Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The City of Smile, That is Bacolod

The City of Smile, that is Bacolod.

My friend Wendell from Hawaii years ago came to our humble place in Bacolod City to spend Christmas since he does not have relatives here in Philippines being a missionary stationed in the country for his on-going formation. He stayed there only for a couple of days before hopping for the neighboring island of Cebu and getting battered by the long trip via a bus. Despite of the short stay in Bacolod (and short stint of forgetting being religious formation, hmmm), his praises about his experience of the Bacolod-way-of-life was like an echo resounding to every people and friends he met.

One night as were walking through a dark and muddy road heading home, and our sneakers-coated with chocolate-coloured mud and dung from carabaos, a total stranger who was headed towards us suddenly paused. Our hearts topped from beating for fear had crept through our spines. But this aging man greated the three of us "maayong gab-i" or good evening. After that, he continued his walking towards the opposite direction. We though we would be kidnapped or raped (!?) or beaten to death of eaten alive by an aswang. We were totally wrong. Kuya Wendell was very amazed of the courtesy and politeness of people towards total strangers. He said that Bacolod is still a very rural place when it comes to customs and values but very urban when it comes to infrastracture and development.

Everywhere we went, Kuya Wendell also noticed the smilling faces of people; smilling with each other and smilling to total strangers. He sometimes would even brush me aside and ask me if everyone in Bacolod are insane or bisexual or robots programmed to smile since they went out from their mothers' womb. He would then just stare at me and say, "Now I know". But in short, everything and everyone seems euphoric and have nothing that are bothering them in the place of sweets. Maybe the sweet juice from the sugarcane crept through the blood vessels of Bacolodnons...in short, diabetes!

Bacolod and Negros as a whole cannot be dismissed are places where happiness thrives despite the saddest of moments. Many would say that we are close to insanity but smilling is surely what makes Bocolodnon (people from Bacolod) and Negrense (people from Negros) sane. A dose of smile and cheap laughter does not need any tablet anymore for a cure.

There is this famous song in Ilonggo which runs this way:

Ikadlaw and libog (just smile on your worries)
Ikadlaw ang libog (just smile on your worries)

I myself have spontaneously sung this song whenever I feell pissed off with things I do not have any control with especially when your mother-in law nags you like a barking dog. Just smile on your worries, smile on your mother-in-law.

In 1980's as already been shared here, the greatest suffering in Negros happpened with everyone languishing with empty stomachs and pcokets. But smilling is something free and abundant which gave birth to the Masskara Festival that everyone loves today. A festive celebration of the gift of life and most especially the free gift of hope. And there came Bacolod as the City of Smiles.

When you are in Bacolod, do not forget to smile...and bring that smile everywhere you go, it is free anyway.

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