Saturday, February 13, 2010

14, 100 reloaded and two love stories

February 14 was never really a special day for me and my wife – any given day can turn into Valentine’s Day in a beautiful city like Baguio. Here in Baguio, sometimes just walking hand in hand with your loved one to where you take your jeep to go home can turn into a most romantic stroll through afternoon sun-kissed flower gardens and trees. At times Mother Nature may even treat you to a dramatic display of fog gently rolling in, skimming just above the lake where other lovers in boats come in and out of view to tell their stories.

But, it is Valentine’s Day, and while I most probably won’t be wearing red, I thought I’d share with you an article I wrote last July as my wife, RL, and I celebrated our 14th year together, just weeks away from Baguio’s 100th, with a little alteration, to retell the story of two of my greatest loves. So here it is 14, 100, reloaded …

Our 14th year, no precious stones, no grand getaways, just an evening with friends, an evening of whisky and brandy and chicharon, at an exhibit opening and at table number one in Luisa’s on Session Road. A beer brought over from Rumours next door. Acquaintances slip in and out. Monsoon rains raging outside. “Really?” this paper’s editor-in-chief asked, in between brandy refills, “14 years? This calls for a toast!” And so we raised our glasses for the sixth or seventh or eighth time last night. We have been raising our glasses to Baguio, our dreams for Baguio and our resolve to realize those dreams, all night. In my mind, I’m writing a song…

Nung una kitang makilala, aking mahal, ang aking puso’y nabihag ng ‘yong kariktan. Magmula noon, ‘di ko na kayang mawalay sa’yo. Kafagway sa yakap mo ako’y hihimlay, pinapawi mo’ng lumbay na aking taglay… Kafagway. In my mind the word Kafagway and my wife’s name crossfade.
So there, it’s been 14 years since the day we decided to spend the rest of our lives together, and that life has been closely intertwined with Baguio's last 14 years, or perhaps the last one hundred. And then, another song…

“Halimuyak ng mga pino nariyan na, nagsasabing ako’y malapit na. Ilang sandal na lang, akin na’ng masisilayan – kabundukang nababalot ng dilaw at luntian. Patungo sa puso ng Cordillera, daang malapit sa mga ulap, puno ng talinhaga. Dugo at pawis ang gumuhit ng ‘yong kasaysayan, walang sawa kong tatahakin ang ‘yong kagandahan”
It’s been quite an adventure – we’ve lived in a rundown apartment tucked away in a corner in Campo Sioco (named after one of the fathers of the city), in a friend’s house in Mines View (which once offered a magnificent view of vestiges of Baguio’s gold rush in its early years), in Gen. Luna and Gen. Malvar streets (reminders of Baguio’s role in our nation’s struggle for independence). We now live on Asin Road, a stone’s throw away from the Ifugao carvers’ village, and just a little further down the road is Asin’s famous hot springs (which has drawn visitors since the time of the Spaniards). For 14 years we have walked the streets of Baguio, saw the construction of tall buildings and flyovers that ruined the beautiful skyline, the transformation of Camp John Hay and the deterioration of the Baguio Convention Center. Malls sprouting one after another in different parts of the city, the closing down of theaters along Session Road, a snatcher being chased by the police and young men hurting each other for no reason. And we told these stories to the community, my wife and I. We staged plays that we believed asked relevant questions, that provoked, inspired, painted the real picture. We made films that reminded all of us of the city’s beautiful history. We’ve tried to voice out the aspirations of the community, its heartaches, its dreams…

“Ang mithiin ng Baguio, isapuso mo, itaguyod mo, isulong mo
Ang kailangan ng Baguio, ikaw at ako.”

Here’s wishing you a special Valentine’s Day. As for me and my wife, we’ve got each other – her and I, and Baguio, that’s all we need for an all-year Valentine.

As for Baguio, well, what she needs is you and I.

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