A little boy was sitting on his father’s shoulders while waiting for the Lang-ay Festival parade to begin in the streets of Bontoc, Mountain Province. The kid was giggling as his father was tickling his belly, swinging from either side just to dodge the squirmy fingers. They were both having fun and I was just there standing near the sidewalk with a big smile on my face.
People were slowly filling the gaps of the sidewalk, resting their elbows on the metal railings and some were positioning themselves on the gutter in order to witness the yearly event. Mothers held on to their children, fixing their sweaters and bonnets as the cold wind blew during that morning. Gazing up on the buildings, I saw more people looking down on the street, anticipating the local cultural celebration.
I stayed in a good spot near a small sari-sari store, where the shadow of the concrete post was cascading over me. On the rail, I leaned over, crossing my hands over my body and like everybody else, I too patiently waited.
The father and his son who was still on his shoulders passed by me. The child was now holding on to his dad’s hair while his feet were secured by the hands of his father. It seems like both of them were enjoying their time together, walking along the crowd of people despite the long wait. And as my eyes were glued to their playful state, I was distracted when I saw a girl’s profile the minute they passed by the pole.
She was standing there alone beside the No Parking sign staring blankly at the person next to me. I turned around to check who she was looking at and all I could see was the back of an old woman wearing a pink shirt. There was no one aside from the woman so I glanced back at her once more. It suddenly occurred to me that she might be just thinking deeply while looking at some random object.
Our eyes met for a brief second before the sound of gongs echoed from the other block. The parade has finally begun and when I decided to come near her, she quickly looked away. I halted and focused my attention on the people passing by the street with all of their colorful garments and rhythmic dance moves.
When I checked back on her, she was gone.
Awed by her mysterious ways, I went for a short walk and asked the guy sitting on a wooden stool if he knew who the girl was that stood beside the sign a few minutes ago. He puffed me with a fog of smoke from his cigarette and said that the girl’s name is Michelle and she lives nearby the town. One more puff and then he added that she is “crazy.”
I did this painting of Michelle, showing where her eyes were at when she first caught my attention. A frozen moment that I wished was backed up by a good story to tell. Eventually, all I have left is a memory of her and that mystery in her eyes.