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,