Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year


The Benguet cowboy in the year of the horse

The Year of the Wooden Horse is on us, neighing and galloping as the year progresses. What's in store for all of us, no one can say specifically as we have different birthdates and destinies.
But judging from the nervousness of China, we may see a bit of what's up for us.
The Chinese media are hyped up on 1894, a Horse year, as they recall the War of Jiawu or the first Sino-Japanese War when the Japanese navy defeated the fleet of the Qing Dynasty, the first time Japan beat China.
As both superpowers are getting testy with their respective border conflicts, we should also be aware that we have our own border conflict with China and we are not at par with them as Japan perhaps.
Moreover the Horse Year is seen as full of chaos and economic downfall. Our country is seen as the only bright hope in the otherwise gloomy regional economy but we never know.  
Bangkok Post certainly agrees saying that in this Horse Year, Vietnam, the Philippines and, to some degree Malaysia, are the only bright spots in Asean in terms of relative peace and economic growth. China, Japan, India and Indonesia will be in for a bumpy ride, Bangkok Post added.
During the media briefing here in Baguio, one of the Chinese business leaders told the media to invest in Philippine stocks particularly in banking.
One feng shui master agrees. Business World quoted Andy Tan as saying that “The only place to put money is in Southeast Asia. If you have money, it is best to invest [in the Philippines].”
But again, this depends on your individual birth rate.
BW said: "People born under the Tiger, Dragon, Goat, Snake, Pig signs will experience a good year but Dogs will be the luckiest. The Rat will experience mixed luck with regard to money while Rabbits will experience a neutral, average year. Monkeys were advised to hold on to their cash and Oxen should keep in mind the adages “cash is king” and “health is wealth” as they might experience difficulties. Those born under the year of the Horse will experience a very volatile and precarious first half. Roosters, lastly, were advised to avoid confrontations."
Among the famous Horses is Manny Pacquiao. Those born in the Year of the Horse are not necessarily favored. In general, the Year of the Horse is marked by contrasts, as the animal itself can be both energetic and stubborn. Horses have endurance, but they also have a bad temper and are impatient. An average horse weighs 500 kilograms, can run 40 kilometers per hour and is easily spooked by something it sees or hears, turning it into a raging monster.
In Baguio, we are particularly affected as we are filled with Benguet cowboys. Just listen to the airwaves and you would see that country music is the favorite, the only one in the country with such musical taste.
Back in Wright Park and Burnham, we have horseback riding as one of our tourist come-ons.
So where the Benguet cowboy goes, so goes the country. 

Cowboy Poetry and Baguio Bonfires

THE local media held its Christmas party last January, as always the case. And since we were in the midst of the Deep Freeze, we decided to hold a bonfire at the BCBC office at Wright Park.
Our journalist-singers were reticent at that time so we got the singers from Duyan Cafe to serenade us. They were good but they were the country-folk songs we were used to have.
It's been a long time since I enjoyed a good bonfire. But then when we have lots of trees we can afford to have weekly bonfires in my neighborhood in New Lucban.  Local ordinance forbade it now  so we just savor our pine scent from our memories.
We used to put our feet near the flame to warm and since we were Baguio boys, we wore sneakers. After a time, the soles of our shoes would flex like that of Roger Rabbit. Also our nostrils would be dark with pine tar.
But before our soles melted and noses dirtied, we shared stories. Stories we heard before and repeated because it made us laugh. We shared ghost stories but not too much because we still have to go home.
My gang in New Lucban was not a musical group. Of course, we had a harmonica but that soon was drowned by too much bubblegum. We don't have a guitar. I had a banjo but we only played a few songs from it. It was our older sisters and brothers who played guitars and drums so from them we learned Beatles, James Taylor and John Denver. No reason really not to know the songs before your years. You just had to listen.
Anyway our bonfire days extended to our Cub Scout and Boy Scout years. My troop then (I was leader!) always won in the performance division because one of us is a flamethrower. I used to think he ate fire but it's just a matter of engorging kerosene and blowing with all your might.  That simple trick and we got to win every time. No amount of dancing and singing from the rest of the troops can beat us then.
Our scout master also taught us to cowboy poetry although that is not what it was then. Or it was known already in the US as such but we simply don't know. He just recited  the tales of Pecos Bill and other famous cowboys.
Cowboy poetry is not country songs. It is poems about ranch life (Marlboro country), cowboys and Indians, cowboy values and memories of life long past.
I don't know but because of that I always see my youth as a cowboy youth. We would get blades of grass and chew on them. We have this weed we call the Indian pana which stuck on our woolen clothes, much more the riper ones which really stuck even after the third laundry. So we gather these along the way to school and then shoot the arrows at our favorite victims.
We had horses but this is the wooden one. We watched so many Bonanzas and other cowboy movies that the first time we tried the ponies at Wright Park, we seemed to be natural.
And so it came to pass that these things came to me at Wright Park last week. The heat of the bonfire singed my cheeks as we constantly moved our bodies so that every part gets equal burning.
The best thing about bonfires then is that we buried camotes under the wood before we lit them so when we exhausted the wood for the night, we would dig out the camotes. They would be burned wiht an inch thick of covering but the morsel inside is just so heavenly, the essence of the smoke coming into it and the camote oh so sweet and tender.
I did not bother to finish the bonfire at Wright Park. Had to meet someone for an appointment. Such is life but for a tender moment, we revisited our youth. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Celebratory Gunfire

A TWO month old was on the arms of his father as they watch the revelries probably facing Chavit Singson's Baluarte where the fireworks were always impressive. A two year old boy was asleep in their sala, after being awake since 11 PM. When 2014 finally entered, the baby is dead after being hit by a stray bullet while the two year old never woke up, a bullet in his skull brought him to a coma and he died two days later.
Both were killed in Ilocos where it was indeed a tradition to fire your guns on New year's Eve, a remnant of their Chinese heritage of making noise to drive away evil. In other countries, this practice is called celebratory gunfire. it is accepted culturally in South Asia, Middle East, the Balkans and sometimes in the United States.  But this time it was the evil-shooers who were the evil ones.
Why use guns? We have been asking that for decades and we have not come out with an answer that will stop them.
How does a stray bullet kill. When you shoot your gun exactly vertically, the bullet will come back at a terminal velocity which is slower than when it just came from the barrel of the gun. It can still kill sometimes the one who fired the gun but it is more dangerous when the bullet is allowed to fall n its natural path because it maintains its angular ballistic trajectory and so is faster than terminal velocity.  Nevertheless the terminal velocity reaches 300 ft per second or 90 meters per second; the speed that can puncture the skin starts at 200 ft per second. Most stray bullets hit the head, feet and shoulders, which was the case in the two Ilocos deaths.
In the Cordillera, there were no cases of injuries caused by celebratory gunfire but that does not mean that no one shot his gun in the air. It was just luck that no one was hit. 
We have to congratulate ourselves and yet do something that will stop this practice next New year and the years to come. The police have their annual ceremonies of taping their guns but what about the other gun holders? 
 We are recommending a gun ban during the Holidays similar to the election gun ban. The communist insurgents always declare a Holiday truce so we have one reason to stop shooting anyway. 
But unlike election gun ban, it would be Scrooge-like to recommend an alcohol ban. But we all know that alcohol and noise makes one to fire his gun in comradeship so a ban is important. Since injuries are almost always on the upper torso, we don't want to lose our heads at the start of year. 

January PicDump

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