Mar 2, 2002

OF FLOWERS AND FLOATS

I sent an SMS to Jessel soon after the parade of floats. It was the second day of Baguio's floral festivities that formally began with Feb. 22's streetdancing. It would stretch all the way to March 3 with Session Road closed for booths, road-painting and the like.

The SMS read something like: "The guys here are so lazy, they proposed wT watch the float parade on the Boob Tube!" And she replied along the lines of: "Uh, that kinda defeats the purpose of going there." (The Kantogirl was on her way to Dumaguete then.)

The more adventurous sort among the company forged on and, in the end, all of us trekked to town.

Now, unlike the first day's afternoon streetdancing, the float parade was held in the morning. Since we all had to queue for the necessary warm-water baths, we woke up early for breakfast.

A PUJ or even a taxi cab can only take you so far in Baguio during these festivities. A great deal of the travel is done on foot. Of course, our host Pauline kept on apologizing. If only she knew, I wouldn't have had it any other way! I'm a walker, a very slow-thinking, slow-moving man. So walking was fun except for the fact that we had to take a slightly quickened pace because we were worried of the time.

Aren't we all?

Unlike the first day, there were no PMAers (or we didn't catch them) so the girls had less men to ogle at and squeak delightedly about. I got to my perch, alone but within the company's eyeshot. I watched the floats from there. They were lovely. Man what big budgets they must have had. I have had inside information. Two floats had a Php 100K budget. And these weren't really too impressive. One can only guess how much the others costed! Someone said that the city netted 30 million from that weekend alone.

Back then though, economics took the mental backseat with my senses whelmed with the parade and the gathering. Eyes were watching the floats, musicians, dancers, and spectators. Ears were listening to the bands playing, the audience chatting happily, at times cheering loudly, shouting out observations, or loudly cajoling the float people throwing give-aways to flip some into their raised arms, regardless if they were throwing candies, soaps, ads, or something unidentifiable until you get hit on the head with it.

Skin was feeling the odd sensation of the sun burning it while the cool breeze erased the warmth of the impression. Thus anaesthetized, I temporarily sported the blush of the Baguio locals' cheeks. Such beauty never really used to clinging on me, my face would immediately shed it in Manila.

I found some floats interesting. The general rule, of course, is to create the float capturing the natural beauty of Baguio in bloom. Then you can integrate your company's products or services to create a topnotch advertisement.

The Country Club, as I have heard, was usually one float to look out for. This year, it featured a lush garden complete with miniature waterfalls. And the water was cascading too, not some cellophane replica. How did that fit there? Budget.

Almost all floats featured gardens. Jollibee even had rocks. Most featured some kind of insect made of carton, wire, cloth, and sometimes people. One that might interest Mechajol, the Volkswagen cultist, was his car of choice dressed up in flowers with wings. It was basically a Beetle made to look like a butterfly.

One float had a classical theme. A lovely girl was garbed as a Grecian-goddess. The float was made to resemble a portico, complete with columns made of petals.

Pyramid Eternal Plans also had a girl in the float with a pyramid. This one was sprawling on a cleopatra love-seat. She was in a two piece. The top was studded with everlasting buds and her micromini had its own petals. It could have been really sexy except that it looked itchy. Also, her thighs betrayed goosebumps, which was why I could have appreciated a girl with rosy cheeks all wrapped in jeans and a sweater than bare skin in Baguio. Besides, I was expecting a gravestone with flowers or something from Pyramid Eternal Plans. But that could have been a tad less festive.

AMA Computer College had a computer made of densely stacked flowers stuck on chickenwire. Two mice were dancing out in front. One was supposed to be male, the other turned out to be a transvestite. A cross-dressing mouse didn't make any sense. Until I saw the pair wired to the monitor. Oh. Mouse.

***

FRIENDS AND STRANGERS IN A STRANGE LAND

Yes, I really enjoyed my first Flower Festival. Baguio's Panagbenga was surely a treat I would always thank myself for.

I also enjoyed the company. Aside from one, my good host Pauline, the rest were strangers. Or she was a stranger too, to some extent. But then, aren't we all?

I loved the company, whether she believes it or not. Claire gave me the recipe for salsa, specifying the kind of onion to use. Hazel knew all the mainstream soap operas by heart. Christine knew the soaps too but shared a different brand of insights with me and Pauline until the wee hours of dawn. Rizelle was the silent one. And I thought I would bring home that prize!

It's good to be the silent type especially if you don't have the face of a snob. I can have a very snobbish veneer, a veritable handicap. I look suplado although I'm just really shy. So when I go for the honest-to-goodness demure effect, people think I'm downright condescending.

So it really came as a surprise that the friends and family of the host would think I'm a good person. Or at least treat me as one. So Baguio was one-half getting-to-know-you. The other half, in the cold confines of the guestroom and, during the last day, in the familiar haunts of Baguio, I was alone. And this I loved too, recalling the skin of the loner that I always thought I had already shed.

Everything I found and lost there, I may only hint at here. Between those halves there were cellphone calls and text messages. They were important too, like an anchor to my reality, making sure the whole thing was not escapist.

And maybe I shall never need to forget the call a certain friend's call. There is always tragedy in man's mirth. This call was not just an anchor. That was an anchor being lifted by a crane and swung to smash your skull!

I a couple of familiar faces there too, Francis Anne and Flor. Hey Jessel, Flor's in IBC 13. Anne congratulations on bagging the org's IVP post. I don't think that would be fun. Was that why you're keeping it a secret from mom? Methinks she was too surprised to notice when I almost spilled the beans! Good luck with the post, the secret, and the mom.

My gratitude to the company, the chance meeting, the safe trip, the kind host and her endearing family, the strangers who were less so after a few days, the blushing vendors who were businesslike and personal at the same time, and to all the people back home (online and offline) who cheered my absence and had to put up with my resurgence.