Baguio was then the gateway to Banaue and its well-known rice terraces. These were plots carved out of the mountainsides where the Igorots of old would plant rice. There was no irrigation, just the normal rainfall. There was no cement or concrete, just rocks and mud. And yet the terraces spanned miles and miles of mountainside. This was the engineering genius of the mountain people at work. At that time, there was only one bus company that served the rugged land. Dangwa Tranco buses parked in their terminal close to the public market. To get to the inner mountains, there were no tourist buses. It was not uncommon to see adventurous white youth traveling in groups to see the mountainsides. Banaue and Sagada were a journey then, a trip to the past, into a world filled with stories of anitos and headhunters. Barely any “lowlander” visited these mountain villages, which dotted the upper reaches of the unexplored-by-tourists world of the Cordillera mountains.
I loved Baguio in June. The smell of the coming rainy season lingered in the air. The change of season was generally marked by the June 12 holiday, when the independence day parade would be held. Parade participants marched down Session Road, then moved to Burnham Park.
The Philippine Military Academy cadets were always the highlight, at least for me. There, they would continue their “performance” by showing off their drill skills using their rifles, twirling and spinning them to a silent count in their heads. No words, no commands, no drums — just the swish of rifles twirling, rifle butts hitting the ground.
That was also the time of year we would begin to buy and store firewood — pinewood that smelled so intensely incense-like when burned in a fireplace. A smell of the mountainside, and the feeling of warmth and security would waft through the house. I could sit there for hours, staring at the flames, imagining how clean the world would be after the rains, and after the last log had been burned for the year. Fire and water — two opposite elements that cleansed the world for me.
TO BE CONTINUED