Monday, 8 May 2017

Baguio City Memories

gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk village well
Our village well.
I finally remembered to take a picture of this well in our village. I don't know if it's still in use but it does look pretty. I've always said that our little village reminds me of Baguio City on the mountains of my home country or at least how I knew the city from many years ago, little and pretty. I had lived there from age 17-21, to take up my Bachelor's Degree at the University of the Philippines. Memories come flooding back, especially when I'm pushing H and I feel how hilly our village is, a lot like Baguio. I've learned not to layer up even when it's very cold, as I would certainly break out in a sweat by the time I got home. I've always loved cold weather and so even in secondary school I had plenty of coats and accessories to keep me warm should I move to a colder place. In the Philippines where a cold Christmas morning on the lowlands would mean 27 degrees C, living in Baguio and experiencing 11 degrees C (the coldest I had experienced at that point) was really something. (Of course there was that winter semester of graduate studies in Finland where I experienced a record-breaking minus 22 C that changed everything I had believed about being cold).

Another similarity is our village here in England is part of a bigger town that is the home of a world-class Military Academy attended by leaders and royalty, such as Princes William and Harry (think Philippine Military Academy in Baguio).

gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk Walder Baguio City University of the Philippines

This day out was in celebration of my 18th birthday (me
in lavender jacket). I love this photo with the girls from the
dorm at The Mansion House (official summer palace of the
President of the Philippines). I remember Hazel, the girl with
her arms raised, noting how happy she looked in this photo like
she didn't have a care in the world. We probably thought we
knew what it was to know about life that time but man,
we were just kids. Oh, to be young again.
This "wishing well" pointed out the similarities to me again. Back at university, since I'd go home only two times every three months, I had to do my laundry every week, manually.  It was all right if only we had a laundry area but we were not allowed to do the washing inside the dorm.  There was this well down outside and the path was pretty steep.  Going down wasn't that hard but going up with your bucket of wet clothes afterwards was a torture! You could see traffic from the well but it was so far down from the dorm that it was only safe to go there in pairs, i.e., don't go washing your clothes alone. Strangers might have a wander or you could fall in and at least someone else could call for help. The well didn't have a pulley so, yes, water was fetched by just throwing a bucket attached to a rope and scooping up as much water as you could and pulling the bucket back up.  On a number of occasions, we just had to get on with our washing even when it was raining. Once, I wore a coat which I thought was waterproof. As we went on I felt I was becoming colder. I realised that I was soaked through and my red T-shirt smeared all over my white shorts. As soon as I got back to the dorm, I just soaked the shirt and the shorts in a basin together, practically dyeing the shorts pink (hear that Peppa Pig, your idea wasn't original). After two and a half years of my stay there, a water pump connected to the well was built, and washing our clothes became significantly more bearable.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk Walder Baguio City University of the Philippines

I could count the number of times I had been to Mines View
Park (me in a Lee jumper), a popular tourist spot in the city.
It's one of those things that you don't pay much attention to,
just because you live there. I don't remember the month or
year this picture was taken.
Before the start of my first term there, my late father scoured the city for possible accommodation. I was bent on living on campus, at UP Breha, but that time, it was full. A lady there recommended St. Francis Ladies' Dormitory to him, which was a good walking distance from campus (though the truth was the distance usually depended on where your classroom was that day, as you need to climb hundreds of steps to get to some classrooms). I wasn't keen on the idea of living somewhere else at first but after checking out St. Francis, my father felt that a dorm run by Franciscan nuns was better than the UP dorm. The building was literally a part of the convent. When the time to live there had come, I learned to love St. Francis Dorm and was grateful that I ended up there after hearing negative feedback about Breha. I had lived there from first year till I got my degree. I could pull up as much self-discipline as I would like to, but sometimes you do need other people to keep an eye on you, and that was what it was like with the nuns, though there were times in my four years there that the discipline became over-the-top that some of my friends were forced to leave.

gaslighthouse.blogspot.co.uk Walder Baguio City University of the Philippines
Me on campus with the Oblation (the iconic symbol of the
University of the Philippines). Funny how I'm almost
back to wearing this loose get-up lately.
Overall, I liked the balance. I was attending a "free" university, arguably the best in the country where students were sometimes viewed as tough and wild and living in a convent always kept me in check. It was lovely to meet like-minded people, but I also liked my individuality. I was one of those they called the "barbaric" students, meaning, aside from the dorm organisation where I was automatically a member because I lived there, I wasn't a member of any organisation.  Sometimes I ate alone and if I had my way, I'd even eat on the stairs. Somehow we lived like nuns, too, with the curfew, praying time and all.  We were 60 or so girls and we took turns cleaning the whole dorm.  That was all right with me.  I even preferred being assigned to clean the bathroom than to wake up at five in the morning to take the rubbish down the loooonnngg, winding driveway.  Most of the time I had the urge to just push the bags and let them roll on their own.

My four years in Baguio would always rank as ones of the best years of my life, going to a great university located in a fantastic city, and I am most grateful to be in a place right now that reminds me of those times. I was a recipient of the Scholarship and Youth Development Program but I am most grateful to my parents for making that dream education happen. Lots of happy memories with friends, the endless chats about crushes, the sense of community in a small college, our amazing professors and instructors, the canteens - upper, lower and lowest, the Pasiklaban before Christmas and witnessing the very first Panagbenga (Flower Festival, was it 1995 or 1996? Help me with this one guys!). I also wouldn't forget our very own Oblation Run which was a more interesting event than anywhere else when you have young, naked men running on a December night. In cold Baguio. I had gone back to Baguio in 2001 with two friends, three years after graduation, to finally get my college diploma. I hadn't been back since. I hear it has changed immensely. It makes me sad but in a way it's also special that the Baguio I once knew is neatly tucked away and preserved along with the memories of my youth.

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