A reflection on the peculiar city tour
I have not been writing about life of ordinary people in the city I "left by choice" two years ago, until a colleague kept pestering me to resume working on a more serious writeup. This one though is not that kind of stuff on my mind but for lack of a better material I came up with this piece with gusto.
Touring the city as ordinary citizens on a cold January night, my colleagues and I pampered ourselves, with a girl's night out, starting early before nightfall and calling it a day at around one o'clock the following day. (Whew!) Some of us even stayed behind for a round of coffee until early dawn.
No one wore her media ID. No one should be working that night, except for two ladies from the local radio who insisted to record voice clips for live reports. No one, except a famous TV talk-show host, was to be recognized among the crowd of local and foreign tourists as a media practitioner. We were all ordinary tourists in the city that is supposed to attract foreign and local visitors because of its colder days and nights.
Failing to flag down a cab despite an hour-long wait, all ten of us joined the queue of common folk, competing for seats in a jeepney that ferries people from the city proper to their residences near Baguio Country Club. This is the daily fare in this city where residents line up in almost all jeepney terminals to get home.
Our first destination: the Christmas Village in Baguio Country Club. The jeepney driver was too kind to notify us that we have reached the place. He knew we were tourists because here, drivers know their regular passengers. Again, we queued for the entrance to the make-believe village. The P30-fee collected from each of us. No one was saying it was on her: KKB (Dutch treat) was clear in the last-minute invitation I got through my cellphone.
I was amazed at how a young foreigner, about four, was watching with awe the soap suds fell from a "snow-making machine." It was a winter Christmas setting and it was supposed to be snowing all over the place, so there were about four or five such machine giving the place a wintry ambiance, at least in photographs. Mind you, people keep acting it was too co ld to give an impression of having a White Christmas elsewhere.
It did not dawn upon me that I was going to enter a winter wonderland but a friend caught me wishing I had taken my daughters to such a place when they were small. Ahuh! At the back of my mind a childhood dream of a white Christmas has come alive when my daughters are ready to bear their own children.
People were beginning to enjoy, the crowd getting thicker but my interest was waning in time when someone verbalized what my tummy was telling: grab anything but junk. I was ready to walk towards Camp John Hay for a dream dinner at a popular
diner inside the former American military base, but the girls were heading for the jeepney terminal off Country Club.
Excited to act a commoner, one of us asked with pure enthusiasm two gentlemen we met right at the waiting shed: "Me dyip pa po ba?" (Are there available jeepney rides yet?). The men were not paying attention to her and when finally they turned to her, one of them said, "Dayo po kami dito" (We are strangers here). Tourists like us tend to presume they are speaking with locals.
In no time we were walking our way to a popular restaurant that serves local residents with rice toppings of egg cooked sunny side-up, fried chicken and temperate vegetable dish, a must-try for visiting tourists. This reveals we are Baguiotes because we crave for local cuisine. Tourists tend to go to either the fast-food chain stores at the heart of the city or the more elaborate restaurants at the outskirts.
Bowling was in the itinerary but our tummies did not allow us to be at the lanes after that sought-after dinner by the Dangwa bus station. Thank God the place did not serve us dog meat, a common fare that some locals feast on.
The next stop, the night market along Harrison Road, was already buzzing with people before ten o'clock. Two hours after, our hands were too full of wares we thought we got for a fair price. Thanks to another colleague who joined us in time for the search for best buys. Mine was a large bag of trendy shoes from China I intend to sell to nieces and cousins in the province. Thinking of getting a hefty discount if I got a dozen, I was picking one pair after another, that the saleslady could not help but give in to a P10-discount I was asking. The catch is that she offered to replace a defective pair. What if we were really transients! The only assurance that the night market will still be there for the trade-in compromise is that city-hall crew keep marking the road with white paint indicating the mayor still has no plan of terminating it in a few days.
We were ready for the final stop when some of the working girls asked to be excused. Seven finally made it to Giligans, where a round of bottled alcoholic drink failed to knock us down to our knees. I have not been drinking in the last three decades and my fear was seeing people get drunk and having to clean up the mess they would make. It did not happen with any of the ladies, nor any of the men in the tables around us.
The coffee at a nearby 24-hour store was the final stop for the remaining foursome after we have decide to call it a day at around one in the morning.
Text messages and social networking posts the morning after suggest another similar event. Up to early evening we could not settle on the next date but one thing is sure: the all-girl affair last night calls for many more.
By the way, I was not working last night until it dawned upon me it was an encounter worth writing. Keep guessing who started it all. I will not tell you who I was with. It was an open secret for the dirty dozen, the lucky seven and the fightingest foursome. Be there next time you get the last-minute invitation. # Lyn V. Ramo