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Dirty Finger

I have a dirty finger and I'm proudly giving it to the world!

When I went to my precinct to get my hands dirty in local politics, I noted that my name was mispelled.

PAOMAPANI, it read. I asked the respectable, motherly teachers at the desk whether I could get that corrected. Of course, they said. And then they did the inevitable. They asked me about my name.

"Korean ba ang pangalan mo?"

I had to smile. This question I'd never been asked before. It's a sign of the changing times. Now that Baguio is becoming populated with Korean families, Korean restaurants, Korean schools, Korean groceries, and yes, even a Korean beauty salon, anything foreign-sounding but not American, anything different-looking and definitely Asian, must be Korean.

I shook my head. "Hindi po."

"Combination ng pangalan ng mother at father mo?", asked another teacher. I squirmed. This one I always get.

"Hindi rin po."

"E ano sya?"

"Ummm, kinuha po ng mga parents ko sa Hindu ang pangalan na yan."

"Aaah," nodded the first teacher sagely as she prepared my ballot. "Hindi nga."

My chosen candidate lost. Peter Rey Bautista is the new mayor of Baguio. Now he is no longer acting mayor, I hope he acts like a good mayor. I hope he doesn't get swallowed by the lions. I hope he delivers on his promise of "Simple lang. Malinis na Baguio". I'm not going to go into sour grapes mode and I'm not going to air my misgivings. It's too soon for that.

But I am going to make a hobby out of watching mayor "Peds" closely, mainly because, for the first time the Baguio mayor is something of a contemporary. Well not exactly because he's a few years older than me, and as far as I can remember, he always played the part of the aloof older boy in Bautista gatherings that I had attended as a little girl with my parents. (Ok, ok, so I'm still small, but you get what I mean!) It used to thrill me when he deigned to say hello. Back then getting noticed by an older Bautista boy meant something, I suppose. I was 9 years old, alright? Now when he greets me I get cynical about it. All of a sudden he remembers me? We hardly figured in each others childhoods. And besides, we never partied in the same places or with the same people, and we went to different schools, got involved in different 'projeks', and that's where Baguio friendships are cemented. (I hung out in dark alleys or beside bonfires and ate goto on the sidewalk at 4 a.m. with Peds' formidable, dearly missed cousin, Iggy, and we were wild things constantly courting fights and pursuing mischief. Hmmm, maybe Peds found us a bit too scruffy for his sensibilities.)

Still, disparate social circles aside, I find it fascinating that the new mayor and I belong to the same generation. Have we grown that old, or are Baguio people now in favor of having younger blood in the city hall? (After Yaranon? Possibly.) What choices will he make? What kinds of changes would a mayor of Peds' social sphere institute? What promises will he make, keep, and break? Will he be different, or will he turn out to be a dirty trapo after all?

Getting my finger dirty this week has made my return to Baguio feel official after years of being nomadic. I have a stake in this city and it may be a tiny one but I'm going to drive it into the heart of... of... of any one who tells me I have no right to complain!

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