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The only fellow at Herald Express who grows a beard to the disgust of others, and whose job is it to go nowhere and everywhere thus gathering no moss on his acrid-smelling feet, found himself last Saturday in the vicinity of barangay Masla, in Tadian, Mountain Province.
As per census conducted in 2015, Masla has a population of 1,294 persons.
As the bearded one sat on a kabite, (rip-rap) by the wayside, a group of merry children and teens, walking Indian-file along the road, came abreast the seated stranger.
Some of the kids carried camote leaves bundles, apparently as pig feed while others toted “saleng, (part of a dead pine tree that easily burns and used to fire up wood in a kitchen hearth when cooking).
They stopped near where the bearded fellow sat, dumped their loads on the kabite and sat to rest, too, while they eyed the stranger, knowing he was a newcomer in their home grounds.
Feeling satisfied the bearded fellow was no maniac out to harm them, the kids smiled at Ah Kong, not because they liked him but that they found his face comical, it being bewhiskered, unkempt and his long hair, matted.
One of the teenagers was bold enough to address the stranger and said, “Uncle, siguro mai-wed siping mo ay one-pipti ta ibayad mo isnan mang-barbas ken sik-a? (That you don’t have the sum of one-fifty pesos to have your beard shaved?”
Both the stranger and the other kids joined in the laughter that ensued, resulting from the teenager’s happy query.
As they sat, one of the kids began to hum. The others followed.
Ah listened. It dawned on him that he was hearing a song known for decades by the people of Masla and even their rural children of this present generation sing and know it by heart, too.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of the stranger’s mind, the song came floating back to him, like memories read from a book and tucked away to be retrieved when needed.
He heard and learned to sing it too, as a kid, although the stranger wasn’t from barangay Masla. Who taught him the song, he couldn’t remember.
This song of the Masla tribe folks had spread across the Cordillera highlands, and even sung by local country folk singers based in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and as far as in Nueva Viscaya.
It’s a folk song with a melody of rustic character and embodies the ideals, values and life patterns that make the Masla tribe folks distinct from others.
It’s a song that speaks of their humble church. Built when, it doesn’t say in the song. But it’s song that has played a vital role in maintaining solidarity and close-knit interaction among the Masla people even when they are far from their very own land, Masla.
It’s often sang during family reunions and other happy social gatherings.
Considering its proximity to its surrounding boundaries, it’s very surprising that the song has retained its original words that depicts exactly about a church in their own midst and no amount of alteration by others to adapt it to their respective places in Cordillera ever succeeded.
It has retained its unique message just by its first sentence.
Many Cordilerans probably heard of the song. The song simply states: “Wada han himbaan mi ad Masla, ay es-esa nan tawa na; ngem nu mendagem ket men hoy-hoy-hoy han dagem. . . etc.” (There’s a church in Masla, with only one window; and when typhoon comes, it comes a- blowing hard. . .)
Often, when working, weariness and boredom of the work tend to be eased out when folks in Masla hum the song, in like manner the tired kids who sat on the kabite hummed it too, that Saturday.
As the stranger listened to the kids and their song, he, was reminded of a place in Baguio City, on the map of human hopes, at the crossroad between day and dusk besides Magsaysay Road, on the outskirts of the city, stands a building.
Sheltered by a smattering of trees, the building seems, always, sober and in deep thought.
Strange as it may seem, but the stranger’s memory speared back to the time he was introduced to that building in his boyhood and he found out by experience that building never fails to change and shift her splendor.
He knew that building when it was built in its originality and he was profoundly attached to that original structure.
In the stranger’s esteem, that building, like letters, is a monument, a foundation of all that will outlive all other.
Much of his boyhood was contaminated by the aspirations exuded by that building, that taught, “to do unto other what you want others do unto you.”
So the stranger tried, but fell by the wayside numerous times. But the building gently said, “Get up from where you fell and try again.”
Such is the frailty of mortal’s fallen nature, as the stranger confesses to be part of such nature, and there is not a prayer that proceeds from his lips and requires a supplication of the soul to follow it, that his infirmity may be forgiven.
Like all of us, we know too well that washing our hands and faces and taking a bath regularly help preserve our health, yet, the stranger seemed to persuade himself that entering that building every seventh day of a week was sufficient. That stranger’s reason was too shallow.
During the too many years of work that took his attention, and he forgot about that building.
Yet he cannot deny the fact that that building shaped his outlook in life.
Many a lost soul went inside that building and came out with their souls re-found.
That building schooled him like the sun that shone on his face and showed him his spirit with all its glaring and inconspicuous blemishes and errors.
Looking back, Ah is ever thankful that he entered the portals of that building along Magsaysay Road when he was then a gangling kid.
For that building taught him the manners and conduct needed by a fool like him.
Manners like, one day, time long ago, knowing fully well no member of the fair sex would ever give the stranger a smile, he swore to himself that he’ll illicit a smile from any lady he’ll meet on the street.
So he met a lady who scowled fiercely upon seeing him. But remembering the teaching of that building at Magsaysay Road, the stranger said to the lady, “Madam, your beauty conquers man, who is never satisfied seeing the luster of your eyes!”
Know what? That lady really smiled. All because he remembered what the building told him, “Do what you want others to do unto you.”
In that building, the stranger learned to whisperingly croak jokes when cares wanted to drown him.
And the stranger remembered of a time of his teen hood when he was at that building with another friend and they were watching a wedding being officiated by the late Fr. Alejandrino Rulite (Bless his good soul).
As the two youngsters watched, the friend the stranger asked, “Bony, how many wives can a man marry?”
The stranger answered, “Sixteen. Four, for better, four, for worse, four, for richer and four, for poorer.”
For that building at Magsaysay Road has a voice; whenever its bell tolls, it tells the stranger, “Come, Bony, sit down at the church, if for a while.”
That church is simply called, “Cathedral of the Resurrection.” Address: Magsaysay Road, Baguio City.
It stands there, in deep thought, humble almost to a fault – like, too, almost to a fault, that “Wada han himbaan mi ad Masla, ay maiwed il-ila na. . .”