When I look out of my courtyard in Paris, France, it’s easy to get homesick for Bacolod. Although there’s a beautiful garden just across my street in a downtown chateau, it’s not accessible to me night and day. One has to also dress up because I’m right in the middle of Le Marais which is now the most fashionably hip neighborhood of the City of Lights. Yes, I miss my garden in Bacolod which stays green and beautiful all year round.
Now, in these days of the Kung Flu, it’s essential to appreciate one’s garden. A garden gives you that satisfying calm amidst the tirade of bad news daily. Plant shops and enthusiasts have taken this pandemic to spruce up their gardens as well as connecting to Mother Earth for solace amidst this horrible global catastrophe. A friend who sells plants raked up a good million in the past year.
As I approach my garden, I go down memory lane when this piece of greenery was my kingdom. As a child, I would frolic in it with my cousin Janette G. Sanchez, who used to live across the street. My elder brothers had different interests already at that time, and so this garden has always been my territory. There was enough space to run around with the dogs and play with my classmates every time I had my birthday. But it was the flowers that always took my attention.
First of all, Mamá would make me smell everyone of them and make a game as to which flower had a perfume. Then, there are the butterflies that never cease to amuse me, from the littlest white and yellow ones fluttering like little fairies to the multicoloured ones that would unknowingly enter the house when there’s a strong wind.
In Paris, I only get to see my neighbours filing in and out with their cars, enjoying the magic of an electric gate because I live in a busy street and it would take some time to get out of one’s car and opening the enormous doors to our pebble stoned courtyard. Save for six pots of the most fragrant French Laurier, there’s nary a blade of grass that I can see or touch.
Now, in Bacolod, with my limited sorties out on the town, I spend time reconnecting to the earth as I walk barefoot on the grass, spread a blanket and lie down for half an hour as I take in my daily dose of Vitamin D from the sun or just merely absorbing the electromagnetic force of the earth that does wonders for my aches and pains from exercise, also done in this garden. It’s easy to get tickled pink when someone gives me a compliment on this green patch of prime real estate because just from maintenance and land taxes, I pay almost half a million yearly to give myself and my neighbours a break from the slime and dirt of the cement jungle which is a consequence of living right in the middle of downtown.
So, I really get mad when our traffic rules are broken and cars park up and down Lacson Street. Hasn’t this law been passed for quite some time now? Then, how come our citizens don’t seem to give a damn about it? And I’m proud to say that I was the first to put up posts on the sidewalk fronting my house, just like they do in Paris, to prevent cars and what not from going up the sidewalk and parking there.
With progress comes traffic, and if no one does anything, we’ll be losing two precious lanes that could keep the cars moving on to their respective destinations. Whereas I could drive down North Drive in a couple of blinks before, I have to endure at least a good fifteen minutes just to get there from my house nowadays during peak hours of city traffic.
The sidewalk that was newly painted in brick red has now turned mousy brown from the cars and motorcycles lining up my block. Okay, I live in the downtown hardware area but, does this give people reason to turn it into a giant garage! My newly painted white walls are quickly vandalized by oily handprints from uncouth drivers who park nearby as they find spare parts and repair their vehicles right on the street then, HAVE TO clean the oil from their work on my white walls! Besides, isn’t there the Philippine Central Bank across the street?! without naming two other banks in the same block that must throw enough taxes to the city’s coffers.
No, I can’t deprive out-of-town visitors the pleasure of seeing a private garden in the middle of Bacolod. I could have built a tall wall a long time ago, but my parents have taught us to live in a glass house where prying eyes could see every move we make. It’s my heritage to upkeep this garden but I do wish I could get some help from our city government.
My prayer. Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10, RSV*