
Now that I think about it, its been more than thirty years - probably the reason why the river looked smaller, narrower. There were lots of birds, probably from the bird sanctuary nearby. And to my astonishment, I saw vans parked on the right side of the river; apparently, now accessible by road, but unfortunately, only for the right side of the river. Vans were parked and as I was told later on, they were owned by foreign nationals, married to Filipinas, venturing into salt farms.
The boat ride was generally pleasant. Occassionally, we would speed up when the water is deep, then slow down as we approach incoming bancas just so we dont topple them with our big waves.
Then without warning, the boat really slowed down and parked on the left side. I thought there was something wrong. But Joji said: "Andito na po tayo.(We're here already)" I was pleasantly surprised but at the same time, a bit confused. All the landmarks I knew as a child were all gone - the house by the river; lolo's big house in the middle of the salt farm.
But then as we alighted from the boat, it got me - the view of the salt beds. It was something of a Ratatouille moment for me except that its not food. It was the sight of my childhood; and memories kept flooding in - where I swam and got bit by a crab, where we went fishing for tilapia.
I was amazed to see that the bricks that my grandfather and father laid down in the salt beds in the early 1960s are still there. Although some pieces had to be replaced by new bricks.
As it was still early in the season, the workers were busy repairing the salt beds, cleaning and fixing their tools. Some salt was already forming on the sides of the beds, but these are light in weight and not too salty.
Some workers who knew me as a child approached and we had our pictures taken. We exchanged some stories. They told me about those who are sick and those who passed away; those who left and those who came back. They said that they liked the flavored salts that I made. I promised to make more for them to try.
But it was getting late, and I realized that my children still had not eaten breakfast. We said our goodbyes, but I told them that I shall be back.
Back on the boat, I stayed in front and as the river came to me, I knew then, that this was not a side trip. It was a coming home that was very special.
For more photos: https://www.facebook.com/SolarisAllNaturalSeaSalt/photos_albums.
Solaris All Natural