Issue of November 11, 2018
Mt. Province

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Circle Game

My passion for playing music serves as a gravitational force that has allowed me to orbit around my tune-loving friends, as well as my folk singer uncles. And while I am among my peers in the former group, I am without a doubt the youngest character when I hang out with the latter. A few weeks back, I was with the uncles, which means I had the added role of being the group’s drayber. An old friend of theirs was in town, and a bonfire had been organized as a welcome. Ever-ready with their elder-related reasons like “Baka makatuglep ak gamin,” or “Haan ko makita dalan,” I grabbed the keys and drove all of us to the house on the hill where the anido would begin.

Call it a chore, but I enjoy the drudgery of driving these uncles – even if they do fall asleep five minutes into a trip, harmonizing my road trip playlist with their snores. (They are folk singers after all.) I figure it’s my way of giving back to them for the wisdom they impart, and the fact that as elder uncles, they deserve the pampering of having a driver, regardless of how poor my driving may be. Also, there’s a small part of me that flashes back to the days of my childhood, standing beside the grown-ups table and watching a game of pusoy unfold while having no clue why this auntie beat that uncle, but how this other uncle beat both their hands. I figure I was in it more for the odd anecdotes and the epic jokes they shared during their intermissions than I was about the card game. It felt like getting a sneak peek into a world much larger than what my six-year-old mind could fathom.

Fast forward two decades later and the feeling remains.

As I sat staring into the anido, the wind began to blow chilly as it did in the ber months. I pulled myself as close as possible to the fire, crossing my arms and staring into the dancing flames. The uncles around me reminisced merrily, laughing in the revelry as Neil Young’s song “Old Man” started playing through the speaker in the background.

“Old man look at my life, I’m a lot like you were.”

It’s the first week of high school, and I am sitting in a Baguio City High classroom. Apart from the vacant armchairs, it is empty. The rest of the class had just been dismissed from PE held outside in one of the fields, and I am the first one back. The glow of the afternoon sunshine pours in through the open door and in the silence, I feel a calm spell come over my first-week jitters. I tell myself to remember this moment, to consciously store it in my long-term memory. Maybe I’m trying to test my retention, or perhaps I’m trying to hold on to the sense of calm the scene invoked. Miraculously, my brain cooperates, and I never forget it.

A crack from the firewood shifting wakes me up from my dreaming as the uncles have now shifted their tales to that of Baguio in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Anidos have a way of drawing out the deepest of memories. It could be the cozy warmth of the flame – or the red wine that usually accompanies a bonfire session. Words like “fireplace” and “Gingerbread” floated through the cold night air, as I listened to their stories about a city dear to me, earlier than my earliest recollections of it. I watch as they tried their best to remember names and faces, scenes and memories from a history they all shared.

“Old man look at my life, I'm a lot like you were.” Neil Young repeats as the song fades away to an end. A calm, easy silence falls upon us, punctuated only by fire’s crackles.

I tell my brain to remember this moment, sitting among these uncles. Maybe I’m trying to hold on to the sense of calm, or perhaps so that when my turn comes to become an old man, I’ll have this tale to share as well.

I stretch my legs and look up at the stars. It is said that what we see now in the present are how the stars looked millions of light-years ago.

Ain’t it strange how we still see them glow.

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