Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Day with Gulayat en Lolo Badong

     Christmas has always been my favorite time of year.
It is because my mom had set this season apart as special from any other date in my childhood memory.

     Together with the images of carollers, gift giving, Santa Claus and good behavior being rewarded with very nice gifts, she instilled in us as children a wonder for the season, being the birthday of the baby Jesus. In keeping with Filipino tradition, our family comes together, hears Mass, and shares the Noche Buena meal with cousins, uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces from my daddy's side of the family on the 24th of December.

     In recent years, we've taken to going out on short trips as a family on Christmas day, this time with mama's side of the family. We've marveled in the wonder and beauty of Sagada's un-commercialized and tourist-free charms. We've had several picnics in Tagaytay, just soaking in the quiet presence of Taal Volcano, jostled and valiantly made our way down Session Road during the Christmas rush, just to feel the hug-inviting and smell the pine-fresh  climate of Baguio.

     This year, my brother and I have been blessed to have the opportunity to take a road trip to Baguio again with mama and her siblings.  With the newly opened, [and still toll-free  :-) ] Mindanao Avenue-NLEX connection, we were able to save one hour off our trip and reached Baguio at four and a half hours, counting rest stops and breakfast on the way  :-) . 

     This year, we stopped by Hacienda Luisita to grab some breakfast. At the parking lot of the compound  of a row of restaurants was a little crowd gathered, with digital cameras whipped out, and children's voices all excited that caught our attention. When I turned, I saw this "one-goat powered uh, coach, decked out in colorful flowers, crepe paper, and a lively driver dressed in his best Christmas clothes, complete with sunglasses, and hat! 

      The "coach" was just too serendipitous a find to pass up on a  few pictures. So, I rummaged in my bag for my trusty point and shoot camera, and joined the  little fan club. Hehehe. On closer inspection, I couldn't help but laugh at the homemade "marquee" between goat and rider... 

     That made my day! It was another testament to the Filipino's own brand of humour and creativity. I mean, what other name would better suit a herbivore than Gulayat (gulay, is the Filipino term for vegetable)? How else can you best illustrate the strength this goat has to pull this karitela along with it's driver? How else can you describe such a friendship?

     What struck me most was that, being instant "celebrities" or a mini-sideshow, I did not see any cruelty from Lolo Badong to make it look as if he intentionally was exploiting Gulayat just for a few bucks, or a few laughs. They both seemed to enjoy the limelight, and being the bearers of mirth for the benefit of the little children who gamely posed for a souvenir photo. In the urbanization of any available piece of land nowadays, Lolo Badong and Gulayat are a welcome sight to teach children another kind of friendship. Another kind of interaction, and a look back into a beautiful co-existence between a man and his pet. 

     The baby Jesus once again gifted me with a glimpse of his birthday in a manger, with only farm animals at His side. No store-bought gifts and expensive clothes were presented to him by the magi or the shepherds. In all likelihood, they would have dressed probably more like Lolo Badong. His clothes and shoes are old, and covered in dust, perhaps if not because it was kept so long in a cabinet to preserve it for use only on special occasions, they've been covered in dust and dirt from the long distance they've quietly travelled. They probably tried to imagine what they will find, once they reached their destination. Of course, in Lolo Badong's case, talking loudly to himself, getting only a shake of the head from Gulayat, whether in assent or a fly, only he would know.
     Knowing that they looked and could present themselves as best they could, they went on with their journey, and on reaching their destination, gave and was given joy back, as only the blessed and special season of Christmas could!

©CherWriter 2010.12.26

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