Early Sunday last week, a review of the past scenes flitted one after another in rapid succession through the minds of four locals – two from La Trinidad and the remaining two from Baguio – of life’s cares and vicissitudes, interwoven with anticipation of the future, or any anxious inquiry into event that were yet to occur.
Names of these four gents are Julio Pilasod and Bryan Sabliwen, both managing brisk business in La Trinidad; Arthur Molicio, aggregates supplier and residing in Baguio and Daily Laborer. They happen to be friends.
After finishing their brisk early walk which started at Bokawkan Road and ended at Burnham Park, they saw the newsboys arranging the daily papers that usually arrive early and daily into the city. Each got his own preferred national daily, then sauntered to their usual haunt – a small cafeteria sandwiched in an alley where livestock are sold along Lakandula St., near the back gate of Dangwa Terminal.
Seeing them, the pretty Benguet waitress whose lovely dimples resembled blushes of the wild sunflower and who knew the four, smiled and without ado, brought to the table four cups of steaming barako coffee; the four nodded in appreciation and began scanning the headlines. Their eyebrows showed mixed reactions.
For one headline screamed: “Teves Seeks Asylum in E. Timor.” Pilasod, gruffly hee-hawed, saying: “This Teves, by trying to seek asylum, likes to portray himself to Filipinos he is politically persecuted – cripes, which is far from the dang truth!”
Absorbed, too, by the headline, Sabliwen looked sideways at Pilasod and answered, “If Teves is all guts as he wants to portray himself on TV, then he should come home, face squarely the charges thrown at him by the government and not skedaddle with his tail tucked between his legs.”
Melecio, borne aloft on the opinion of Cordillera region essence, sniffed like his nose went astray and said, “On your last statement, my friend Sabliwen, I will contradict you. Because it’s only Cordillerans who have tails. And as a matter of fact, Cordillerans have never been known to tuck their tails between their legs. History has proven that, time and again.”
Pilasod, exuding only a Cordilleran smile shaped with lips like a “kabite,” (rip-rap or stonewall) took the cue of the discussion and added, “Wen met ah. Just look at our mixed martial artists, in the likes of Eduard Folayang, Honorio Banario, Kevin Belingon, Gege Eustaquio, Joshua Pacio, Edward Kelly, to mention a few and our boxers, the venerable Rey Tam and his brothers, KJ Natuplag, to mention a few also, they never ran from a fight even when their noses were bloodied. Instead, they whipped their tails and fought back.”
Sabliwen then took the line thinking of Pilasod by saying, “Just look at Director-General Gerald Bantag, former head of the Bureau of Corrections but now charged for murder. The government was suspicious he might skip out of the country. But Bantag stayed put to face the charges leveled against him. He even went gallivanting around, having photos with other Cordillerans and non-Cordillerans during the Panagbenga and other cultural festivities of other highland provinces.”
Melicio, eyeing Sabliwen answered, “Kasta, padli, ti adda ti tunay nga ipus na!” Melicio went on to add Bantag hails from Ifugao, where the oft-chewed moma will never go out of style, no matter how indignant the Ifugao Local Government protest about moma-chewing.
Daily Laborer, engrossed by the appetite and passion of his three friends, said, “Oho! That a tail can express more in minutes, than a person can express with the tongue in hours is truer than fiction.” Molicio, scratched his head and retorted, “Eh, Bony, you talk in riddles.”
Daily Laborer, an utter failure in Anthropology subject but fortunately remembers each tribe in the Cordillera is possessed of its own unique set of tails, with its distinct shape, characteristic and smell, himself a descendant of the once-feared Bontocs, blew into his steaming coffee and continued: “I remember a story related to me by Bontoc elder. The elder said it happened way back in the 50’s.”
“The elder said there was a time a judge assigned in the old Mountain Province presided over a case. His Sala was jump- packed. Despite his sala filled to the brim, the judge was very keen of mind and sight. For he suddenly asked one courtroom spectator – a warrior – to stand up.”
“When the warrior stood up, the judge, with his horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, told the warrior that for once, he should tuck his tail between his legs.”
