January 31, 2023

AT FIRST, I stayed with Uncle Roberto Marcelo and Family in their house, at Betag, Km. 6, La Trinidad, Benguet.
[I HAD KNOWN them yet before, as a young boy, when my mother and we – her three sons, went to visit them in their ancestral house (?) at Penged, Daklan, Bokod. Uncle Roberto is my father’s first-cousin – their fathers respective were siblings; and his wife – nee Flora Lomerez, is my mother’s 2nd cousin – mom’s grandma Emang or Sandag was aunt Flora’s grandpa Domerez’ sister].
[AFTER SOME TIME, and when the rainy months came, our boss at the capitol, offered us guards an old office building to stay in the meantime.
SOME MORE MONTHS, and I had to move camp to Baguio City – as most of us guards were from outside La Trindad, except one, who was from [then, Camp Holmes; now] Camp Dangwa. But since we reported for duty every eight hours – alternately and scheduled per the 24-hour period, we were there as La Trinidad folks – though not in the same hours of the day, because we came and stayed – in ‘shifts’. But our routines did not only consist in guarding at the Capitol grounds and later staying in our common ‘bunkhouse’ offered us there; or else, going straight home, after duty time.
RATHER, BEFORE AND after our guarding hours, we went to our favourite restaurants below the capitol; or, we visited some friends or relatives thereat; or, had some refreshments in this or that store and met new acquaintances; or even played billiards! – my favourite sport, with fellows – or gaits – and no betting, but ‘Loser pays’, for the mesada, or table use. And aha!
THERE WAS SOMETHING else that attracted us guards: the offer to learn Karate; by the Ballesteros siblings – including their M/Sgt father, from Camp Holmes – at times, we were in their residence grounds – practicing and rehearsing; sometimes, in some vacant lot near the capitol; or, in isolated, lonely spots offered by some friends or workmates. Of course, in some competitions and tournaments too – we were mostly there as ‘moral support’ for the Ballesteros siblings – all Karatekas that time. If I’m not mistaken, Eldest Paul and 2nd Allan were already blackbelts(?) when we finished guarding at the Capitol.. Me? Come on! I was only the basic learner – white belt. With all those months and years in La Trinidad, I got some experiences and ‘discoveries’ to share: first, I learned
NEW AND DIFFERENT Nabaloi words to wit: charo vis-à-vis our kansharo, “pot”; pimmagong vis-à-vis our timmongaw; “he/she seated him/herself”; weish! vis-à-vis our wey! Or yerai! (Expression for: surprise, dismay, etc.). Let those samples suffice in the meantime. Second,
SINCE THE POPULATION has been ‘mixed’ – ibalois, Ilokanos, Kankana-eys, Ifontoks, Ifugaos, Kalingas, Pangasinenes, even Tagalogs – not only of the 1st or 2nd generations, the lingua franca mostly is [until now]: ‘Highland’ Iluko – sometimes dubbed as ‘Baguio Ilokano’ – as a bit differentiated from the Low-land or ‘Ilocos’ Iluko. Of course, this is to say: that apart from the ‘native’ Ibaloi (or Nabaloi) e.g. in old Wangal and Tomay, etc., and the lingua franca Iluko, we also heard in those times, conversations in: English. Tagalog, the Cordi languages, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, name it. Of special note: a room I rented at Pines Park when I was already teaching at SLU is owned by siblings from original Zambal parents; the next house fronting it is owned by a family from Central Bontoc (one of their sons became my billiards peer, barkada); the house left of where I stayed is owned by an Ibaloi originally from Bila, Bokod, and so forth. As expected, La Trinidad is indeed Cosmopolitan.
HOW ‘COSMOPOLITANIC’ is it nowadays? Maybe you could answer that more accurately than I can this time. My last or most recent stay in La Trinidad was as a Visiting Professor at Benguet State University. I taught Linguistics and Philosophy under the CAS or College of Arts and Sciences in 2019. But back now a little bit to my historical ‘vicarious’ feelings from La Trinidad:
I STILL – AND you still too, can read in the Books the old, serene, and quiet form of La Trinidad: “about 500 hundred houses, surrounding a lake, which was replete with wildlife – deers, boars, sabags or wild chicken, and cattle too, which came to feed and/or drink in the lake – and further, which gave the lake that strange smell – earning the name Beng-nget, or ‘smelly’ or so:
THAT’S WHERE THEY later drew the Spelling Benguet – for ‘the whole’ Province. And well, you also read that Trinidad was the named-after version – of the wife of the Spanish conquistador, Col. Guillermo Galbey. And when you bring these vicarious feelings forth in discussions:
OH, HOW THE eyes of many from La Trinidad sparkle or shine – especially if your audience – some of them, are descended from those ‘Pioneers’ of La Trinidad – or Beng-nget; be they now of whatever ethnic stock ‘mixture’ – Highland, Lowland, ‘Foreign’! Ayo! Ayo! Ino!