Thursday, August 2, 2012


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.

"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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