Issue of January 7, 2018

Panagbenga Flower Festival
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Alas, Jack, King!

As kids, Christmas was not over until Three Kings was done, thus today we start the read by greeting you a Happy Three Kings! The Three Magi, who doggedly followed a star leading them to the manger in a camel, must have been cursing the apps Waze or Google map for not being around then. By the time they got there in their slow transportation mode, the infant Jesus must have already been a child, although Matthew in the Gospel says the “baby” was given three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

My daughter Ysabelle almost fell in her chair laughing when I said the names of the Three Kings were Gom-Bur-Za (Gomez, Burgos, Zamora) but marvelled at my “wisdom,” ahem, when I said that the visit of the Three Wise Men to the Messiah travelling thousands of miles to worship him was a sign of respect, dedication and faith in God and mankind. Thus, she realized “my father is really a ‘boy wonder’.” Everybody looks and they wonder!

As we end the holiday season today and start anew with a brand new 2018 at seven days old, we pause and remember an old Indian Swahili proverb which says, “There are three things that if a man does not know, he cannot live long: What is too much for him, what is too little for him, and what is just enough for him.”

This year we are confident that we will all live a long and fruitful life because “we know what is too much for us, we know what is too little for us, and we know what is just right for us!”

My late father Arturo always said, “Learn to be satisfied with what you have and not what you or other people think you should have.” We can learn a thing or two from him though he was not a sage or a man of wisdom but a man of and off the street. Today is the nth anniversary of his joining the happy hunting grounds in heaven and his memory lives on.

He was dubbed “King” by some of his friends but he was neither lavish nor luxurious in his ways. A simple man by choice, he would go to work in his white shirt, with a pack of Salem cigarettes, and great motivation to just enjoy the day. He brought me to my first ever cockfight in a “sabungan” at Km. 3 or 4 in Pico, La Trinidad and said the lesson is on how people should learn to trust each other as bets were made and paid on hand signals and word of mouth. He would bet on jueteng, based on an unwritten map, or guidelines – when one meets a pregnant woman, or someone big dies, a corresponding number ensues. Ukis ti saba, pompyang manen! Of course, if he wins, which was most often than not (Swerte sa pag-ibig, swerte sa sugal, unlike me, who is malas sa sugal), the bounty would be Coney Island ice cream or pancit and plywood from Ah Kong’s Dainty Restaurant while he gets to treat all and sundry to rounds of gin at the Favis Store in Carantes Street.

Life was simple with Art. No Internet, computers or the iPhone X given by a dear friend as a Christmas gift. The culture of the old uncles and aunties here in Baguio was that of honor, respect, character, shame, or modesty. He would not dare squat on public land, which was a-plenty then, ta kababain. Never trust a man who does not like music, he says and he croons every waking hour with his collection of Sinatras, and other oldies but goldies.

He taught us to help our fellowmen. He applied for and was awarded a 200-square meter lot at Aurora Hill’s Workingman’s Village. He built a shanty and each New Year. We would play with firecrackers and kalburo cannons with Eddie Soriano and Steve Lara, sons of policemen Tata Uchong and Manong Jun. When Tata died, he allowed his family to stay and build their home and ultimately I executed the waiver for them to perfect the title in their name.

Unlike kids now who play soldiers in cyberspace or PS4s, he asked us learn to deal with fellow human beings in play and in work. We rode on bikes, shared comics, and swam until the Angelus. We drank from the batis or straight from the faucet, shared food, went to visit houses uninvited, and ate Komiles food and nobody got sick. We talked and told war stories, as there was no Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. He gave his full support and did not dictate what he wanted. We listened to him as children should, unlike the present generation who think that it is their vested right to command their parents to listen to them and when they do not get what they want, they rant on social media for all followers to watch dirty linen in public. He was not wealthy materially but like the Three Wise Men, brought us three gifts – love, respect, and being of service to his fellowmen.

The Kings and the King are gone but we feast on this day in tribute to the gifts they gave us and the generation to follow. Sigh!

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