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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Magic
























Magic, they say, is a product of fraud, a trick of the eye, an illusion. I went up to Baguio last weekend with little expectation of fun. It was raining the past days and the piles of work I had to endure before leaving were such intense, I no longer had the energy and enthusiasm to explore the old city I’ve never been to. But there behind the cold mist, the jagged mountain peaks and the sprawling shades of green, there I'm telling you, I saw and experienced magic.

There was a feeling of home when I stepped inside our rented place. Must be the sight of our landlady’s small dog at her gates, or the smell of pine trees around. It could be the quiet neighborhood. Or most likely, the six other men that went with me.

I’ll tell you about Bino, who orchestrated a mini birthday celebration with a cake and a candle that says I’m 25, a gallon of ice cream and a bowl of spaghetti with a cheese that gave it an extra kick. There was Carlo, my co-celebrant. At the age of 26, he prides himself the sturdy “suplado;” the small boy ripping his muscles in a journey he calls “road to hotness.”

And then there was Leo and Nimmy who changed my view on relationships, even marriage. It’s just that it was hard to believe in something that caused you so much pain, destruction, something that was never real to me. You see them en sync with their actions, sweet but subtle, so that something beyond the goofiness and puns there I saw a simple truth, even hope springing beyond their clasped hands.

I never knew Mar neither Theo. But I know that Mar is a gentleman and that Theo is not as quiet as people perceived him to be after spending days with them.

Like those two, I never knew Baguio before. The quiet hillside, those towering pine trees, lustful flowers tempting you to pick them, the sun peaking behind the threatening clouds, the morning mist, the crisp sound of the sing-song melody of Ilocano words – all are but foreign before.

In Tam-Awan Village, a little far from the main city, lies a pinch of the splendor of the Igorot culture. It rained on our way up the mountain, mud gushing down beneath our wet feet as countless Northern birds taunt us with their surreal chirpings. You look up and you notice how closer you are to heaven, to the gods and goddesses to whom my forefathers once prayed mightily for good harvest, for sons and wives and other worldly graces. I said “forefathers” because my dear lolo was an Igorot from the Mountain Province. 

The locals danced their ritual in colorful bahag and tapis, black feathers gleaming as their hands swayed in rhythm of two. There was a fertility hut, a house with three rice guardians in it and a maiden goddess hidden behind the bushes watching our every move.

The Baguio I heard is home to many people I know. They would say it is magical. That magic lies within a university where they completed four years of education. Some calls the magic by ghostly stories; tales of apparition and ladies in white picking on the tourists. Others found magic in rows of strawberry beds, the many ritual dances, with those cheap sumptuous meals and the cry of bamboo flute.

But Baguio indeed to me is magical. I don’t know but I don’t think it’s the horses pretending to be unicorns in their pink skins and flowers and rainbows attached to their heads. There was neither delusion nor illusion in its thick fog hovering around its fields.

When Carlo cooked dinner of daing na bangus, tuyo, salted eggs mixed with tomatoes and we feasted on them with our bare hands, there I saw the works of magic. There was magic when I blew that candle on top of our birthday cake. There was magic as we heave, catching our breath as we hike over that hillside with no cab in sight to take us home. There was magic when Theo slammed my arm laughing at my jokes. There was magic when Mar took that picture of me with mountains and trees and clouds and laughter.

Magic. It’s a cliché, of course. But clichés tell us what we experienced, what we went through is something that others already walked upon and that we are not alone after all.

As we bid goodbye in that cold dank bus terminal, there was the usual fear of separation. This is something silly about me, what they call SAD (separation anxiety disorder) although I’d like to think of it as normal, the human side of me as opposed to treating it as a disorder. I thought as we part ways that night, I’d lose the magic. But as I browse on our countless photos, the neverending jokes in Twitter and BBM and future plans of more adventure, I think, and I hope, that the magical stories I’m about to tell are only beginning.

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"A vacation spot out of season always has a very special magic."
Max von Sydow

For Bino, Carlo, Leo, Nimmy, Theo and Mar
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Monday, March 26, 2012

And he left with everything he came for

There is that one great love for every person. For some things will be easy and they will meet sooner than they could’ve hoped for. Others in quite some time yet still the fateful day of crossing distance surely will come. And then there are those who are less fortunate. For in eternity, they would spend the universe’s time searching and searching. Fate won’t be kind to them. The threads of their paths will never meet and on they go further in their sorry barren life. But worse is those who are given the chance to meet yet tragically no one would dare cross the borders of strangeity. From then on, they will have to go on with their lives more miserable than they could’ve imagined. 

It was an official business that brought me that humid night of March 23 in Caloocan. It was a Friday. I was in a meeting and I didn’t notice the time was already verging on midnight. So I packed my things, hailed a cab and directed the driver to drop me off at the Victory Liner bus station in Monumento. 

