The Baguio We Know
Baguio is in the Heart, Stomach and Liver
At the start of our classes in Grade IV, we were asked to write the obligatory essay, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" and one of my classmates simply wrote, "I spent it in Baguio City because it is the Summer Capital of the Philippines." He was scolded but he was a hero in our hearts.
Baguio writers had to face this conundrum whenever they write about home. Variations to this theme would be, "How I Spent My Life Writing about the Summer Capital" or "How My Politicians Spent my Summer Capital" or as Luchie Maranan wrote in her monologue, "Baguio is the summer capital because it feels like summer all year round."
Members of the Baguio Writers Group re-wrote their "HISMSV" for "The Baguio We Know (Anvil Publishing)" which was launched last September 3 to a packed crowd at the National Bookstore in SM Baguio.
The 17 contributors ranged from Cecille Afable, younger than the city by 7 years, to 22-year-old Enrico Subido who wrote about a secret fishing pond in John Hay where he was transformed into Calvin sons Hobbes. Afable, who edits the Baguio Midland Courier, the oldest local weekly in the country, gives us recipes of Ibaloi dishes like pinoneg (blood sausages) and binga (farm snails) as cooked by her unschooled mother, Josefa Carino, but whose name now graces the oldest public elementary school here.
In writing about Baguio, these 17 writers seem to have located Baguio not only in their hearts but in their stomachs and livers as well. Baboo Mondonedo being a gourmand migrating to Baguio and discovering and loving highland food.
"My first classrooms were canaos. Here is where storytelling took place, where legends and family trees were passed on to the young," she wrote in "Food Lover's Story."
Dinggot Conde-Prieto charted a precise and funny Google Earth of our youth, from the long-lost bazaars, cafes and restaurants to the hidden bars with no stools where you get a half-shot of cheap gin just to warm you up.
“With the wings Baguio had given me. I test the winds of the world,” Dinggot bravely announced.
Padmapani Perez followed it up with her wonderful how-to, “Notes on the Self on Drinking.” Memorize this when you go up to Baguio to drink.
“Tell them how drinking in the thickness of Baguio fog lifts curtains, cements friendships, that drinking is the happy ending that we all seek after a long, hard day of honest work,” Perez wrote.
Martin Masadao wrote about his Lola Felicia's strawberry jam production where he and the other children watch the eternal stirring of the strawberry jam. It was during the actual cooking when things stopped stirring and the old women started telling stories to them about the war in the city. Masadao's tribute to her Lola is part of a unpublished book of essays about cooking and growing up in Baguio and Kalinga which he wrote on his PDA and now can not recover.
The poet Tita Lacambra-Ayala could be one of these women with war stories, having been raised in Baguio during the wartime. Wild sunflowers bloom in Ayala's essay as they hid the Japanese or gold ores and later becomes the artists' emblem when she came home decades later with son, Joey Ayala.
Included also is Merci Dulnuan's “Holy Wednesday Exercise and Reflection” to remind us that Baguio is not only a spirit center but a spiritual one.
Scott Saboy mused about cutting the only “pine” tree worth cutting – the concrete one at the top of Session Road.
Karla Delgado, an international magazine editor and now teaching literary nonfiction at Ateneo, does a Jim Halsema (the international AP editor who wrote about his alma mater, The Brent Book) by writing about her Special Education Class of 1979. She interviewed former classmates and parents about her public elementary years for the gifted.
Grace Subido, the book editor, wrote in Baguio Filipino, which like the city, is a mismash of many other languages. Hers is Filipino, Pangasinense, Ilocano and English with Ilonggo and Spanish. It couls be funny and vulgar to some but comprehensible to any Baguio resident.
“At kung tinatanong ako ngayon kung ano ang aking unang wika, ang sagot ko na lang ay “love” ...o “laughter” ---o “alcohol,” Subido wrote.
Arnold Azurin, who edited the 1991 Cordillera Ani issue for the Cultural Center of the Philippines which is a forerunner of this book, also wrote about drinking and dining with friends in the city interspersed with anthropological musings on the gold veins that runs through the city, Benguet cowboys and the American “dun ker” tribe.
Rolando Tolentino, the current dean of UP Mass Communications, makes it a point to come to Baguio during the sem break and realized he had a lot of baggage with him like the OFWs, call center industries and the ukay-ukay globalization.
Pia Arboleda and Candy Torres, in separate essays, talked about coming to live in Baguio because of love. One left reluctantly while the other one vowed to stay.
In the end, Baguio writers are like my elementary classmate, writing inwardly because the Baguio we know is the Baguio we have become.