An academic born in 1892, had merrily caught in a nutshell why many, worldwide, are lured to drinking taverns to gulp contents in a dang bottle often described as firewater.
John Ronald Tolkien wrote: “Ho! Ho! Ho! To the bottle I go, to heal my heart and drown my woe. Rain may fall and wind may blow; and many miles be still to go. But under a tall tree will I lie, and let the clouds go sailing by.”
There is this infection that sometimes plagues a Cordilleran or lowlander. It’s called “pub fever.”
The words, “beerhouse,” or “drinking bars,” as every resident worth his/her salt knows, denote places where people from all walks of life congregate to discuss something mysterious then swallow fiery liquid that addle minds and turn folks to instantly become philosophers, ala Socrates, the Greek philosopher.
In other words, a beerhouse or drinking bars are watering holes in like manner that Malcolm Square or Burnham Park in Baguio City and Strawberry Farm in La Trinidad, Benguet are regular melting pots.
“Enta ag-shat,” or, “entayu ag-shat,” casually blurts a highlander or lowlander to a friend or friends and it is to a beerhouse or drinking bar that they hire post-haste for just that purpose.
Be, an office worker, lawyer, engineer, welder, mechanic, driver, cashier, construction worker, news reporter, or anyone engaged in any kind of work, seems to be afflicted with this sickness of, sometimes or often, making a beeline towards such places.
Daily Laborer, who, unfortunately, is one among these sometimes afflicted, has tried time and again to solve the mysterious puzzle that pulls people to these places that often operate deep into the night.
These places where all sorts of firewater are offered in quantity, have made their appearance for a long time in Baguio City, La Trinidad, and stretches along Halsema National Highway towards Buguias.
But the Daily Laborer cannot solve this mysterious puzzle of why people go to bars with the absolute pleasure of indulging in firewater stimulants which is nirvana to others and hellish brimstone to some.
Take the case recently when the rains haven’t started yet and the Daily Laborer was walking along the main road at Buguias one afternoon. That was the month of June, when, out of nowhere, a lady’s voice rang out and hailed him, saying, “Manong! Manong!”
Daily Laborer turned towards the voice and spotted a lady clothed tantalizingly and wedged between a half-ajar door, beckoning to him with her hand. Curious, the Daily Laborer edged towards her and said, “Anya didyiay, adding?”
The lady batted her eyelashes at him, smiled her prettiest smile that was literally oozing with seduction, raised many inches to the hem of her skirt, then coyly crooned, “Umay ka manong, sumrek ka ta uminom ka!”
Now, Daily Laborer, that time, was in no mood to taste any fiery liquid; he was done with his interview with someone at Buguias and was rushing to catch the passenger van headed towards Baguio.
Daily Laborer scratched his head, peered inside the dimly lit room and saw a pack of “gardineros” in rubber boots happily huddled before a table and giving praise to a bottle by drinking its content and happily smacking their lips and burping.
Then one of the drinkers turned from his seat and said, “Umali ka ketdi sina Lenna, ta makitukdo ka ken dakami! Ay sino sa katut-uyam sisa ruwangan? Addayu ay nagugwapo kami adi nu kumpara din sanay ipugaw ay katut-uyam. Isunga umali ka ta makitukdo ka ken dakami?”
“Come instead, Lenna (apparently, the name of the lady who spoke with Daily Laborer was Lenna) and sit down with us. Who is that nobody you are talking with near the door? In comparison, we are still more handsome than the one you are talking with, So, come and sit down with us.”
Daily Laborer raised his hand to the lady, smiled and headed back towards the road as the voice of Lenna floated to him: “Babay you!!” He ended his way to the Buguias-Baguio van terminal.
Pubs, whether in Buguias, La Trinidad, or wherever in CAR do all to entice customers – particularly males – to patronize their establishments by making the ladies working in such establishments be in the forefront of their advertisement ploy.
Working ladies in such establishments would often position themselves near the establishment door and lure would-be drinkers to avail of the “services” of the beerhouse. Whatever services these are, Daily Laborer has yet to uncover.
