May 30, 2023

“Saan maraming puno?”
“E di sa Baguio!”
She is a little girl of eight, a little small for her age, cramped between me and her aunt in a bus going back to Manila.
A little too trusting to be cracking jokes and playing riddles and unfolding her life to a stranger, I realized the encounter to be more than just passing the time on a long, boring, traffic-jammed eight hour trip to Manila.
Saan maraming puno? E di sa Baguio. What an irony! When I was her age, trees are just there. I do not even notice them except when its full of avocado or guava or blueberry, or when I needed a place to hide while we play hide and seek or when it’s time to look for a Christmas tree. Now, a little girl from the Big City says my Baguio got lots of trees. When I can see that the trees were replaced by malls and hotels and houses. Marami na ang puno ng Baguio para sa kanya.
“Uuyyy, kambing!”
“Ayun o, ate! Ang dami nila!”
“Ahhh… Hindi mga kambing ‘yan, mga batang baka ‘yan.”
“Ahhh… ‘Yung pinanggalingan ng milk.”
“Ay ate, saan ka makakakita ng pink na horse?”
“E di sa Baguio!”

She can’t differentiate a goat from a calf. If I have been born in the Big City, I don’t think I’ll know the difference, too.
It is not a big deal. After all, children nowadays know more about computers and the Internet, unless it becomes a matter of life and death. Like, where does the milk we give our children come from?
Yes, and the cute pink horse. I have to leave it to her. Let her find out later that there is no pink horse. There is no pink horse. But how shall I tell a child that when even the books she reads confirm this “fact”. Let the child be a child.
Or not.
“Ate, saan ka magChristmas?”
Sa Baguio, siyempre taga roon ako e.”
“Tagaroon? Ako kasi, sa Caloocan na ako mag-Christmas tapos doon na rin ako mag-school.”
“Ha? Saan ka ba nakatira ngayon?”
“Sa Parañaque, pero kasi may baby na si mama at tito Badong, kaya titira na ako kina papa at tita Baby.”
“Kasi, ganito ‘yun. Sina mama at papa, dating mag-asawa…”

I looked at her aunt. She does not care. Not really a relative but a neighbor. The woman and man in front of us are cousins of her Tito Badong.
Funny, to let a child be a child then we force her to grow up.
The new concept of a family. Branched. Webbed.
The new concept of a child. A ball, passed to one from the other when she becomes a nuisance.
The new concept of love. When you find another man even when you are married, you may fall out of love with your husband, and in your pursuit of your happiness, you may leave, taking your first born, leave the younger to the husband and be happy.
Her name is Chloe. She is from Parañaque but by Christmas she’ll go back to being from Caloocan.
That was our conversation.
And this is the modern times. (MC CHIL-ANG)