Cariño: Baguio Connections 74 (continued)

Baguio Stories

“ON THIS day of the discovery of the bottom stair with a map, one of the workers was sent up the shaft of the downstairs fireplace with a stick. After poking about in the dark, he came back down covered with soot and a report: the shaft was clear.

“The gang trudged upstairs. Since the upstairs fireplace had always been a problem, it now seemed to make sense that something was hidden in it. In went the sooty worker. To everyone’s puzzlement, he couldn’t even stand up inside the fireplace. After examination, a conclusion was drawn: there was no exhaust shaft.

So, that’s why the smoke just went into the sala.

“Aha. But how could that be? Whoever built the downstairs fireplace built the upstairs fireplace. Could he have been both genius and idiot at once? Of course, not. The answer and the treasure was in there, some (fire)place. So my dad squinted at the fireplace, filter-less Lucky Strike smoking between two fingers. Maybe he would get lucky.

“One of the gang then got the idea that the fireplace wall they were all now squinting at was a fake. So knock-knock, knock-knock, they went. Their next conclusion was that their knocks sounded hollow.

“The next thing was that the back wall of the fireplace was knocked down: yes, it had been a fake. The real back wall was now revealed. Ooh. Now someone could stand up and poke into the shaft, even travel up it. Up he went. And down he came.

“In his hands was a dirty brown sack. The dirty brown sack was sizable enough to hold a goodly amount of gold. But the sack was... alas... empty. My dad took one look at it. Ever the pragmatic gambler, all he said was, “You win some, you lose some.”

“Later, in private, he told my mom who had beat him to the treasure, the only personality, and quite a personality, who had lived in the house after World War II and before the family moved back in. The name of this personality, however, remains one for private consumption. As do the names of some Baguio families who have been fortunate enough to cash in on unearthed Japanese loot.

“Oyes, Baguio literally sits atop so much gold, in her veins, in buried treasure still unearthed, in white, in green... But as I told my son after telling him this story, ‘Darling, find the gold which is in you.’ Though of course, we agreed that it would be really nice to stumble upon a lot of yellow gold in some cave beside the house, ‘between two big stones beside the stream...’ Or thereabouts.”

Speaking of gold, this column once again salutes Gina Lopez, whom we describe as pure gold. She of the honest concern for her country, its people, our environment. She who battled Goliaths unafraid. She who walked the talk unflinchingly and yet with love, which itself is gold, too.


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