traffic analysis

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


(Photo courtesy of Kevin Engle. On left is Felicidad Reyes to her right is her sister, Manuela Vargas)

(I am posting excerpts from my Uncle Gras Reyes' essay "Embers In My Father's Fireplace" which saw print in the Ani publication The Literary Journal of the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Jan-April 1991 Edition. Kevin Engle a friend I recently 'met' on Facebook recently posted an album featuring old photos of Baguio City. In the album, I was surprised to find two photos of my grandmother, Felicidad Reyes, included. Those photos reminded me of these excerpts...)

"My father (Atty. Francisco 'Ikong' Reyes) married a market vendor, a "career" she started when she was a grade schooler. She would not be allowed to go to school unless she sold rice cake early in the morning. Before sun-up my grandmother would already have cooked rice cakes (puto) ready to be sold while hot and steaming.

"Her father died before she finished intermediate school. In his deathbed my grandfather advised my mother never to be without merchandise. Thus, my mother became a vendor all her life, selling fruits and vegetables in the city market. My father once told her to stop being a vendor because his law practice could provide more than enough for the family but my mother refused. My mother countered: 'Don't ever introduce me to your rich clients or your friends in high society because many of them happen to be my customers. When they learn that I am your wife, they stop buying from me.' but how could my father avoid introducing my mother to people?

"Elected as president of the Rotary Club of Baguio, president of the Lawyers League of Baguio, once a city councilor, organizer of the departments of law of the Baguio Colleges and of St. Louis College, and either chairman or member of several boards and communities of civic organizations and reputedly the number-one practicing lawyer in the city of Baguio during his heyday, my father had to attend important social functions where he had to bring my mother. My mother hated dressing up like society matrons, but she had to. And when she did, she was completely transformed into a pretty, affluent looking woman.

"My father once asked one of his clients in a party if his client knew my mother. 'Of course, I know her,' said the client. 'I met her a couple of times in other social functions. Besides everybody knows anybody's wife in this small city.'

"' No, you don't know my wife,' my father said, whereupon he pulled him close and told him to take a closer look at my mother.

"'Yes, of course, I know her. What's the matter with you?' said the client. My mother tugged at my father's sleeve and motioned him not to tell the client, but it was too late. My father said, 'She is the person you buy your vegetables from in the market.'

"The client turned pale. Aghast, he said, 'Oh, no.' The reason my father told him who my mother really was could possibly be the client's way with my mother when he bought vegetables and fruits from her. Not knowing that my mother, the vendor, was one and the same person as the wife of a successful and popular lawyer, he was discourteous and bossy and ordered my mother as though she were his servant. 'Put those vegetables and fruits in the bag. See to it that nothing gets crushed. And   bring the whole bag to my car. I don't have time to go around the meat and fish sections. Buy me some meat and fish. I will wait here in my car.' My mother would quietly obey. That was how she maintained him as a customer. But due to my father's revelation, she lost him as a customer. The client became a mayor of Baguio in spite of himself. People say, however, that it was during his term that Baguio plunged into its most decadent period. Gambling and prostitution became rampant.

" As a toddler I was brought by my mother to the market and allowed to play on the cement flooring while she tended to her store. The market, she said, was clean, 'Peep under the stalls and you can see the market from end to end -- no trash. It was common to see mothers pushing prams while doing marketing.' My mother also said that she could leave her store untended and nothing was stolen; she would come back the following day and her fruits and vegetables would still be there as they were when she left them. Sometimes she would leave petty cash in her cash box and no one bothered to open it nor steal a single centavo. By today's standards, that was too good to be true. But my mother said it was that way in Baguio before the outbreak of World War II.

"Incidentally it was my mother who first made and sold straw flower garlands, better known as cuentas nga everlasting. She also introduced strawberry jam, as taught by an American missionary. The Good Shepherd Sisters used to buy strawberry jam from her and later they made their own.

"The public market was never crowded except during the Holy Week when many visitors from Manila came up to Baguio. During the Holy Week Baguio was transformed from a sleepy village into a bustling city. After that burst of activity the city once again slowed down. And when the rainy season set in, the place became cold and gloomy. For me the dreariness was compounded by the beginning of school days. Relatives and friends who stayed with us during the the months of March, April and May all went home to Manila after the 'summer' session of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in Baguio. The gaiety of three months -- the picnics, excursions, movies, games, parties and rain-free days -- changed overnight into gloomy, somber and tedious school days."

1 comment:

  1. what an interesting story and your lola had a very intriguing character!