There were no more buses when I arrived. It was around 12:05 in the morning and it’s already March 24. I walked a few meters from there to this van terminal hoping there are still units en route to Malolos. 

I was lucky. In a distance, I could already hear the barker calling “Malolos, Malolos.” I approached him. The vehicle is nowhere in sight, but he assured me it’s already on its way and that I could wait at the benches with the other passengers. I chose not. I bought two Clorets and two sticks of Marlboro Black. It was my first smoke after half a year. I was agitated. I was tired and all I want then is to go home and sleep. 

The place was dark. In front of me is the haunting sight of the burned down ruins of Ever Gotesco Mall. All around are closed stalls and the ground was dank. 

I was sweating like pig and the weight of my backpack started to feel like punching my shoulders. I looked behind and I saw the benches. There are people there, waiting. A young couple who looked like students; the girl was hugging a pillow and the boy was carrying all sorts of architectural stuffs. Two men who appeared to be in their forties and a woman carrying a plastic bag; a saleslady, I presumed. And then him. 

H e was at the right edge of the bench. He was wearing some loose blue shirt, black slacks completed with black leather shoes. He was clutching a plastic bag with clothes in it. Beside him were his backpack and an empty bottle of mineral water. I approached him, asked if I could put beside my backpack. He obliged, threw away the empty bottle of mineral water and placed his backpack on his left. He invited me to sit. I chose not, instead I dropped my backpack and focused my gaze at the far monument of Andres Bonifacio. 

It’s around 12:35 in the morning and my feet were already giving up. I sat behind him. I sensed his frustration as he kept glancing on his wrist watch. We were both sweating and I noticed we were seated like we knew each other; arms gliding and legs in collision with the tiniest move. I broke the silence. 

“Was it always like this here? The vans taking too long before they arrive?” 

“I dunno. The barker said it’ll be here in a jiffy. In fact I already ate there at the Ministop to while away the time and yet this,” he politely answered. 

I was taken aback by the way he confronted me. He delivered those words with his piercing eyes unhesitantly crossing mine. I broke the stare-off and shy away. And then, again, silence. 

He called the attention of the barker. It was already 1:00 in the morning. I was cursing under my breath. I wanted to go home. 

“It’s scary here. Everyone looks like a criminal or some sort,” I said to break the monotony of waiting.

He chuckled. 

“Actually. It’s dark and…anyway, do you know any other terminal where we can get a ride home?” 

I was surprised with the way he used the word “we.” Suddenly, I felt something bizarre stirring inside me. 

“Well, I was originally planning to take a cab or a bus to Trinoma. There we could get a ride,” I said. 

“Right. But the best choice, I think, is for us to go straight to Cubao,” he answered and here, I was beginning to get excited with the idea especially when he used the word “us.” I loved the sound of it: “us.” 

“Yeah. Besides there are options there. We can even go for those en route to Cabanatuan. Where exactly are you in Malolos?” I asked. 

“Actually I’m from Pulilan. I will alight at Malolos Crossing and then another jeep from there.” 

“How ‘bout in Tabang? You can also catch a jeep there to Pulilan right? I will alight there.” 

“So you live in Tabang?” He asked. 

“Uhmn, no. I still need to ride a tricycle from there and that’s it.” 

At that point, the van came. The passengers piled up and the barker collected our fares. We hopped inside and we were seated side-by-side. 

Once inside, I whipped out my phone and texted my momma. He whipped out his, too. It was a myPhone model cellular phone with qwerty keypad. A few moments more and my momma called. We talked and finished for about two minutes. And then he had a call, too. I heard a woman’s voice asking him if he already got a ride. He asked the woman in the phone if all their friends are there already. At that point I received another call, this time from a friend and we chatted in length. 

We didn’t get the chance to talk throughout the entire half an hour ride from Caloocan to Bulacan. When the van crossed the barrier at the toll gate he advised the driver to pull over at the Tabang tricycle terminal. This puzzled me since he mentioned he will alight in Pulilan. Althroughout, I thought I’ll be leaving him first. 

He waited for me to alight the van first and for me to catch a tricycle and then he waved me goodbye. The tricycle driver was still gearing up, putting on his jacket and checking his gas. He was already about 20 meters away. When the tricycle finally ran, that moment when it was about to catch up on him, he glanced back, smiled at me so that in return, I raised my right hand, angling my point finger, directed it to my temple in an act like a salute, and off we part ways.

There is that one great love for every person. For some things will be easy and they will meet sooner than they could’ve hoped for. Others in quite some time yet still the fateful day of crossing distance surely will come. And then there are those who are less fortunate. For in eternity, they would spend the universe’s time searching and searching. Fate won’t be kind to them. The threads of their paths will never meet and on they go further in their sorry barren life. But worse is those who are given the chance to meet yet tragically no one would dare cross the borders of strangeity. From then on, they will have to go on with their lives more miserable than they could’ve imagined.  
_________
"And he left with everything he came for" by Don't Forget, Clementine
 

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