Filipinos are known worldwide as perpetually Christmas-spirited people – or at least, many put on their Yuletide attitude when September (the first “brrr” month) arrives. And when it comes to celebrating as a barkada or company, late November and early December already ring out the merrymaking spirit into second-gear, which eventually reaches its fast-and-furious climax on and beyond December 25, until it quickly wanes into a smoky whimper the early dawn of New Year’s Day when all the fireworks have left nothing but a thick smog in the air. The following day, Filipinos wipe out the dark soot that has accumulated on their floors and in their noses.
For LGO, the Yuletide spirit came early December this year via an out-of-town trip from Subic to Baguio City on Friday, December 4. On board an aircon bus were more than thirty vacationers led by their indefatigable Ms. Rose Castillo for a three-day stay at the family’s newly-acquired townhouse at Ciudad Grande 2, Bakakeng Area. The long road trip from the surrounding tropical forests of Zambales ended within the pine forests encircling Mines View Park where the entourage had light breakfast or coffee and some heavy window-shopping and/or real-shopping. Brunch came after; and then, more strolling and shopping.
While sightseeing, one will notice newly-built medium-rise and low commercial structures housing fast foods, boutique shops and souvenir stalls welcoming visitors to this traditional tourist spot. An early hunt for pasalubongs or holiday gifts practically used up the whole morning of the group which had arrived around eight in the morning.
Then it was time to catch up on sleep at the townhouse. The bus parked at Burnham Park and the group rode jeepneys to Bakakeng near the new SLU campus which teemed with students just coming out of their classes in droves, causing traffic in what used to be quiet, pine-tree groves before the subdivisions and the large university campus sprouted. But one can understand why Ms. Bhabes chose to buy a property in the area – not just to have a venue for more LGO events in the future, perhaps, but to allow her and her children to live – or study — in the cool city of Baguio with its rarefied, pine-scented air and sunflower-dotted hills. Undoubtedly, Baguio City has become the prime university city of the North, next only to the megapolis we know as the National Capital Region, because of its alluring character.
The next day came with LGO deciding to hold the much-awaited games at Ciudad Grande and not at Melvin Jones football field in Burnham Park. It was a wise decision as the whole field was overrun by hundreds of kids playing soccer. The sight of those energetic children playing under the heat of the noonday Sun made one feel both happy and sad. Happy that they could experience the thrill of competing in sports, but sad that city officials have resolved to turn that vast field into a parking building for Baguio residents and visitors.
Pity that LGO never held its own games on the field; it would have been their last chance to be children again, running and laughing on that historic field that has hosted millions of people in programs, parades, concerts, picnics, games and exhibits before the “old guards” will turn it into a moneymaking venture of a dull concrete box. But it might give a small consolation that officials have “compromised” and “promised” to paint the façade GREEN in order to make the future building blend into the surrounding landscape of Burnham Park. Ironically, our peso is not green; so we have no clue as to what really motivates our officials.
The irony of spending Christmas early in Baguio City is experiencing not just the day heat in what should already be a chilly December. Old folks used to tell of Kennon Road and its frozen water by the side of the road early in the morning. Or the frost that formed on the grass as the dawn temperature dropped to zero.
Perhaps, it is the El Niño phenomenon, or the presence of more people that has brought about this condition. Strolling down Session road, which is a must for Baguio visitors, somehow tells you people flock the city not merely to enjoy its all-year-round Christamassy weather but also for so many other reasons. For some it could be just to stroll inside the quaint public market to buy veggies and pasalubongs. Or to look for bargain ukay-ukay clothes and bags at the many flea-market stalls around Burnham Park.
We would venture to say that there were as many reasons for visiting Baguio as there were LGO people last week. But one common reason that everyone shared was the opportunity to reconnect with oneself and with fellow workers in a way that leaves you refreshed and reenergized to face the coming new months and new years ahead. Certainly, having a late lunch at four in the afternoon at Solibao restaurant in Burnham Park did that to LGO guys after some hard and noisy games even for a coming final evening together in Baguio.
But the young never tire, unlike the aged, it seems; they just get hungry and sleepy. Life — and vacations — must go on. The holidays have just begun and there was more shopping and sightseeing to do. For that moment, LGO people bonded with one another everywhere they went.
Life is so full of challenges and mishaps that without a process of redirecting toward a personal and a common goal life would not be worth living. Obstacles, mistakes and tragedies lie in front of us all children of God. One reason God Himself came to visit as an infant and to become a suffering human just like anyone of us was for Him to experience the same heat of the Sun we feel, the same frustrations from political and religious leaders we harbor, the same hunger for rice or tilapia we all go through, the same joy we feel when we see flowers blooming and the same glory we see when we see the infinite beauty of God’s creation during a sunset.
One thing is sure: It is never too early or too late to celebrate the many reasons for the coming – or has it really come? — Season of Joy, Peace and Love. The purpose of every little or big thing we see and do gives us the reason for relishing and cherishing life and its abundance each day of our lives – together as a family or a company.
Have a Happy Season of a Million Wonderful Reasons for Life!