The rickety structure sits there, an old lady
Groaning with blurring memories, coughing from the fumes
Shyly wiping her fading pink frazzled dress,
Unwillingly erasing the name that had weathered time and stories.
Bautista Apartments stands, weary but persistent
Wondering where the ancient narrow Bonifacio street
Bereft of traffic and crowds had winded up or branched down
Perhaps longing for the days when Mt. Mary stood before it
Echoing childen’s cheers and taunts that announced victors in
Youth’s innocent quest for rule of wit and brawn
Then, the pines towered like sentries above this gladiators’ show.
But the old lady woke up one day with looming gray concrete ever growing
Eager to choke the sky, a tentacled giant condescendingly staring
At the rundown glory that winces at the weight of neon
And smell of tarpaulins plastered on its sagging walls.
I bade goodbye to a landmark where I was born.
Sundays of my childhood were blissful at the public market square
Teeming with produce and wares from the mountains and lowlands as well,
Old men in g─strings and coats and pipes unloaded their carved creations
Then traded betel nuts and lime and tales and laughter
And I watched in awe how the red spit prolonged conversations
Until the afternoon yawned and they packed their pasikings for home.
Old women from Ilocos lugged their woven blankets that
We sorted out as paratong or wasig or mercerized cotton
Feeling the lines and texture that was either rough or soft to the skin
In our church dresses that mother haggled for at the hangar
We raced up the steps of the market square, past Kayang Street
And claimed the rolling hills of Camp Allen as our conquered frontiers
Laces and socks snagged against cattails and marapait
Sundays were for chasing butterflies and imaging clouds for dreams
The afternoon wind was innocent of dust and smoke
And the market scene, like a movie, rolled peacefully as we watched from afar.
A new home, a cottage nestled on a happy glen cradles stories
Of strewn pine needles and dried leaves that couched our falls on the wild playground
Of how we waded in brooks where tadpoles and tiny fish were frightened by our mirthful laugh
Where goats and tired horses found patches of abundant grass to feed
Queen Ann’s lace, camia, angels trumpets, gladiola, rosal, calla lilies
Flaunted their heady fragrances or sat demurely surrendering to the sun
All was still and quiet hoping for rebirth after the rains reigned the season
Everyday at seven, we trekked the asphalt path with schoolbags as cargo
Greeting the rubber tree by the Cathedral, a serene sentry at the school’s entry
We passed pine, alnus and eucalyptus trees and surveyed the distant hills before the bell rang
Through the classroom’s open frosted windows we let the breeze in
Green drapes drawn to the sides gifted us a view of Carabao Mountain untouched
Only shrubs and brambles crawled , creeped and climbed the silent slopes
Solitary trees looked across each other as they were orchestrated by the wind.
The rolling hills, the dark mysterious ridges, the unchartered boulders
Were barriers guarding this city from threatening phantoms of blight.
We were jolted one day, for they had slashed the sentinels of our innocence
Chopped the precious trunks that were signposts of our growing years
Shredded the leaves and branches that sheltered our simple dreams
Dredged, drained and dried up the springs of our youthful hopes
They blindly trampled on sacred grounds, unmade places where history resides
Roads are convoluted with traffic snarls and heave a mass of strangers
Concrete and steel monsters battle each other to conquer the skyline
The market turned into a lair of homeless children and agile thieves
Stench is a reminder that something deeper and higher is rotten
They who plan and rule sit on promises and have easily forgotten
That this highland haven can only handle what it can hold.
But let not twilights be of gloom and despair smothered by
Spectres of monstrous edifices of greed and avarice
No, we cannot go back to that blissful serenity
And pine for pine and weep for old familiar places
But we can rage, race for time allowed us still to undo what we can.
So we can finally come home again.
UP Baguio April 22,2012