To Baguio Born

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.

Cordillera Day

Environmental Summit

UP Baguio April 22,2012


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