TALES of the Sunflower
Tales of the Sunflower is a series of fictionalized true stories that have actually occurred in our loved city. They are of the bizarre, the happy, the gothic, the macabre, the mundane, put on paper by a witch. Names have of course been changed in the process of fictionalizing.
It was at this graduation dance that she met Enrique Vinluan, whose father was the principal of the Baguio City High School. Enrique was studying in Manila where the high school principal was actually from.
Enrique was in Baguio to attend the graduation of his father's students.
Enrique was introduced to the class and met with them individually during the dance, which of course was most properly chaperoned by eagle-eyed mothers and fathers.
Enrique was completely enchanted by the young and beautiful Igorot girl and sooner than later, they fell in love. During the thirties, marrying at 16 or 17 was the norm rather than an exception.
They were married soon after that and the ceremony was celebrated with a cañao of mammoth proportions, in deference to the bride’s social standing and ethnic Ibaloy roots. Baguio’s entire population was in attendance. You see, in those days, the credo was no invitations were issued. The credo was "when you see the smoke, you come."
To this day, that is believed. No matter how modern an Ibaloy family is, no matter that you came from the States, no matter that you have doctorate from Oxford. No self-respecting Ibaloy issues or waits for an invitation to a cañao. The Ibaloys believed that the smoke was the invitation. These days, though, many families put an announcement in the local newspapers. That normally means anybody who reads the announcement.
Therefore, all Ibaloys in the City and outskirts went to the wedding of Lupe and Enrique, enjoying themselves hugely on the pigs slaughtered and thetapuy which flowed like the proverbial water. Shortly after that, in a year or so, the couple had a son they named Junior Iking.
The following year was 1940, and Junior Iking was one year old. Barely a toddler, he was again the apple of Marcos’s and Tomasa’s eye. He went with them everywhere. He rode with his grandfather in the old man's Packard and was carried by the house girl to go with his grandmother when she went to the old Stone Market in Baguio.
The months flew by, and 1941 was welcomed amidst the usual New Year noises and revelry.
Then at the end of 1941, on December 8, at 8:27 in the morning, tragedy struck. Baguio City was bombed and the enemy struck with a fierce determination to conquer and annex the Philippines, more particularly destroy Camp John Hay. That morning, hysteria ruled the city. Nobody knew what to do, nor what to say. Everybody went into a mindless, unfathomable madness moving without rhyme or reason. For what to do? Some families ran to the lowlands, some to the forests of La Trinidad, some hid in the vastness of Camp 8 and Camp 7. All these places were covered by trees and had many caves to crawl into.
Finally, shortly in the middle of the year of 1942, the enemy’s occupation forces took over the city and a kind of uneasy calm soon settled upon the populace. The people of Baguio began coming back to the city and life began to take on a semblance of normalcy. Unbeknownst to all but a few, even while this calm was on the surface of the city, the more militant citizens soon went into the guerrilla- mode activities.
Such were the actions which were quietly and surreptitiously moving beneath the surface calm, like a strong underwater tow of an otherwise calm river. The younger group of citizens especially embraced the movement, which peaked early in 1944. The undertow was growing stronger.
One of the most active members was Guadalupe Tabanda Vinluan. While her husband went to work as a seller of dry goods, blankets and pret-a-portdevits Lupe did her thing by joining the movement. She was soon the most adept carrier of messages between the different groups of guerrillas in the city and the nearby municipalities. Back and forth she tirelessly walked. These times, her walks were fraught with danger, her life was in her hands, meeting with the other groups and giving positions of soldiers and troop movements. Her cover was one of selling vegetables in akayabang. Her messages were in her head. Neither her husband nor her parents knew of her involvement in the guerilla activities
Soon Lupe was the handler of a group of messengers and was coordinating all of the messengers’ movements. In November of 1944, one particularly urgent assignment had to be delivered to the guerillas, but there was no one to send, all the messengers being out on assignments. The message was of grave import, communications had to be given on the enemy’s troop strength and movements.
Rumours were rife of American Forces soon to enter the city. They needed local intelligence, crucial in the plan to strike on Baguio. Lupe had no choice, she had to bring the message herself. It was not yet the age of cell phones.
Since rumors of her involvement in the guerilla movement were bruited about, her message delivery had to be planned meticulously.
Dark comes early in November, especially here in Baguio. So then, in the darkening evening of November 12, at 6:00 p.m., she had to go deliver the message. Curfew was at 7:00 p.m., utmost care had to be taken and her route had to be carefully mapped out. Ostensibly, Lupe was to bring camote and watercress to an aunt. It would be an innocent delivery of food in case she was stopped and questioned. Her aunt’s house, which was located in Campo Sioco, was conveniently near the message drop point.
Since both her father, Marcos and her husband, Iking knew nothing about her underground activities, Lupe just told them that she would be going to Campo Sioco to bring camote and watercress to her aunt, her aunt being under the weather and wanting to eat watercress. She decided to leave the house at 6 o’clock, so as not to attract too much attention, bringing along with her servant to carry the camote and watercress. She told Enrique not to wait for her, as she had planned to sleep over in her aunt’s house. She kissed her baby boy, then her father, and told her mother she would see them in the morning.
In the blustery wind and freezing cold which is found only in Baguio, on that November evening, Lupe and her servant set out for Campo Sioco.
They were both bundled up in dark and thick clothes from head to toe, their entire bodies covered, she wore her old Keds rubber shoes and her servant was barefoot. From their home in Lucban, they began to walk to Campo Sioco. She passed through Bokawkan, went through Campo Filipino.
How similar to her high school walk, only this time her walk was tense with danger. All of these places were covered with trees and deep in shadows. In the fast darkening evening, they walked through City Camp, which was an empty swampy area. The only buildings in the area were the bunkhouses for the city’s work crews, mostly empty also. The entire area was filled with trees and most of the area was shadowy and anything within the trees was not visible. Then they came out of City Camp, climbed the Q.M. Hill, and came out of what is now upper Q.M. Hill. Down the hill they walked, and finally reached Campo Sioco. They had walked swiftly, and noiselessly in the shadows, moving through the runo and the sunflowers, with as little rustling as possible, out of sight of the patrolling enemy troops. The plan was for them to go to Campo Sioco first, wait for deep night, and then later proceed to the drop point of the guerrilla troops. They would return to Campo Sioco, sleep in her aunt’s house after the drop, and then go back home in the morning.
(To be concluded)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on March 18, 2017.
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