Recapitulation: Baguio

Today is July 1–officially the start of the second half of the Aquino Administration, and my first official day as a former government employee. Happily, I am spending it in the rainy mountains of Baguio with my crazy Cordillera-loving friend Shei, where I have been drinking, talking, reading and eating my way into the ranks of the FUNemployed. Hooray!

Beyond a vacation, Baguio has been the perfect place for crossing this kind of Rubicon. Somehow, the last twenty-four hours have had representatives of all my past lives thus far: government, the arts and academe, PAGASA, the lovers, dreamers and the drunks. And so it has been an act of recapitulation–going back from everything that has been in order to move forward to what can become.

As always, the written word is the constant touchstone. I’ve spent a sizeable amount (at least, for a person with zero income on the horizon) on books at the glorious Mt Cloud, and they have kept me good company, alongside Shei’s chirpy patter and the calm Baguio vibe. Not reading fiction this time around, as much as I’d like to go back to the dreamtime. Instead, we have precious Cordillera Studies Center monographs of June Prill-Brett’s on resource management and autonomy, the ones I’ve only seen in the UP Library; the ADMU special series “Agenda for Hope”, looking at ISD and preserving Philippine Identity at the cusp of the GMA-era darkness and 2010 light; various odds and ends.

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What has hit me the most though is the jolly wit of old William Henry Scott. The back blurb describes his 1987 collection of essays, Chips, as “short on words but long on meaning”, and “might just lead to self-analysis”. And indeed they have. One particular essay, a riff on so-called “rice Christians”, has old Scotty quoting former President Nyerere of Tanzania:

“Men are shaped by the true circumstances in which they live. Suppose it is true that if they are treated like animals, they will act like animals. If they are denied dignity, they will act without dignity. If they are treated solely as a dispensable means of production, they will become soul-less “hands” to whom life is a matter of doing as little work as possible and then escaping into the illusion of happiness and pride through vice.”

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There’s a bunch of crisp, gently barbed shorts on research, ethnography, ethnicity and politics that I wish I had known about when I was still teaching English 10, and I wish I were coherent enough right now to write more about these things. I’m not.

For now, though, it’s enough to stay and revel in this feeling of clean lines, scathing honesty, and funny, yet earnestly spiritual thought. The words are clear, the air is cold and crisp, and the future is a blank space stretching before me. I’m typing this now on an old wooden desk with nothing but a phone and a battered Bluetooth keyboard, and half of me doesn’t want to go back to Manila just yet. Half of me wants nothing better. And for now–dinner.

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