June 21, 2024

Biyernes Santo had always been a lockdown period, ‘di ba? People would limit their movements (except the roving penitensiyas) para sumali sa pasyon. The height of lock-in would be from noon to 3 p.m. – when nationwide we’d sit still below the pulpits– Ayan na! Uulan na ang pitong palabra, to reflect on death/ resurrection.

Flashback: The week of the unholy Lambretta scooters

Sa Baguio, Santa Semana was the unholiest time of the year in the ‘60s. Fiesta time! Exodus ng mga Manilenyo.  Akyat sa Zigzag Road. Yes! Burnham Park was the place to be. Japorms lahat ang society girls and society boys ng Manila. Pasikat nila ang fashionista low-waist pants at ang tight-fitting pedal-pushers highlighting their cute little puwets as they mount the hired Lambretta scooters. Wow! One-fifty Italian scooters for hire at P25 per hour.  Arankada around Burnham Lake. Your crush sitting behind you – her arms around your waist and the wind in her hair!

Kilig kaming promdi Baguio sa instant carnabal ng City of Pines. Kawawa lang ang pine trees sa sobrang carbon print – 500 percent increase in vehicles spouting carbon dioxide. Dagdag pa usok ng 150 Lambrettas at Vespas. Plus the noise pollution ng tambutso.

The bakasyonista noise barrage, walang tigil ang drone over Baguio. Then at noon, biglang bagsak sa zero decibels! Sound of silence! Tahimik for three hours. Lahat ng easy riders nagsimba para sa Seven Last Words. Hanggang sa “Consummatum Est”… Vroom! Vroom! Vroom! 3 p.m.! Balik arankada!

Ganyan ang Baguio Holy Week circus. Kasali rin big-time trapos and stars – to be seen in name brand Swiss sweaters (a la Audrey Hepburn) or, leather jackets (a la Elvis.) Wala pang ukay-ukay noon, where one can get a Gucci bag today for P50.

Kaming lumaki sa Baguio ganoon ang ‘50s lockdown memories. Tatlong oras ng reverence … Reflecting on life and death – Then, vroom! Vroom! Happy time muli!

Flash forward: the Holy Week of the lost heathens

In my mid-50s, naging Buddhist ako. Learning to reflect on death and reincarnation. Hindi ako cloistered-monk lifestyle.  Basta tanggap ko ang mas-realistic orientation nila: Embrace death. Huwag matakot. Kasi it’s a part  of life. There’s a Buddhist saying: “Death? Or tomorrow? – Which comes first? We’ll never know ‘di ba? Kamatayan – we all must face it one day. Yakapin mo. Relax lang. That’s life!

And today, in my late-70s – death confronting us all in the eye. Lahat. Buong mundo, nagkaisa. Parang global EDSA. No traffic. No work.  Lockdown by Covid-19. Kapit-bisig! The grim reaper (black-caped) mowing down white-masked mortals. Whether ang paniwala mo’y dahil sa conspiracy theory o dahil sa planetary karma – that viral international harvester – ahooo!… palapit na sa ‘yo – swallowing large swaths of our fellowmen. Out-of-control forest fire, walang patawad.

Taong 2020 Holy Week (HW) parang naging holy month (HM.) Who knows ang lockdown baka holy year (HY)? Palibhasa, ang culture shock ng walang trapik sa Session Road, isang buwan na pala! HW ‘di napansin. Walang HW circus. Walang goodtimer society girl and society boy. Walang trapos, stars nag-japorm sa Baguio. Lockdown week 4 just went by. Pfffft! Holy Week, na-KSP!

Alam mo, when the Americanos created Baguio as a Summer Capital, hindi uso dito sa highlands ang penitensiya gaya sa Spanish lowlands. Wala kaming tradition ng flagellants dito sa Baguio. Siguro the original Igorots found the bloodletting ritual too frivolous for their taste. Ang colonial, padugo… palabas ang dating!

“Igorrotes” were framed as bloodthirsty pagans by Spanish Christianizers, who later introduced bloody flagellation! Absurd ‘di ba?  And today, “it’s cool” to flock to Kalinga for a bloody ritual of bamboo tiktik tattooing by Whang-od! (By the way, the “primitives“  – our “uncivilized tribals” are more cool spiritually – mas konektado sa Kataas-taasan than those holier-than-thou pilgrims of Manila – who make Baguio the Bagong Herusalem of rowdy fun-seekers. But that’s another story.)

