As in years gone by, summer brings me back to Dumaguete.
It's strange to say such a thing when I've just barely left and when I could just as easily fly in at any time; but in the past few months, I've primed myself for a longer turn in Davao and have started thinking of it as home. In coming back, I feel in many ways a visitor again.
As a returning visitor, one has the benefit of seeing old places and people with fresh eyes. In many ways, Dumaguete is still much the same as it was (though now it sports some fresh veneer). The passage of time, though, reverses all that pent-up frustration at The Way Things Are Done into a renewed appreciation of her charms.
Part of that fresh perspective, I suppose, comes from the reason that's brought me back: National Writers Workshop.
"They always come back, even if only once more," they say of the past Fellows, of which I am now be counted among the number. How true, how true! The Workshop makes you part of the extended family of the Tiempos -- so how can any good son or daughter not find the way home?
So I've insinuated myself into the workshop again, an attempt in part to recapture the wonders of last summer. This time, I sit in the peanut gallery, watching the Fellows of this year with some degree of envy. Wasn't it just a year ago I was sitting 'round that table?
I'm just in time, too, to hear Mom Edith's opening remarks. It's a delight to hear her talk, to see her come alive in the role she plays best, a teacher. "Seductive irrelevancies," she explains, "essential imperfections that add character to a work of art."
Seductive irrelevancies! and at that my ears perk up. Leave it to Mom Edith to couch it in such memorable terms. She's talking about the craft of writing, but it could just as well be the theme of art, often lost amidst the soul-sucking demands of pragmatism.
Seductive irrelevancies! Isn't that, in many ways, what the charms of Dumaguete are all about? The Boulevard, the Bell Tower, the cheerful, easygoing attitude... All those useless little things, all those nonessentials we take for granted, but without which Dumaguete wouldn't be Dumaguete.
And with those two words in summer, I am brought back to Dumaguete that I used to know.