Friday, January 31, 2014

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. 


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