June 17, 2024

When I was 12, my parents allowed me to go up to Baguio alone to have a good time. It was their way of appreciating me for helping them in our shack in Balatoc Mines. It was my birthday, too.
So with money in my pocket and a hankering for adventure, I was like a leashed dog set free. My father recommended I go and see Makua, the wild man, being shown at a Burnham carnival.
My main aim, however, was to go to the bicycle arena to pedal my heart out. It thrilled me so to feel the wind on my face and I spent hours circling around in contentment. Some kids took me on for races and I lost each time. I didn’t care. Nobody can take away my joy that day.
I went to see Makua later as my father told me. The announcer outside the tent was rumbling about the not-to-miss opportunity to see a wild man in his natural state, that is to say, his penchant for eating raw meat and grass and drinking fresh animal blood. I bought a ticket at the entrance booth and walked in. There was a fair amount of crowd inside.
In front of the chairs was a cage made of iron bars partially hidden by a curtain. In time, the curtain was drawn up and we could clearly see the famous denizen of the cage: a rather small dark guy, naked to the waist. He had a hairy face and a long, unkempt hair. His eyes had a startled look and he only looked at people in askance. He would shake the bars at times and snarl. He beat his breasts intermittently while uttering “og-og” to no one in particular.
Someone outside the cage gave him a clump of grass and he snapped and chewed it like it was the best salad in the world. He was offered a cup of blood and he drunk it thirstily. Good God, I thought, a thirst like that could kill a man. And the blood! Only a deranged individual could relish it like no other.
Suddenly, a woman shrieked at the macabre display. The men shook their heads, perhaps in complete commiseration or utter disgust. A man at the back stood up and protested. He was not impressed at all with Makua and he heckled so. He declared loudly that the blood was beet root juice and the grass was stripped green onion leaves. He accused Makua as a fake, that he was one of the regular roustabout disguised as stone-age savage.
But the dissenter was a lone voice among believers. The rest of the crowd was taken in despite the shock and revulsion. For what it’s worth, I thought the show was a success and I was certain that Makua will be a regular summer feature in Burnham carnival for the years to come. — Elmer Apacway