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Honoring my Mother | Barrio Kawayan in my mind

There was a loose theory that went around concerning the city-wide celebration during the last two weeks. It said the volume f people from all over going out into the streets, plus the heavy rains of August, were the main reasons for the traffic jams. These factors, which doomed city travel to an almost-standstill, likewise brought ‘aftershocks’ that are felt until now. This official newsbit, or report, had come, courtesy of our local analysts at my neighborhood barbershop.

No doubt, these guys, armed with readily available cuts and quips from Wikipedia, Google and Yahoo, will surely make it as reliable think tanks one day. While it may be more difficult to find out where their older predecessors got their own tidbits of genius, hope springs eternal for these young breed, and they definitely have the edge, if not for the full backing of the web, light and dark, mobile data or not.

To compare however, what their old counterparts enjoyed back then, which they now lack, was a physical venue where they could flex and share their ideas, quirky as some might have been. Once upon a time, beside the area that is now the Sanggunian building, fronting San Pedro Cathedral, there used to be a small park with a bamboo grove. Almost like a hallowed ground, it was home for both local and visiting wisemen, or “wisecracks” from all over.

If one wanted to listen to debates on any topic under the sun, one had only to sit in the shade of the grove and marvel at the amount of wishy-washy theories being tossed back and forth. While some were on relevant topics of the day, others made good entertainment. That had been our favorite place to hang out after lunchtime before resuming our tennis at the courts situated nearby.

(My favorite topic then was the debate on whether any religion could beat satan. A street magician, claiming to be a satanist, would on occasion, perform one trick after another and dare the others to top each one, using only the power of their religious beliefs.)

For true-blue 60s-up-to-80s Dabaweñyos, this special place is Barrio Kawayan. Discussions there promptly started around eight in the morning, came with lunch breaks of course, and ended before five of the clock in the late afternoon. At this time, the slot was then taken over by pot-bellied carpetbaggers, traveling salesmen who peddled elixirs and who used live pythons as props.

In the later years, when the numbers game, Last Two, became the rave, the additional come-ons by these enterprising lot involved handing out winning tips, but only if one bought their medical concoctions. Sometimes, they would bring the pythons out of their cages and laid them on the ground. Together with the crowd, they would then analyze and “compute” what numbers were formed by the reptiles’ twisting bodies.

Thinking back, the morning sessions at Barrio Kawayan always started quietly, with polite discussions between people of Catholic, protestant, and sometimes even Muslim faith. Largely, the topics dwelt along the different lines of interpretation. However, as they always conducted their affairs without an arbiter, ever so often, they would slowly transform from a polite group, to sounding like people at fighting cock derbies. Thus by afternoon, the sessions would have already graduated, and turned into a board/game-room atmosphere, with livelier discussions,shouting matches, and timely intermission gigs from the likes of that satanic magician and others that cool the air somehow. The finale of the day, of course, would always be the snake show.

Like the vintage circus of old, nothing of that sort exists today. A much-smaller adaptation lamely manages to hang on at the Chess area in front of the police station near the Bonifacio roundabout. I even recently spied on another at Magsaysay Park further away, but it didn’t seem like a regular thingy. The barbershop versions however, where young turks seek to validate their position as next-in-line seers, are the most viable places yet for the rebirth of pocket barrio kawayans. At least here, the memory could live on, mobile data or not.

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