By Jay Bolusa

March 4, 2008Happy Puerto Princesa Day to everyone there in Puerto! Friday at 1:00 p.m., I left New York for Norton City, Virginia. From La Guardia Airport, I flew to Cincinnati, Ohio then transferred to another plane for the Tri Cities airport in Tennessee.

     I arrived at the Tri Cities at 9:30 p.m. where Jinkee, Nelo and Diego met me and we drove for an hour to Norton City, Virginia. The following morning Kim Phelps, the Medical recruiter showed as around the Wise County area, Norton City, Big Stone Gap, Adington, Appalachia, St. Pauls. 

     We saw the Welmont Medical Center, the churches, shopping area and the University of Virginia Middle School, where Diego can go this September. The towns are quite little communities here and the people are typical southerners, very hospitable and warm – a contrast to the New Yorkers.

     We were lucky that it was a warm day no snow neither rain at all. I consider it warm at 40 degrees Fahrenheit because when I left New York if was 10 degrees F so I was bundled up. When I reached Cincinnati I felt the warmth already because I had to take off my coat and my jacket.

     By the afternoon Barbara Polly showed us the available houses where Nelo and Jinkee can consider. Barbara Polly is a Theatre director. She directs the Lonesome Pine, which has been running for the last 45 years in Big Stone Gap. On the early days she was the lead actress. She reminded me of Yvonne very pretty and chic. The houses are mostly Victorian though there are a lot of new ones in the newly developed subdivisions. We went to the Country Club and passed by Dr. Paul and Amy Barongan’s palatial house where we are guests for the evening.

      Of the houses shown us, there is one I thought fits the needs of Jinkee and family.  A doctor owns this house but was transferred to a new place that’s why they are selling it. The house is in mint condition and in a very good neighborhood and near the hospital and the school. It was almost 6:00 p.m. when we finished and we headed to Dr. Barongan.

     On the brick gate of the house two words are etched – AMOR and MAHAL –  and on the other side the  family name Barongon. In the course of the dinner Dr. Barongan explained the meaning of AMOR and MAHAL. He had those words placed because his front neighbor etched the Indian word which means palace on this gate to counteract act that or just for kicks we etched those two words which both means love as I interpreted it. But he said the true meaning of Amor and Mahal when he etched that is “Expensive love” which I never though and indeed true as mahal means also expensive. I assume those are the nicknames of Drs. Paul and Amy Barongan.

     How wrong I was! When we went up the stairs, these words are also etched on the walls – “For Elvis Presley fans, you are welcome”. So that gives me an idea more or less the age and personality of our hosts. When I was introduced to the couple, who has been there for 35 years, I was shocked of how young they look and Paul was a natural Comedic and a very good entertainer. After the sumptuous Filipino dinner, we went to the Elvis Presley room.

     Other than Graceland, in Memphis, here before my eyes is a collection of Elvis Presley’s memorabilias. Even the Pool table is covered with a rug that has Elvis life-size embroidered image. Nelo and Jego played pool while our hosts led us to a huge dancing hall. Paul and Amy taught us the different line dancing and when we got tired the Karoeke became so busy. We sang thru the night Drs. Barongan gave Jinkee some very good tips for this prospective job and where to buy a house. We went home very happy and glad we met new friends who are still very Filipino in their ways and are not in any way affected by the western culture. We thank God to be given this opportunity of meeting them.

     Eva Ponce de Leon informed me that Mayor Bert Oliveros passed away last week. I remember him as a Good Man and a friend. Our condolence goes to Faelit and the boys.

May Eternal Light shines upon him and may he rests in peace. I prayed and lit a candle for him.

     ‘Till next week. Ciao and God bless!