LAST week, a forum for the Baguio We Want. This week, just about Baguio.
Driving through town a couple of days ago, someone in the car groaned at every turn, saying “Ang pangit ng Baguio,” alternated with “Ang pangit pangit ng Baguio,” alternated further by “Ang pangit pangit na ng Baguio.”
Someone else said, “But compared to other places, maganda pa rin dito,” and continued, “Though kagagaling ko sa Iloilo, ang ganda. Napagiwanan na tayo,” proceeding to describe wide boulevards without traffic snarls, a new airport. I added that there was also a new convention center in Iloilo.
And while this bashing of Baguio continued, I kind of blanked out, seeing sunflowers wherever my eyes rested. Sunflowers. In Baguio, we call them “marapait.” This time of year, they dot our green hills like happiness.
These days, we might not smell the pine on the climb as we once did, but surely we see yellow dots on the landscape, signaling home, making us feel thankful to be where we are.
When I was a freshman in high school, one of our seniors in the UB Science High was named Edna Tello.
I mention her here because she had won this national science fair by presenting the many uses of “marapait.” They included sunflower seeds to eat, flour with which to bake, oil for I forget what.
There were tens of uses for that plant, and we marveled at them at Manang Edna’s display.
Then there’s this movie titled “Sunflower.”
It’s ancient, stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni – a war love story that ends sadly. I must have been in high school, too, when I watched that movie with some classmates. I remember most about it these gorgeous panoramic shots of green hills dotted with yellow sunflowers, reminding me of the season when those gorgeous shots can be found right at my doorstep.
Best, there’s this high wind that comes with the season of sunflowers in Baguio. It’s nippy and fresh. We breathe in and deeply of it and it just feels like the smell of home. Ah, December in Baguio – nothing quite like it.
A neighbor or two have poinsettia, that other bloom that requires cold weather. They are a lovely red, our neighbors’ plants. For me, poinsettias are indeed Christmas flowers, also happy signals of the holiday season.
Sunflowers on hills of green. Poinsettias around and about. A cool, high wind blowing. A drive through town that's almost impossible from the sheer number of vehicles front, back, left, and right.
And still, I find myself saying to my companions, “Yes, pangit kung pangit. But it's home and I love it like no other place.” They agree.