Baguio’s other Shadows, Nightly

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Many Baguio residents positively agree with the move of city Vice-Mayor Faustino Olowan of having authored an ordinance providing for regular training or seminar for barangay officials on yearly basis, to arm these officials with the understanding or comprehension about updated ordinances, resolutions, executive or administrative orders and how such precepts are properly implemented.

Barely two months after election, Olowan is starting strong, showing a practical way of entrusting his faith on the men and women in the barangays who’ve opted to do “serbisyo para sa barangay, by strengthening their capacity to fulfill their job,” one reason he authored said ordinance.

Men and women in government service (in permanent or job order positions) regularly attend trainings and seminars to further equip them with expertise and wisdom in handling their works. Indeed, in Vice-mayor Olowan’s view, why not in the case of those at the at barangay level.

Ah Kong likens Olowan to a leader who leads, who soberly teaches where to look, but won’t tell you what to see, so the mind becomes industrious.

Olowan would rather lead by empowering others and molding consensus.

Olowan’s sober move reminds Ah Kong of the time when, voted as the youngest barangay captain in the Philippines in early 1980’s as chair of Dizon barangay, Baguio City, he had a close and elder friend, a big brother to him, the late Delfin Balajadia, and former city councilor.

Many residents still remember Delfin. He’s the younger brother of former city councilor and fiscal, Erdolfo Balajadia.

Having been voted as such, Ah was personally invited by then President Ferdinand Marcos for a visit in Malacanang, a rare privilege. Delfin and other barangay officials accompanied Ah.

One day, Ah had a tricky problem he faced in his barangay, Dizon subdivision, and went over to Delfin for advice and what to do.

Delfin said, “Bony, ading ko, go trek the mountains, listen among the living things there and learn for thyself.”

So Ah did what Delfin told and looked attentively around the mountains. But no voice spoke to him.

He went back to Delfin, who asked,” What did you see?”

Ah said, “Manong Delfin, I saw nothing, just spotted a brook flowing on, a bird flew by with something in its beak, a spider in its cobweb, an ant carrying something and a dog besides young pups.”

Delfin smiled and said, “Ading Bony, hast thou looked upon these, yet received no instruction?”

And Delfin continued, “Didn’t the brook tell you it’s not going to be idle, but must go on to meet the sea? You didn’t see the bird flying by, to feed its little ones? Haven’t you seen the spider, repairing its cobweb, or the ant carrying food  and hurring home? Haven’t you noticed the dog guarding its young pups?”

Hearing Delfin, Ah bowed his head in shame. But Delfin, his big brother smiled and patted Ah.

And though Ah was then young that time and now a doddering old fool, he never had reason to doubt that   industry of the mind – like what Vice-mayor Olowan and Delfin would want us to consider – is a pleasure for a very smooth, delightful road for a traveler even in the worst and rugged road of life.

Having momentarily cast our attention to our Vice-Mayor, who sports a beard – to the delight of the fairer sex – just like Ah who’s bearded – to the undelightful shudder of women shudder looking at him, Ah would like to update Olowan:

“Vice-Mayor, Manong, there’s this researcher who claims that men sporting beards have mouths that are more dirty than that of a dog.”

Ah says indignantly, “Preposterous, to say the least! What we gonna do with this researcher, eh?”

“May I propose we hunt down this researcher wherever he is and dunk his/her head in a pail of water for coming out with such a superkalifragulisticexpealidaitios research, demeaning the most superb art of agriculture – the growing and cultivation of beards. What say you, to the proposal, my Vice-mayor?”

*****

Ah Kong arrived in Baguio late past evening last Sunday, alighted from a bus in a terminal at slaughterhouse Compound, in Baguio City.

He decided to buy bread before going home. He looked at his watch. It was past one o’clock.

On impulse, instead of taking a taxi, Ah decided to walk upwards Magsaysay Road, leading to the city’s innermost, where there, he hoped to find a bakery still open.

He felt, at that unholy hours, even when the tired eyes of many mortals have already sunk into slumber, he was treading upon dangerous ground by walking alone.

He seemed partly right. Along the way, he noticed a watchman (security guard) forgot the hour and had nodded off to sleep.

Daily laborers were at rest, tired but happy; nothing wakes.

Only revelry or hazards rearing their heads from their darkened hoods.

Along the way, Ah saw a drunk smash a bottle filled with wine besides the sidewalk, then stared at Ah with a challenging glare, while spittle dribbled off his mouth.

Ah knew that night muggers and burglars stalked their midnight round and the hell-bent would raise their arms against any person.

Reaching near where the first overpass at Magsaysay Avenue was, Ah was spotted by the ladies of the night, so-called “Magsaysay Express girls,” who mingle with shady characters of the night and would readily rob any unsuspecting victim.

Ah shook his head and thought no longer to waste the night over the page of the city’s hidden characters of the night, and discontinue pursuing his solitary walk, where swagger of these characters rise and sink according to their whims.

Ah unobtrusively observed Baguio City’s other characters of the night, their pretension, ever changing, stalked before him, their pretension kept up the charade, and like an insolent one, but seemed silenced by its own needs.

Despite the city light, a pall of gloom seemed hung by the atmosphere.  A dim bulb along the sidewalk emitted a yellow gleam while the   laughter of the “Magsaysay Express girls” bounced hauntingly along the shuttered buildings.

But with the clock that kept step with the hour, all the bustle of human pride was forgotten for an hour like this and the night displayed the emptiness of human self-regard.

There comes a time in this kind of solitude, when the city itself and its inhabitants may wish away Baguio City’s shady characters of the night. But it won’t happen.

There, at Magsaysay Road, Ah stood, which, some few hours ago, were crowded. As the sun sunk, so the crowd dispersed.

And the characters of the night appeared, and those who appeared no longer wore their masks or attempted to even hide their lewdness.

But who are these night stalkers who make the streets their Sala and home?  What pushed them into this kind of life, Ah asked himself.

Yes, they are strangers, which Ah suspected, “Maybe their circumstances are too humble to expect redress and whose distresses are too huge even for pity.”

Ah wondered why and when they started on the road to self-debasement, and now standing laughing at the sidewalks, waiting for any carouser, who may fall prey to their lewd invitation – and the clutches of the night.

Ah questioned himself why was he standing there at Magsaysay Road at an unholy hour, watching those scenes and witnessing street-hardened stalkers of the night whose hearts have become insensible and devoid of tenderness?

For these hardened women who can even out-curse Satan himself, they believe men were the cause of their betrayal in life, and they are out on the streets to prey on any man and exact vengeance, no exception to the rules.

He might as well be home right now, instead of the street, where at home there are always exception to the rules.

Like a friend, Sylvia Ma-eg, 51, of Ah who one day discovered there were no exception to the rules when she said one day to her husband:

Sylvia: “Lakay, mapan ta man ag-dinner idiay Session road, uray maminsan maka-tawen.”

Sylvia’s husband (A professor) answered his wife in English: “I do not go out with married women, sorry.”

Sylvia protested and said, “Ngem siak ti buk-bukod mo nga asawam!”

Sylvia’s husband, unruffled by the protestation of his wife, coolly retorted, “I make no exception to the rules.”

Yes, at home, even if going home late, you can find reproaches, and relief, unlike watching the shadows of the night suing for tenderness, and finding none.

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