“Of course, the warrior, bewildered, asked the judge why?” Then Daily Laborer paused his story which made his friends urge him to go on. So, He did.
“Well,” the judge said to the warrior, “Not that I don’t appreciate your courage, young man. In fact, I am all for it. I don’t know what your tail is trying to express, but it happens that the end of your expressive and slow moving tail is constantly twitching in front of the pretty lady seated at your back and it’s distracting her very attention to the court proceeding. The elder who told the story said it was the first time he saw the warrior back down from the stern glare of a judge.”
Sabliwen laughed, having gotten outright the kernel of the story. He said, “Men have been chasing females all their lives. But for a man to be chasing a woman inside a courtroom is a never ending adventure. But the state of affairs of the heart should be conducted not in the solemn confines of a courtroom but outside of it.”
Daily Laborer then said there was yet another story of the same judge during those years when a Cordilleran lawyer engaged in a case before the same judge. Now, this Cordilleran lawyer, with his elegant tail up in enthusiasm, tormented a poor witness so much that the witness, exhausted, asked for a cup of water to drink before he could continue.
What happened next, the group listening to Daily Laborer asked. Well, the judge said to the teasing lawyer: “I think you must have done with the witness now, for you have pumped him dry and his tail is down.”
Daily Laborer took a sip from his coffee and said there was still a third story of the same judge as told to him by that elder. One time there was a Cordilleran lawyer hired by a female named Tickle. On the trial, the Cordilleran lawyer commenced, with his tail twitching, by addressing the court thus: “Tickle, my client, the defendant, Honorable Judge!”
The court audience, amused with the oddity of the defense lawyer’s speech, were driven into an uproar of laughter when the judge, his ministerial tail apparently amused, said in response: “Tickle her yourself, defense. You are as able to do it, as I.”
From an aperture of one side of the mirror, Molicio spoke and said he was reminded of what transpired during the recently held Panagbenga. He was at Malcolm Square, near a group of lady visitors from Manila watching a batch of young and well-built Cordillerans performing tribal dances with the accompaniment of the gongs. The lady visitors were exhilarated as they kept their CPs running, filming the events.
When the dances ebbed, Molicio said he heard many of the Manila ladies swear that when they’d reached home, they would show what they filmed to their hard-headed friends back home who still nurture mistaken and distorted views about Cordillerans. And one of them captured their thoughts when she exclaimed: “And we will show them how well-built, well-muscled, very handsome Cordilleran males are – with nothing to show for a tail except their beautifully handwoven G-strings.”
One of the Manila lady visitors was also heard by Molicio as exclaiming so excitedly that the bare buttocks of the Cordillera male gong dancers garbed on in G-strings were beautiful sights to behold.
When Pilasod, Sabliwen and Daily Laborer asked Molicio what exactly were the words of the Manila visitor that he heard, Molicio creased his forehead, thought for a moment and said, “Well, the lady said to her companions, Hay naku po, mas seksi pa ang mga behinds ng mga Cordillera gong dancers kesa ang mga puwit natin!!!”
And Molicio swore none among the Manila ladies who heard their friend talk about sexy Cordilleran male buttocks bared, disagreed.
Molicio also added he heard from one of the Manila ladies discussing that should one of the Cordillera male dancers propose to her at that time, she would happily die answering yes, knowing fully well that the tail of her suitor would not, in any way, abandon her to her fate. Molicio said he grinned from ear to ear at what he heard at the Manila visitor ladies that his tail reprimanded him for being genteel when smiling in front of ladies.
Indeed, how many and various are the means put in requisition for the attainment of happiness even when contrasted with the corrugated lineaments of a tail or its refinement. We liken them all to the scenes which we meet with, on the broad expanse of Cordilleran patient understanding towards those who consider themselves, tail-less.
As is complimentary, Daily Laborer is reminded of a Cordilleran lawyer, who, proud to have a swishing tail, was presented before a very beautiful non-Cordilleran lady, and he said, “Mademoiselle, if in the midst of this storm, I forget the summer. But, you, standing in front of me, brings back Cordilleran summer in all its freshness and the tail of the moon conjures dreams unparalleled.”