Last year on All Soul’s Day I joined a motley crew (when it comes to mountain biking in groups it’s always a motley crew) of 14 beloved Baguio biker boys on a long ride through beautiful, utterly satisfying trails skirting Mt. Yabnong and Mt. Ugo. I carried a small bundle of flowers strapped to my backpack, along with my water, my home-made oatmeal bars, and my marble potatoes baked with olive oil, butter, rosemary, and smoked pork. After about four hours of biking through wonderful forests on a rough single track trail, we came upon a waiting shed (the only cement structure to be seen in the middle of nowhere!) with a clear view of Ugo. We stopped for lunch and thick, cold fog closed in on us. After eating, I tied the flowers to a post and silently said a prayer to my Lola, telling her how much we miss her, how we try to live up to her. She was no less than Super Woman, after all. When I was done, we continued biking. The fog cleared, and the warmth of the sun on my skin felt like Lola’s radiant smile.
In June 1988, a PAL flight from Manila to Baguio crashed into Mt. Ugu. There were no survivors. My maternal Lola was on that flight and she and everybody else on that plane died in the crash on an immaculately clear day. I remember it was one of those mornings when the sky was so blue that if you stared into the depths of the blueness long enough you could feel yourself floating.
We never recovered Lola’s body. For more than two weeks my mother, grandfather, aunts and uncles and close friends made daily trips to the morgue. They looked at dentures and charred remains. They couldn’t find her. The search stopped when Lola appeared to her best friend in a dream. She said she didn’t want to be found. She wanted to be remembered as she was before her death.
Since then, we have always thought of Mt. Ugu as Lola’s final resting place and we have chosen to celebrate our Lola on her birthday with the things that she loved best: family and food. We prepare and enjoy the things she once prepared for us – comfort food! Apple pie, mashed potatoes, roast beef, chocolate chip cookies are just a few of the mouth-watering things that come to mind. Today is my Lola’s birthday and I am looking towards Mt. Ugo as I click “publish”.