November 1 found Ah Kong loitering at Baguio City’s streets, stretching to fullest a one-day break. November 2 meant returning to the salt mines, back to daily labor.
Ah wheeled towards Otek Street, to view Baguio’s parts, if he would situate himself on City Hall’s flag pole platform.
He did. On that height, was spectacular view. Rose Garden Park, squinted through Dr. Jose Rizal Monument, seems to scribble the garden in sliced contours of fascinating flatbed of multi-colors reaching for the sun.
Looking at Rose Garden and Burnham Park directions, Ah felt being a mere mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
As a kid, he followed trails wherever the city’s mountains led, pocketed bird feathers, ferns, pine needles, earthworms, mushrooms, caught “jojo” fish, “bay-yek,” “tokkak,” cooked them in tin cans, nearly got drowned in rivers, chased sunup and sunset, and the whole enchanting aliveness in between of what were then.
If there wasn’t anything from catching such rainbow dreams, going home tired, hungry and empty-handed, Mother would wipe Ah’s perspiring face and cuddle him in her bosom.
Father would often say, “tsk-tsk,” smile and softly croon, “Oh give me a home, Where the buffaloes roam…”
Then Mother and Father would seat Ah, heap food on the table and watch with wry amusement while Ah wolfed his hunger down from gallivanting through the wilds.
Both would reprove, “Son, mind your table manners,” when Ah tried swallowing more than he could chew. At the sidelines, his sisters and brothers would giggle and guffaw at Ah’s misadventures.
Like the wild sunflowers nodding, every November- December, reminding Baguio people there’s a place where discouraging words are seldom heard, indeed, Ah felt good on old stamping grounds.
Now an arthritic, teeth falling out of places and a head full of gaping holes, Ah stood at City Hall, cherishing being surrounded by greenery he felt familiar with.
It kept Ah sane to be able to smell and hold some grass, after always being squashed like sardines in a cubicle, pounding a keyboard and staring ignorantly into a computer monitor.
Harking, Ah wanted to remind himself of the vitalizing reminder of the city’s receding mountains, still irrepressibly alive in the wilderness of his human spirit, although he might have gotten lost in one forest, yet rediscovering it again.
At such time of remembering, a sense of peace can settle on anyone, like the domestic and foreign tourists that flocked these All Saints and All Souls Days to the city, roaming at Rose Garden, Burnham Park and other areas as well.
Humph! All’s well that ends well, Ah cackled like an old hag, tapped the flagpole and watched visitors take pictures of the City’s seat of government.
Then he sniffed, pushed himself up and decided on window shopping, nevertheless if almost all department stores were shuttered.
His pockets full of holes and lack of peseta, Ah decided to merely peer at things displayed in store windows.
Doing so, Ah smiling mused what would his good friend, Bong Cayabyab, from City Hall’s Public Information Office, say if he saw Ah peering like an old fool into store windows.
“C’mon now, old boy, don’t trouble yourself squinting at store windows when a jug full of tapey beckons for our throats to appreciate it, eh?” Bong would probably intone.
While Ah appreciated a stuffed toy in a window store, he overheard a gentleman nearby, apparently window shopping, too.
“I’m going to buy that pair of lacquered horns displayed when the store opens. I’m going to use them to hang my hats,” the gentleman said to his lady companion.
Rest assured the gentleman and his lady companion weren’t at odds. For they were husband and wife. The wife retorted, “Aren’t the horn upon your head sufficient enough for such a purpose?”
Should you happen to watch a woman and a man, with no or little occasion often finding fault and correcting each other, you will be very sure, they are wife and husband. No?
Ah drifted to another store. On the way, he espied a lady and a gentleman plodding the street, about ten paces distance from each other. The gentleman, walked vigorously; the lady tried to cope, wanting to catch his hand.
Ah was assured the lady and the gentleman weren’t running from each other. For they are husband and wife.
Ah decided resting his weary soul at Malcolm Square for a while.
Looking around, he saw a lady let fall a handkerchief. The gentleman next to her nudged her, pointed to the fallen handkerchief, that she may herself pick it. Ah was assured the two are related. For they are husband and wife.
Nearby, Ah overheard a lady tell her friends around her she was fit, trim and carried no excess fat. She looked at the gentleman besides her for approval and encouragement. The gentleman merely coughed, yawned and grunted.
Ah was assured the coughing, yawning, grunting gentleman and the lady were bantering to each other. For they are husband and wife.
Then he heard another gentleman swear boisterously in front of a lady; the lady looked at him quizzically. Ah was assured they were not cussing at each other. For they are husband and wife.
Next, Ah saw a very sexy lady that attracted notice of every person present at Malcom Square. Except one man.
That one man spoke to her in what may be described as a very gruff. He didn’t appear at all to be affected by her charms at it did to the others.
Ah scratched his head and swore they weren’t cousins. For they are husband and wife. Ah left Malcom Square, all the more confused.
Last November 5, Ah was invited to a gala at Pico, La Trinidad. So he boarded a La Trinidad-bound jeep.
In the jeep, he noticed a lady and a gentleman in profound silence, the lady looked out one window; the gentleman looked at the opposite side. Ah assured himself they meant no harm to each other. For they are husband and wife.
At Pico, Ah alighted, navigated his way among the houses to the place of the gala. On the way, in one of the houses, Ah saw a lady and a gentleman embroiled in a shouting match, short of engaging in karate sparring.
Ah was assured the shouting duo were merely exercising their larynx boxes for their church’s choir singing. For they are husband and wife.
At the gala, a beautiful Cordilleran lady chose Ah for a dance. Astonished at being selected by a gorgeous lady, and flattering himself dreamingly that the stunning lady was madly in love with him, ugly-faced Ah asked why she chose him as dancing partner.
“Well, sir,” the beautiful Igorota replied to Ah frankly, “I chose you because my husband ordered me to select a partner ugly enough who wouldn’t give my husband cause for being jealous.”