I sat on the table eating my breakfast of instant noodles and crackers. I was getting ready to go on my tour. The old woman who owns the house sat with me, watching wistfully. I offered her some food and she politely declined saying that she already had breakfast. I smiled at her.
I asked her how long she has been renting out the rooms in the house. She said that she and her husband have been opening their doors to travelers for a few years now. She said that they started out by making keychain souvenirs and selling them to tourists. But it wasn't enough so they decided to rent out the rooms to travelers so they can make more money. She said that it still barely enough because most tourists would only visit during weekends. Then she told me more.
She told me that she and her husband have six children who are now all grown-ups. She told me about how the eldest one went on a different path and chose to stop studying. He ended up being unemployed for quite some time before ending up with a job at a construction site. She said that he brought her lots of disappointments. She told me about how kids numbers two through five have all completed their studies and are now working in their chosen fields. One of them is a teacher at the nearby public school. One of them works as an engineer in a province south of Luzon and that he only comes home about one to two times a year. She told me that she already has grandchildren. She told me about her youngest being the only one left studying. He only has one more year of education left. She told me about how her eldest regretted not finishing his studies. She told me about he glad she was that he learned from his mistakes.
She told me about their struggles in life. She told me about how she and her husband had to work hard on a very minimal income just to be able to feed their children and put them through school. She said that they had a very difficult life and that it brings her happiness to see her children all grown-up and successful despite everything that their family has been through. She said it with a proud smile on her face and tears in her eyes.
Listening to her stories, I tried to hold back tears. I studied the wrinkles on her face which showed how the years passed and how they molded her into this strong woman in front of me, albeit aged. And I thought to myself how tough and resilient she must be to be able to survive everything that they have been through. Then the tour guide came to pick me up and I felt kind of sorry that our conversation was over. I wanted to hear more of her stories.
Later that day as I was leaving and bidding my host goodbye, I felt kind of sad. Her home was my home for one night and she showed me nothing but sincere hospitality. She handed me something and when I looked at it, I saw that it was a keychain. I tried to refuse it because I know that these keychains are her source of income, apart from the room rentals. She insisted and told me that it was something for me to remember them by. So that the next time I visit, I will still choose to stay at their home. I smiled, and tried to hold back tears as I attached the keychain to my wallet. Upon leaving, I vowed that I will definitely come back.