To begin.

We arrived in Baguio in October. No plans were definite except for one: Joey Ayala was performing at Ayuyang (a local bar) and we were set to catch his set. This photo was taken long after the music had played. I’m seated on a stool with my shirt up and behind me, Kawayan is working some magic. Next to him, standing, is Hasslehoff who gets his name mostly because he is quite a hassle to be around. He tried to pick me up that night and foolishly told me that his favorite book was Coelho’s Alchemist. I’d have believed him but upon prodding, he conveniently lost all thoughts about the book or his work for that matter. I think I must have swallowed my vomit and laughed simultaneously because that whole night I had a bitter taste in my mouth which stood out and it wasn’t because of beer. My favorite line from Hasslehoff is that he left Sagada but before leaving he was to be “initiated into the tribe.” I wanted to hurl expletives at him after hearing what he said. My blood boiled at the thought that here was another white man calling my people natives, indigenous, tribal—like time and an expensive education had taught him nothing. He’s here to earn a buck, capitalizing on our identity and selling us as exotic just as a means for him to act as a middle man, earning enough but destroying too much. I never want to see him again because I’m afraid i might not keep my mouth shut. Here’s one tourist I really really want to send home. And here’s one man I definitely don’t imagine sharing a bed with. Maybe if he said it was Gibran’s Prophet and not Coelho’s Alchemist that was his favorite, I would have thought twice. But as it is, I’m only joking. He doesn’t deserve anybody’s time. People like this must be put in their place. You cannot buy the art of our people and romanticize them as exotic in order to gain profit. You just can’t.

Having him around to watch and be so close to my bare skin made my feel somewhat uneasy but I was comforted later on when I saw what had been drawn on my back. Kaws mentioned something about it but we had all been too noisy and busy to hear what it was. My other friend told me it was something about living a good life and being happy.

I believe in that. I would also like to introduce you to my birthmark which is that white triangle of a splotch in between the person’s face. I suppose that’s the 3rd eye and my birthmark only  appears because alcohol tends to bring out my color. That night, I had second thoughts about taking a shower. Part of me wanted to run to the nearest tattoo parlor and have it inked because really, it’s a beautiful and meaningful piece of art. But not yet, this can wait.

In many ways, that night was a good omen. It was a premonition and when the music filled the room, the yellow lights dimmed and everyone huddled together, quietly and slowly. Most of this last trip up north had this feel to it. We were fueled by soul music played and sung on a tired guitar but boy, did it roar when coaxed. The songs were mostly folk for obvious reasons but I’ve learned that the heart doesn’t really reject that which feels right anyway. It welcomes the good and the true. That’s what it’s all about.

2 thoughts on “To begin.

  1. Can’t trust people who claim The Alchemist as their favorite book. Because that’s the one everyone throws out when they haven’t read much and want to seem more well-read than they really are…. =p

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