Taking note of

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By Erma M. Cuizon

Sun.Star Essay

Saturday, January 25, 2014


AT the close of the Sinulog festival, there’s less verve in the air now, no more Sinulog buntings in most of the parade routes and the town is comparably quieter as I sit in a cab to office and watch people in sidewalks pass by.

I take note of the crowd in an event, sometimes more than the main program. And that was most of what I did in the recent festival season: walked, got overwhelmed by the jovial crowd in and outside the restaurants at Fuente and on the road itself, remembered how the crowd looked over 30 years ago when the Sinulog Parade and Mardi Gras first walked and danced down Jones Ave. in 1980.

A couple of friends and I on that first Sinulog parade on the third Sunday of January walked down the parade route to cover the dancers for then Department of Public Information, which closely coordinated with media. There were the colors in costumes and the sparkle in the air. It was the first time there was a public affair in the city that invited the curiosity of the neighboring provinces. It was the first time the city dazzled in the eyes of the country as a whole.

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But I would settle back on the side during the parade and after, still close in the crowd, to stand by and watch people dancing, singing, worshipping. Last Sunday, I sat where I could see changes in crowds through the years, comparing them then and now. I keep watching.

Haven't you noticed that women are getting into the men's living style? Take note of what you see in a crowd near schools—young women looking comfortable wearing backpacks or knapsacks.

In normal days, I get to watch school backpackers along P. del Rosario and Junquera streets. It would be interesting to take a photo of, say, a line of boys and girls on their way to a restaurant along Junquera St.—all with a pack on their back.

Way before the backpack days, the students had a problem about how to carry things needed in school, like notebooks and books, art materials, more books. In the ‘60s, only mountain climbers wore knapsacks.

But think of the use of backpacking in the cave man’s time during the Stone Age. Men were said to use packing bags made of animal’s skin. What the bags carried were fresh hunted animal meat cut into pieces to fit in the bag. When there was not enough bag space, the rest of the hunted lot was distributed to the other hunters who also had animal-skin backpacks.

In our time, backpacking made of leather is the style for the young, an answer to the problem of bringing around school books, notebooks from home to school and back. Then, the backpack business found solutions to these problems. The bag fastened to the user’s back and strapped across the shoulders was, thus, invented.

The female students, not just the male I talked to, said they like the backpack. But they also adjust to the atmosphere around them, especially the girls, when they walk down the road. A woman student talked of how she almost lost things in her pack when a robber slashed her bag at her back, until an onlooker called her attention and the robber fled.

A backpack would be tempting to robbers good at grabbing bags when the pack at the back isn’t watched over. The girls keep this in mind and strap the bag to only one shoulder, the bag safe on their side for the moment until they’re in school and in safe streets so they could strap the bag fully at the back.

Before we ever heard of stylish backpacks for women, the popular ones were the old hand bags held in one hand. But hand-carrying could tire the bearer easily and women lack the strength to stand it. Meanwhile, a sling bag hanging on the shoulder in one side of the body could also affect the balance of the user.

And so add backpack to the list of male living style sold out to women.

There’s a story told as you watch life in the city from the window or from the side of the road, best done during festivals.

(ecuizon@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 26, 2014.

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