Bata Batanes

Sun.Star Baguio - - Opinion -

AP­PAR­ENTLY, Juan who is from Batanes will re­ally show when in Batanes. I may not know much about Batanes, even be­fore get­ting there, I was not sure un­til the day what to ex­pect. All I would know was that I had had some friends get stuck be­cause of the weather. And that was it.

I would also know that just like Baguio they were very much used to hav­ing in­clement weather for even a num­ber of days, some­times weeks. Mon­soons was nor­mal then and there till now. Storms noth­ing.

An­other was, like Baguio, and which I would like to high­light now was that ev­ery Juan knew ev­ery Juan. On our last day we were hosted by friends from Dep Ed, ac­tu­ally scouts they were. An im­me­di­ate tour they did for us in the south­ern part of the is­land. Even though they did have work to do. I knew they were busy and they would al­ways apol­o­gize. It was fine.

I real­ized that where ever we went there was a guard, some pay­ment has to be made some­how. But with any Juan from Dep Ed it seems that it is all ac­cess and free. I know it's not very much but it seems ev­ery Juan rec­og­nizes them to be. Funny how they would re­late that cer­tain per­son would be, surely a for­mer stu­dent of theirs.

It does so seem that like I would, I can rec­og­nize un­til to­day who my stu­dents are. A lot of them are now suc­cess­ful in their own en­deav­ors but still they would know me as their teacher. I am proud of course. It is also the same in Batanes.

Our new found friends would even re­late about a stu­dent of theirs a young boy who will be run­ning for Congress against the for­mer Sec­re­tary, an Abad in Batanes. Wow. Al­most sim­i­lar to what goes on here in Baguio ex­cept that this time I am the Baguio boy, just say­ing.

Back to Batanes, I find that when trav­el­ing to the is­lands, a fee of 350 pe­sos per per­son is to be paid just to set foot in the is­lands. No ex­cep­tions. Ex­cept of course if Juan is Dep Ed or its per­son­nel, lo­cals and their fam­ily but it has to be proven, mar­ried to a lo­cal would do too and if you wish to just get there for free, a med­i­cal or den-

THE re­minder started com­ing 17 years ago at the city mar­ket. That was long be­fore I ob­tained dual cit­i­zen­ship. At the city mar­ket, I asked a woman ven­dor how much a bunch of am­palaya leaves was from her “bi­lao” pile.

“San­ga­pulo, Tang (Ten pe­sos, old man),” she replied with ca­sual cer­tainty. She was 200 per­cent sure I was as old as her fa­ther.

The tang of it all was truly pungent, sharply painful and jolt­ing. With her flow­ing white hair and desert-like wrin­kles, I swear she was, by con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate, no younger than 75. Old enough to be my mother even as I pre­sumed her fa­ther had long been gone.

I was 50 then, young enough to be her son or, at least or at the most, her “ad­ing”. Still, she sur­prised me with that un­be­liev­ably thick wedge she placed be­tween our years on this mor­tal plane.

I sur­prised my­self. I held my tem­per, hid my dis­com­fort and dis­com­fi­ture. From nowhere poured on me an abun­dance of tact and pro­pri­ety, pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance that only a young man woo­ing the girl of his dreams could muster.

“Maysa man ngarud, nakkong” (Let me have one bunch then, my child), I replied, as non­cha­lantly and mat­ter-of-factly as she had ad­dressed me.

That lifted her to cloud nine. She was smil­ing al­most ear-to-ear, be­liev­ing I had just pro­claimed gospel truth. Hav­ing caught her drift, I also felt good toast­ing her beauty and youth both long gone.

It took me time mulling over the brief en­counter. In-be­tween mus­ings about my own ag­ing, a thought in­truded. My re­sponse should have been more cal­cu­lated and sub­tle, to­wards a cheap­skate’s bar­gain plea: “Ma­balin kadi,

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