~ Emo Philips
"... but then, everything has its drawbacks, as the man said when his mother-in-law died, and they came to him for the funeral expenses"
~ Jerome K. Jerome
For me, everything screamed Home. I was experiencing a crazy combination of Deja Vu and time travel where everything was familiar and yet new. It was a bit disorienting actually, warping between past and present and it was extremely hard to keep from acting like a kid in a candy store.
We talked for awhile (mostly me sharing memories and insights) before getting up to pack and dress, then went down and had an early breakfast. I had tapsilog, (beef tapa, rice and egg) but Maureen had Frosted Flakes with milk (room temperature) and a banana. We finished eating and were wondering what was keeping the parents (we had knocked on their door on our way down). So we went and banged on the door again. Finally my Dad answered, they had fallen back to sleep! I reminded him we had an early flight and had to get to the airport!
Manong Tony picked us up a short while later and took us to the domestic flight terminal. We went through the metal detectors, were frisked and all of our backpacks had to be checked in. But other than that, the security check was substantially less than what we went through back in the States. We were off to the mountain city of Baguio!
After we unpacked we decided to walk downtown. The Step-Mom immediately took off power walking and soon left us far behind.
Here she is about a half block ahead of us
Step-mom: "Boy, it sure is hilly around here."
Dad: "uh, that is because we are in the mountains"
The parents got interested in all the plants and flowers on display and we left them to find an internet café to check on the kids back home.
We walked up and down Session Road, window shopping and looking to see if I could find any familiar landmarks from the past.
Step-mom: “Did you wake up during the night?”
Maureen: “No, actually I didn’t wake up until 4:30.”
Step-mom: “Oh, well then you had a great night’s sleep!”
Maureen: “Well, I could have slept a couple more hours.”
Step-mom: “Oh, you couldn’t get back to sleep?”
Maureen: “No, it started getting noisy.”
Step-mom: “Oh yeah, the people next door were very noisy”
For my father, Baguio was just a town and Brent was just another one of the many schools I went to. But for me it was the place I called home for five years.
It was only to be a brief visit, we were meeting Mike Pearson for lunch. So, all to soon we were walking down Brent Road to catch a taxi back to the hotel. At the corner of Brent Road and Leonard Wood Road was a shop that carried ethnic goods from the mountain tribes, it was still raining so we decided to go inside. Vintage and antique wares were on the walls and in the cases. Spears filled a big jar by the door, beads, arm cuffs, necklaces were in one case, head axes and heavy knifes in another. Hand woven loin cloths, blouses, skirts and blankets on the shelves. Another row of shelves held vintage backpacks.
We purchased a few items then caught a taxi back to the hotel, arriving just before the parents and Mike arriving soon after. The break from them had done us good, we felt revitalized and ready for another round.
Mike's family had been in the Philippines since before WWII. He came from a mining family and grew up in Baguio; both his grandmother and mother had taught at Brent. He captivated my parents with his stories, especially the Step-mom. She was trying vainly to wrap her head around the American Experience in the Philippines, and Mike was her historical expert.
After lunch, Mike took us on a tour of the usual Baguio tourist spots. Everywhere we went people seemed to know Mike, greeting and conversing with him in Ilocano. Camp John Hay, Mansion House (the President’s summer residence), Wright Park, Mines View.
Step-mom: "So why does President Bush have a house here?
Mike: "No, the Mansion House is for the Philippine president"
Step-mom: "So why is there a US Air Force base in Baguio?
Mike: "No, it used to be a US base. It isn't an Air Force base anymore"
Step-mom: "Wright Park? Is that a common Filipino name?"
He dropped us back at the hotel around 5 pm and I think he was worn out by all the Step-mom's questions. We were tired too and had supper at the hotel and went to bed early.
I awoke the next morning to loud voices: Deja Vu.
Mike picked us up after breakfast for our Brent tour and when we arrived at the school, the guards just waved him in (Mike was on the faculty and staff for a number of years). Mike gave us the full tour and the parents just sucked it up. I had forgotten that Dad had only been to the school three times during the five years I had attended Brent. Now and then I would try and interject with additional information, but the Step-mom ignored my comments and would ask Mike again.
Dad told Mike about "his" adventure getting to Baguio in the fall of 1972 and his subsequent "inspection tour" of the typhoon and flood damage with President Marcos and his entourage. Mike patiently answered their questions and occasionally would glance over at me now and then with a bemused, puzzled look on his face. Welcome to my world buddy.
After Brent we stopped at a travel agency to get tickets to Tacloban; and yes, I ended up paying for the tickets as Dad had once again left his credit card at the hotel.
|Here is Mike wondering how he |
can get out of this.
The Step-Mom giving me the 'evil eye'
Then we went to Mario’s for lunch (I made Dad get his wallet from the hotel first). The Mario's I remembered from my school days was gone from Session Road, this was a new one, complete with modern menu. I missed the pizza, the bread sticks and the Bullfighter posters on the wall of the old restaurant. Mike entertained us with funny stories about his experiences at a New Zealand boarding school.
After that Mike dropped us off at a shop, I think he needed a break. Dad wanted to buy a pair of mounted carabao horns, but the Step-mom nixed it.
Next we went to an Internet Café to check our email and then headed to the Shoe-Mart Mall (SM). We wandered around the mall and checked out the stores. One of the shops sold t-shirt spoofs:
The mall seemed to be built on or near where the Pine Hotel used to stand. It was four or 5 stories high on top of a mountain. There were huge balconies on the east and west sides with unobstructed views of the city. We found a little shop called Figaro’s. They served coffee and sandwiches (the Step-mom glared at me). Dad and I had grilled Spam and cheese sandwiches. We sat on the top balcony and had coffee while we watched the sun set and the fog roll in.
On our last day in Baguio we took a taxi over to the Easter School Weaving Room, where women with large looms were weaving yards of fabric. From this they sew blankets, tablecloths, placemats, purses and clothing.
We all picked out some gifts to take back home and the Step-mom said "what are you doing?" When Maureen explained that she was getting souvenirs for her parents and our kids she gave her a funny look and said "why would you want to do that?" Maureen just gave her the moron look and said nothing. But shortly after that the Step-mom was scurrying around the store and headed up to the counter with her arms full. Dad did his knick knack paddy wack dance. Again. He looked at me expectantly. I asked him what he would do if I wasn't there to bail him out. He didn't even have any cash to pay for a taxi back to the hotel!
My visit to Baguio had not gone the way I hoped it would. I had been planning to take a day trip up to Banaue and/or Sagada to show Maureen the rice terraces, but the Step-mom didn't want to go. When I suggested that Maureen and I go by ourselves, Dad got all worked up and panicky and somehow I let him talk us out of it. I guess he, too, was overwhelmed by his memories from 30 years ago. I was used to an assertive, self-reliant father and didn't know how to deal with him.
Just like that our Baguio experience was over. We ate a small breakfast, I paid our hotel bill (of course!) and then we headed for the airport. We got there, went through baggage inspection which included taking everything out of our bags and repacking. Then we got our boarding passes and went to the outdoor lounge and had coffee. There we met Richard Swart, the Dean of Studies at Brent School. He told us some good stories about his years of teaching at boarding schools. Then it was finally time to board the plane.
This time I got to say goodbye.