THIS week, we start with Naguilian Road, once the only way into what is now our beloved City of Baguio.
Naguilian Road was once upon a time just a Naguilian trail. It was this trail that the Baguio Ibaloys traversed to get to the lowlands and the lowlanders traversed to get to Baguio in the centuries that had as yet no City of Baguio, no Kennon Road nor Marcos Highway.
It was this trail that a little girl named Maura Alabanza traversed as a mere child, to get to Baguio, which she fell in love with at first sight. She told my mother and my colleague Nonette Bennett stories of how she loved to travel up the trail with her father, a trader, who brought goods from the lowlands to sell in a very young City of Baguio. The goods would be placed in a bull cart of old, and young Maura would insist on riding up with the bull cart to go to the city she had fallen n love with, sometimes sleeping in the cart with her father’s goods.
Her father, it seems, saw how much his little Maura loved Baguio, and ensured that when it was time for her to start school, that she studied in the place where she was happiest. She then grew to be one of the first teachers at Scout Barrio, and went on to marry and raise a family in Baguio. She also died just some years ago in this the place she loved most.
I ask my mother how she must have been related to all of the Alabanzas in town, and my mother says that they are all related somehow.
There are a number I know, beginning with Leonard and Mary Anne, whom I went to grade school with, whose parents are Uncle Jody and Auntie Nelly. They used to live on Naguilian Road itself, come to think of it, in a yellow house where the birthday parties of Leonard and Mary Anne were held. Mary Anne and I would later meet up in the same dorm at UP Diliman.
There is Auntie Evelyn nee Alabanza, married to Uncle Pax Valbuena, dear to my family, part our family, truth be told. He was once one of Baguio’s Finest. As a cop, he used to sometimes borrow this Nova II my father once owned -- for stakeouts because it wasn’t marked as a cop car. Ah, the tales I have of Uncle Pax. My brother Matty was ring bearer at the wedding of Uncle Pax and Auntie Evelyn.
There is Manang Irene Sagubo Alabamza, she who stood blocking my way one day in Bataan, where we both worked for the International Catholic Migration Commission. Askance, I looked at this teacher deliberately giving me a top-to-bottom look while she stood where I would like to pass. Upon ascertaining my identity, she said three words, “I’m your Manang.” Then she ascertained her identity, accent on the Sagubo; her Ibaloy side is related to mine.
As for my mother and telling me how the Alabanzas are related to the Maura whose tales she and Nonette recorded, that is where we pick up next week.