Neighboring Baguio

We recently moved to a new house and for the first time since I moved to these parts 21 years ago, I don’t live in Baguio anymore. Technically.

Tuding is exactly the same distance from the center of Baguio as our previous home in Mines View Park. But it does feel much farther. Seeing a mango tree with flowers in full bloom at our neighbor’s garden gives the impression that we’re so far removed from the City of Pines. It’s a mere five kilometers from Session Road, actually. Much lower in elevation… from the junction at the end of Romulo Drive, instead of going up Outlook Drive towards Mines View, we now take the road going down to Itogon.

There are tricycles in our village, another disconcerting feature of our new neighborhood. There are only three units plying the route from Baguio Gold, the mining community down the road from us, to the main road. And while we’re officially inside one of those gated villages, I like the fact that we live on a road that’s practically open to the public. While watering the plants in the afternoon, I watch young students, their mothers and fathers, in a tricycle or riding in tandem on a motorbike, occasionally a guy on horseback, making their way home. 

There are no pine trees within the premises of the new house we’re renting, so I’ve asked the caretaker of the house directly across from us for some dried pine needles to add to my pile of dried leaves. I light up a small fire every now and then to smoke the acovado and mandarin orange and calamansi trees in the garden. According to Melly, the lady who cares for a couple of houses owned by Manila-based families who only come up and stay during long vacations, the avocado tree used to be teeming with fruits almost all year round, but the tenants before us weren’t really friendly and refused to allow anyone from the neighborhood to pick an avocado or two from the tree, even those ones that are hanging from the branches that overhang away from the house and onto the road. The tree seemed to stop bearing fruits since. Nagtampo, another neighbor said. 

This morning, after a few weeks of smoking and watering, I counted close to a dozen avocados on the branches. It would be nice to share these with the neighbors, so I hope the smoking helps the tree bear even more fruits in the coming weeks.

Last Sunday, we invited some friends over for a small gathering, a housewarming of sorts. On our way out that morning to get some paper plates (there’s now water connection in our area, you order water delivered by trucks and stored in tanks), we noticed a group of people with a couple of police officers mingling along the road going up to Outlook Drive, just past the boundary between Itogon and Baguio by a ravine.

I had an idea about what was going on, but I don’t want to talk about that just yet. Not in this post. I’m at a cafe somewhere along Session Road right now and in my mind I’m thinking of the aroma of burning dried leaves sprinkled with a handful or two of pine needles and the smell too of mandarin orange flowers and the way the leaves of the plants in the garden glisten under the gentle afternoon sun after watering. It’s hard these days, but I try to keep my mind on this kind of images.