Daily Laborer holds this suspicion that possible, these pub owners enrolled in social marketing concepts, then mangled these concepts to suit their advertising needs by making the ladies they employ as tools in their pub advertising ideas.
As one pub owner in Baguio confessed: “Ammom, Daily Laborer, the competition being stiff, I have to be radical in thinking.”
When Daily Laborer retorted by saying, “But don’t you think allowing ladies you employ as come-ons and whispering to would-be customers mysterious delights to step inside your bar rooms will make your pub as “bahay-aliwan?”
To which the Baguio pub owner hastily sputtered by saying, “No-no-no, Bony! In fact, and the truth of the matter is, based on incontrovertible evidence, whatever discussion has transpired between a customer and the ladies working in my pub, I do not have any knowledge thereof.”
When the Daily Laborer pressed on by asking, “Are you sure, Sir?”
And the pub owner readily answered, “I know, whereof, I speak.” Daily Laborer also knew –for a fact – that the pub owner who wanted to be a lawyer but failed the Bar exam twice, was the reason for the manner in which he explained things.
A school marm who happened to be seated beside Daily Laborer one time last August when he traveled to the Mountain Province complained to him of students in their school visiting drinking pubs. To which he nodded understandingly.
Suddenly, the school marm turned in her seat, raised her eyeglasses a notch higher up her eyebrows, squinted and said, “And do you visit drinking pubs, too?” Which caught Daily Laborer off-guard, he couldn’t lie to the teacher as the teacher wagged her fingernail at him.
Although drinking pubs have a wide reputation, the one that sticks most in the minds of most people is that it is an abode of “ill repute,” no matter how patrons explain otherwise.
Its notorious reputation is followed by the line of thinking that many good souls or husbands have felt its sting as they fell by the wayside as snoring drunks.
One addicted pub patron comes to the defense of these drinking dens by explaining, “In a drinking pub, one can observe the hues of human behavior.”
Mecto Lambisan, who resides in La Trinidad and is from Benguet asserts pubs are “social spaces, can be a courtroom, (Daily Laborer failed to ask if he meant a kangaroo court) a therapeutic clinic and where one can practice cursing without looking at his back if a police officer is nearby.”
On the other hand, Ernest Ugpais, a friend of Lambisan counters going often into pubs is where relations begin and end in its confines, meaning too much firewater will ruin friendship when the mind is already befuddled and can blurt hurting words that can lead to fisticuff.
Which reminds of barroom brawls that often occur in pubs. Daily Laborer has often been witness to a drinking tavern enveloped with peace then within after some time, insults are heard by a patron to another.
Then violence explodes. Like ripples on a pond disturbed, drinkers from one table would swarm another table. Fists fly, elbows fly, drinks spilled, bottles smashed, furniture splintered as barmaids and harlots shriek and dive for cover.
And when members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) are called to restore order and ferret out who started the violence, the perpetrators, in handcuffs, meekly follow.
Pubs that highlanders and lowlanders usually visit are plain on the inside. The décor is staid. Prominent are tables and chairs for patrons to use. But once in a while, a drinker comes upon a pub with a huge mirror in the background, cushioned stools facing the bar and a bartender who will regale you with fantastic stories.
Many pub patrons say they are the “quintessential” drinkers, many going there to socialize, remove stress and burden or to be just happy and gain pleasure. To gain pleasure may be true, for what gets male patrons attention most are the pretty waitresses that round up the atmosphere, waiting to get their orders.
Way back in the 60’s and even at present, Daily Laborer has observed how worship places and drinking pubs are so closely conjoined, honorably sharing both joys and sorrows.
There was an instance years back of one afternoon Daily Laborer was at Mangkayan, Benguet when a congregation sang a hymn of hallelujah. Nearby the street was a pub. Suddenly, a drinker was shooed out, obviously for being too boisterous. He was inebriated.
The drunk sat disconsolately at the edge of the street, sobbed, howled and complained it was foul for the pub to shoo him out. As he cried, the song hallelujah floated to him which made him sob more. That is joy and sorrow conjoined.