I am not a tourist. I have lived in Baguio City for more than 20 years. When I was young, people would visit my city because of its pine trees, its climate, its zigzaggy roads, and of course its people - the Igorots. We get visitors who would expect my people to be in their "ba-ag" and, as fictitious stories are told, hidden beneath those traditional garbs are tails and anatomical extensions that do not exist.
Sometimes, we take offense at these descriptions. But eventually we learned to let them slide and chuckle when we are asked if they were ever true. We, Igorots, know ourselves too well to even get affected by these false stories.
My story tells not of the "tails" hidden beneath our "ba-ag" but of a tale about the character my people possess.
Last night, I went out to buy food for my family. I was babysitting 3 hungry kids. So, on my way back, I took a cab home. I put my phone in my jacket's front pocket and got off quickly. I was worried about the kids who were left by themselves at home. I realized though that my phone's gone when the cab was driving away. I attempted to run after the cab but the driver revved up too fast. I thought I'd rush back in the house and call my phone. I realized though that I muted my phone's ringer -- manong driver may not hear my phone ring. Nevertheless, I asked the kids if they have phones I can use to call. The two boys handed their phones to me but none have credits to call out. So I messaged (thru messenger) our patriarch to call my phone. He did and said it was just ringing. They called my phone again and again until it stopped ringing. Figured my phone's battery was out.
I resigned to the fact that I already lost my phone. Surprisingly, I was not worried at all. I consoled myself and hoped that the one who gets it badly needs it. My only reason for griping was I dropped the phone at the backseat. If it were on the driver's side, it will be returned to me if the driver saw it.
So, I mechanically and automatically functioned and busied myself as the "kuya babysitter". Fed the famished kids and eventually I forgot about my phone.
The next morning, I asked our matriarch to call my phone. Hallelujah! It was ringing. I counted till 6 rings until a man answered it. The man turned out to be the cab driver. He said my phone got jammed at the door of the cab. The next passenger couldn't open the door and that's when the driver noticed my phone.
So, we set up the time and place to meet. The driver was 16 minutes, 4.5 km away from where we live and it was 8am - too early and too cold for one to stay out of bed. Baguio weather they call. A common come-on for tourists. Manong cab driver insisted on returning the phone despite the distance, time of the day, and circumstance -- he was out on his day off.
I'd like to tell this story and hopefully be told too many times over as proof of the integrity of my people. You have heard so many stories before -- even grander than this one, written better than this one. May this story be a reminder that at a time when they say we don't need much of honesty and integrity to serve people, it is stories like this -- of common people desperately hoping that "honesty" is real, tales about "integrity" that returns lost properties --that should resound louder and be "demanded" from people.
By the way, I wasn't born in Baguio City. I am not sure if I have a drop of an Igorot or Cordilleran blood running through my veins. But that doesn't matter. I know being a Cordilleran/Igorot is a choice. And I chose to be one -- not because Baguio offers cold air in a scorching Philippine Summer or because it sells strawberries and ube jams or because of its "ukay-ukay". But because of who we are known for -- our cab drivers' honesty and integrity, and its people's.
To Kuya Marvin Cadiz, driver of Romy and Joy Taxi AYU 155, and to his wife Alma, thank you. Your character is soooo expensive that no money can buy it.
This story was shared by Nexter Ordonio Rumbaua.