There’s a beach at Coronado Island, so of course, pinuntahan namin.
Taking a trip to San Diego, my favorite childhood place
Nagbalik lahat nang magaganda kong alaala noong bata pa ako
Every time we went to Los Angeles, we always made a side trip to San Diego to visit our pharmacist, Tita Marie and her husband, Tito Fred. At five years old, I remember visiting the San Diego Zoo and how could I forget Sea World with the Orcas flying through the air, but most of all I loved their house and their neighborhood which was a small community of ex-navy personnel. It was a hilly place, and behind their house was a slope that Tito Fred converted into terraces. There were four levels and each one was planted with fruit trees. I loved picking the apples from the trees, the oranges, plums, peaches and the nectarines. In between the trees were the vegetables.
Their son Donny, who was a few years older than me would take me and my sister on treks around the nearby hills and “forests”. We would come home dirty and sweaty, but happy. Yung buhay probinsya sa Pilipinas, sa San Diego ko naranasan. On my next trip as a teenager, Donny was already gone, serving with the marines and I went around the places we explored, no forest, just a dozen or so trees. We did revisit the San Diego Zoo to see the newly opened Safari Park. 1,800 acres (730 hectares ) of wildlife sanctuary was open for drive through tours. I could have been in Africa seeing all the savannah animals, zebras, gazelles, giraffes, impalas grazing while we drove by. You could watch the sleeping lions under the shade of the acacia trees and warthogs wallowing in the muddy banks of a river. Para ka talagang nasa Africa. Pati na rin yung init ng panahon, parang ganoon din.
Now, 15 years later, as we were driving to San Diego with Uncle Stan, all these happy memories were flooding my thoughts. Tito Fred passed away a few years ago and Tita Marie lived alone in the old house. Donny was married and moved to Utah. Thank God for GPS, we found the house, which was rather remote then. Now the city had swallowed it up. The hills we were trekking was a new housing development. The huge playground was now a mall with a small playground in the corner. Tito Fred’s fruit trees were laden with fruit, untouched. Tita Marie was recovering from a surgery, so we didn’t stay long. But Papa, Uncle Stan and Carlos picked the ripe fruits, left more than enough for Tita Marie, and took the rest home.
Uncle Stan served with the California National Guard and he knew San Diego quite well. He took us to Balboa Park which is a beautiful, but expansive place. The entrance to the park is free and in a 30 minute walk in the park, you can enjoy some of the main attractions , but there is still so much more to be experienced. One day is not enough for the park. Kung makakabisita kayo sa San Diego, reserve one full day to explore Balboa Park. Medyo bago pa itong Park, 2009 nagbukas.
So we ate our lunch up by the park and later drove to Coronado Island, just off San Diego bay. A long bridge connects Coronado with San Diego City, but across the bridge, the setting is like a 1940 – 50’s town. It was probably developed during the war. We drove down to the beach, our favorite place. The beach is very wide. We took off our shoes to walk to the water’s edge, which was more than 50 meters away. At least sand doon malamig, di tulad ng sa Pinas, nakakasunog!
We found parking in the town and it was really like a step back in time. Many of the houses had been converted to commercial establishments and they kept the ambience. Of course we stopped by for ice cream at a Mom ‘n Pop store. I did not see any chain stores in town. An old deep sea bronze diving suit as a display in front of a shop probably meant a diving shop. Swim suits and summer wear stores were the most numerous together with souvenir and jewelry shops, bookstores, surf shops, an occasional café, and antique stores too. The main street was called Orange Avenue. We learned that Coronado Island was placed on the map when a Hollywood movie called “Some Like It Hot” starring Marilyn Monroe was shot in Coronado.
All the while we were munching on freshly picked fruits from Fred’s garden. Shortly after our visit, Tita Marie sold her house and moved back to her hometown in the Philippines. I feel like I lost a home in San Diego.