Flash ngayon: Diary of a holy lockdown week

So, how did this septuagenarian Baguio-boy Kidlat spend last Holy Week without the non-essential madness of the locked-out lowlanders? Halina, review natin the week that was:

HW Monday  – Exit ako sa lockdown prison. Withdraw ako sa ATM. Purchased some avocados and passion fruits (Hoy, walang connection sa Pasyon ni Kristo).

HW Tuesday – 499th anniversary of Magellan’s arrival in Cebu. His indigenous slave could speak Cebuano – nakipag-chika-chika sa natives (linguistic proof Enrique (of Malacca) the slave had reached home 100 percent na-buo ang circumnavigation. (Si master Ferdinand M, tepok ni Lapu-Lapu sa Mactan on 27th April – 99 percent ng pag-ikot sa mundo nabuo niya, gets?).

Forty years ago, I filmed that encounter.

Let’s celebrate the spiritual master of the voyage – our indigenous hero, balikbayan#1!

Our Mangyan live-in scholar Ayang assembles a Lapu-Lapu effigy out of bamboo leaves. Our Panay – Bukidnon Wilson makes the Haruan alamat fish, on which sits the rattan statue of Enrique, woven by Ginanoy of Ifugao. Renel, our artist from Antique, strums on the faglong Lumad lute, with Mayann, our Sadanga secretary, jamming on drum. There is an instant party. Masaya, kahit istrikto ang sos-yal distancing… alay kay Enrique!

HW Wednesday – I finish my email announcement of a Short film  contest for 2021:

Let’s film stories tungkol sa sariling bayani – like Lapu-Lapu and Enrique. Overdosed na ang kabataan sa Spiderman, Wonderwoman, Ferdinand Magellan (FM). Yes, na-adik sa Marvel-inspired heroes. Sugod mga kapatid! Deadline: 2021 quincentennial ni Magellan. Hoy, hindi si FM ang bida! Celebrate Lapu-Lapu repelling the conquistador on April 27, 1521! Bigyang parangal bilang national artist si Yoyoy Villame for his historical song hit “1521”!

HW Thursday — This four weeks lockdown, naghalungkat ako sa bodega ng Oh My Gulay (OMG) restaurant.

In my 20-year debris I found a bag of art collages – by classmates of Kawayan, para sa SPED elementary graduation yearbook ‘92 (the year I turned 50.) Wow! memories of parenting, three decades ago. Parang kahapon lang.

Kawayan is in his painting studio when I deliver artworks.  Inspired siya mag-class reunion sila.

HW Friday – Our indigenous scholar from Panay must secure travel pass from City Hall, kasi namatay ang lola niya. Good Friday na pala!— half-day lang open ang office. May his lola dance again her indigenous Binanog dance in the spirit world.

HW Saturday – Payday ng carpenters renovating Oh My Gulay and restaurant staff. OMG closed on March 14. To soften the blow of lockdown, we give our chefs, dishwashers, and waiters graduated pay decrease – guaranteed maski walang trabaho: Fifty percent pay sa first month; then 30 percent pay second month; gradually 20 percent, and 10 percent. After that Bathala na. So, I pep-talk the employees to cut down on non-essentials. I confess that I haven’t used shampoo 40 years, nor soap since 35 years. Paligo ko once a week. (Dito sa Baguio mini-pawis lang). Wala pang nag-faint na katabi ko. Subukan ninyo. Kailangan aware tayo, ng kuskos-piga! – Ads are only for profit, ‘di essential for hygiene. Fake news!

HW Easter Sunday – Total lockdown declared by Mayor Benjamin Magalong. Mamamayan ng Baguio, stay home! Hear Easter mass in your TV idiot box and, for Holy Communion use your app. (Ako, hindi apektado by those advisories. Palibhasa, Buddhist ako.)

P.S. Mayor Benjie, Thank you! Salamat! We loved your pre-Covid closure of Session Road to traffic every Sunday (strictly for pedestrians, for art and durian deliveries.) Super salamat po for  Easter Sunday lockdown. Tuluy-tuloy ang splendid isolation namin – to reflect on the Holy Week madness we Baguio folks did not miss in 2020.

Ay Apo! The sound of lockdown silence. Napaka-sweet!

Kidlat Tahimik, National Artist for film