Sunshine (conclusion)-A A +A
Friday, September 20, 2013
WHEN the baking turned into a commercial enterprise for me, Dennis proved to be a most accommodating friend. Dennis, there’s no more shortening out. He sent for some. Anya pay masapul mo? Vanilla. And he pointed out where it was supposed to be. Awan ngarudden, that was me. Mano masapul mo? Hmmm – one small bottle. Knowing that he would send for some from the bakery’s own stock, I went for it: And one sack of flour, please, Dennis.
It was also Dennis who, when the store was already closed, would somehow spot me outside, looking desperate, I suppose, and gesture that I go to the side door. There he met me, asked for my listahan, and good-naturedly came back minutes later with a bag which had everything on the list. Perhaps those side door exchanges were so frequent that it came to a point that I got let in through it even when business hours were over. And while I literally dashed from shelf to shelf throwing things in a cart, Dennis patiently waited at the counter for me to punch out. So I kind of thought that Sunshine was never really “closed.” If it “was,” I just went to the side door and asked for Dennis.
Which was what I did many times during the months after that 1990 earthquake which hit Baguio the hardest. When some unscrupulous store owners jacked up prices to quite unspeakably take advantage of a disaster, Sunshine prices stayed the same. So did Dennis, who let me in through that side door even when they had taken to – an “earthquake measure” – letting in only 10-20 people into the store at a time.
When told that Dennis had died, I was very saddened that such a good person would no longer be “around,” the store, the counter, the side door. Like many others, I had to get used to missing Dennis at Sunshine. And to this day, I am reminded of him whenever I’m at the store pharmacy that bears his name.
How did this piece about Sunshine turn into a piece about Dennis? It’s because Sunshine has never been about just bread and groceries, or medicine, for that matter. It has also always been about the good folk who run it, they being fixtures on the Baguio landscape more substantially than their store is. Also, among business establishments in Baguio, Sunshine is perhaps the one with the longest history, a concern which has thrived as she has adapted to a city which has grown around her.
Since the time I was a child, the landscape has changed. Traffic lights have taken over traffic duties at the spot where there once was a cop with a whistle in a police “house.” The old stone market is now a multi-storied building which was supposed to be – horrors – 16 stories high. The old fire station once visible from Sunshine’s side door is now a carinderia row. Sunshine itself is a far cry from the bakery at the corner that it used to be, and actually stands on a lot which used to be the site of a restaurant named City Lunch.
However, amid all the changes in landscape, it is good to see Dennis’ brothers, Michael and Sonny, manning the store, hear their sister June Ellen’s voice on the sound system (“Thank you for shopping at Sunshine...”), just as it was to see their elders helping out, walking around, in times gone by.
When my son was six or seven, I had taken to leaving him in the toyshop on Sunshine’s second floor while I shopped. It was, to me, the safest place: I showed him to the guard and told him not to let this little boy out under any circumstances, not that there could have been any. With the sternest instructions not to leave the toyshop, I left my son be. He enjoyed being around the toys, and I did the shopping downstairs. I fetched him after thirty minutes or so, paid for the inevitable must-have, thanked the guard. It became a routine thing. Talk about habits.
One summer day, my niece Tammy, who spent many a summer in Baguio when she was little, was with us, and she was wont to be left at the toyshop, despite my son's sterling assurances that nothing would happen to them when I left. Said Tammy, "What if something happens to us, Aunt? What if somebody bothers us? What if...?" Said I: "Nothing will happen to you. Besides, the guard is right there..." She still looked worried. To allay all fears, I pointed to the store office just off from the pharmacy, with: "Tammy, if anybody bothers you or Kublai, you and Kublai beat him up, scream for the guard to come and help you, and run into that office. There’ll be a fat man inside named Sonny. Or a not so fat man named Michael. Say you have to sit inside and wait for your aunt... ”
In my time, it was the back of the store, a Coke, and none of the fear at all.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 21, 2013.