Memories keep a city going. Like radio station jingles.
I love to rope my cattle, ride my horses
And dust off my old black boots.
I love to see the sun when it comes up
And sings its country tune.
Where my music plays on, Magic 99.9… Baguio City.
From the mountains, I feel a bit closer to heaven.
I remember waking up to eight degree chills and hot coffee boiling on the stove. I could still smell the scent of pine and the sunflowers blooming in our front yard. There was nothing like that peaceful stroll, up hills and winding roads. The sun was high up the sky, yet the cold breeze still chilled to the bones on the worst days. The afternoon fog set in like the heavens touching the grass. The occasional hail storm, the mild rainshowers. Coffee, conversation, cigarettes, Counterstrike. Such was home, such was Baguio City.
It’s been a while since I’ve been back home. I was born there, I was raised there, and I grew up there. I always felt that back in the mountains, I was a bit closer to heaven. I could trace the faint outlines of the mountains and hills and feel that I was in a very special place.
I miss walking down Session Road, or sunsets from Burnham Lake. Conversations at Sunshine Park, and gazing at the night stars at South Drive. I miss the haunts: Kwago, Ayuyang, Ionic, Kalapaw, heck even Albenking. The brisk walks along Bonifacio Road – the genuine high street. The weavers at Narda’s, the computer shops at every nook and cranny. I miss tea at Cafe by the Ruins, and the beer at Caltex, the calm of UP Baguio and the Japanese Garden. I miss it all.
Home is where the heart is, I guess, and I left mine in Baguio some years back. I build my dreams here, but I always dream of Baguio. Sure, times have changed, and I saw it with my own two eyes. Malls got put up, people started cutting trees on the sides of the mountains and made their own homesteads, and the City Market is still pretty much a heap of rusty iron and disorganization.
Baguio will always be Baguio as long as you can ride an FX all by yourself, and as long as jeepney drivers over-decorate their vehicles. The charms that used to be in Patria de Baguio, before everything became Korean schools and travel agencies. Or memories of how challenges were settled in Baguio Cathedral, where many a bloodied student stained his school shirt with dust, gravel, and blood. Or small kiosks at the remotest end of Baguio’s City Market: tobacco, tapuy ingredients. On the other end was Sunshine Dry Goods, which doubled as a newspaper stand and the best soft ice cream on the planet. Or the store at the back of the Baguio Convention Center where you learned to smoke. A short walk away, Hillside, where you had your first drink. And Caltex Engineers’ Hill, where you had almost every drink you had, discussing Machiavelli and FHM models with your college friends.
In more ways, in different ways, in our own ways: home.
There will always be debates and arguments among the old folks at Luisa’s Cafe about what Baguio should have been: a planned city, a resort city, and the problem of having too many people around. To me, though, home will always be home. Baguio wil always have its charms, as long as Good Taste still serves the best chicken. As long as Pizza Volante keeps its food in large servings. As long as Oh! My Gulay is a pocket of serenity, and Malcolm Square still has old people bullshitting about life chewing on betel nuts while someone shines their cowboy boots. No number of Koreans or call centers at Loakan will ever change that for me. The city is mine, as with every other Baguio Boy and Baguio Girl, and few things will change that. Everything that makes up home is what makes it a beautiful place to live.
And of course, that little house at Brookside. The flower boxes, the iron gate, the dogs running about. Home.
I don’t know when I’ll be back home, and for the most part, I guess I’ll be wandering off chasing dreams and deadlines. There will come a time I’ll be back. At most, a friendly visit home, where from the mountains, I’m always a bit closer to heaven.
Happy 100th birthday, Baguio. Ag-pasyar ac mannen dita.