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defined by Webster, Shangri-La is a remote beautiful imaginary place where life
approaches perfection: UTOPIA or a remote usually idyllic hideaway...
Now, that’s my kind of place. It certainly is the place where I would love to spend most of my waking time
the rest of my life. Perhaps not by myself all the time, but with my friends.
Where we would talk, sing, dance, party and have the time of our lives every
chance we get. Where we would endeavor to live long or at least die trying.
In my view everyone should have his or her
own Shangri-Las. Where they can unwind and kick back. Where they can dream and
think about pleasurable things like being in a sort of magical place. Where
they can just plain relax at their own leisure. And as much as possible,
it can also double as a place where friends can feel at home; that would be a
big plus. Whether it is a garden, a mini farm, an area in the park, a backyard, a secluded bench under a tree or a tidy
little room in the attic or basement. For me the size of the area and remoteness are not that significant.
What would matter most is the serenity and ambience of the scenery.
As I have mentioned in one of my previous
articles, my Papô Maeng created his own Shangri-La in Kwagaw in
our hometown Botolan, Zambales, where I
happened to spend one summer vacation during my senior year in Mandaluyong. I
had a great learning time plus an unparalleled peace and tranquility in Kwagaw
so much so that I promised myself that when the right time comes I would also
find me a place and make my own Shangri-La. Come to think of it, my Papô
Ake had his Shangri-La too
which I presume was that spot under the Lomboy tree in one of his sulars
in Mambog where he built a small hawong with a bamboo papag.
That’s where we always took our respite whenever we visited his farm. It was also
the area where he would always build a pala-pala for his pangeekan
for the rice paddies after harvest.
When I was aboard the Destroyer and
Gunboat, my favorite spot to relax and write letters to my family and friends
on Sundays was between the forward gun mount and the bridge since most of my
shipmates were either at the mess deck or fantail playing cards or fishing. I
guess that was my Shangri-La then since it would be hard to find a remote
secluded place on the ship. By the way there was a USS Shangri-La (CV-38),
which was an aircraft carrier. We plane guarded for her (by following her while
launching fighter aircrafts to carry out their sorties at the Tonkin Gulf in 1970). This is so we can readily pick- up the pilots who had to eject on an
emergency before they drown or get eaten by sharks.
Now, I can unequivocally say I found one
and my Shangri-La is now ever burgeoning. I am always adding, improving
or changing locations of the clutters. It will never be finished in my
At first I did not have a clue what the
roughly pie-shaped-end of my lot (where the two sided- block wall fences met
with a 10 linear feet of block wall at the Easterly reach) would be good for. First,
it started out to be a place where I would raise some pugos or quails as
a hobby since I was always raising chickens when I was little. Instead of
chicken though in as much as hens and roosters make a lot of noises and
neighbors might complain, chickens were out of the question. I ordered an
incubator, cages, heater, waterier, feeding troughs and one dozen quail eggs
from a place in Georgia. From the dozen chicks I raised enough of them where I had like 120 in one year
of mostly female quails. The quails are prolific egg layer and breeders. I gave
Mr. Leopoldo Barretto most of the noisy males (they crow in unison) so he can
make adobo pugo. After a year or two of feeding, feeling up the
water bottles, and raking their waste and giving away eggs to my friends I got
tired and gave most of everything away to Kakâ Romy Amon in Carson. That part of the
yard became storage for junks until I decided to make it a hideaway.
Three of four years ago I decided to make
use of it by building a roof and at the same time enclosing the corner yard
with corrugated PVC plastic for shed roofing and also to keep trespassers from
going over the fence since my yard backed into a railroad tracks (local
freight) From that simple start it grew into a full-blown covered patio. My
friends think it is better and bigger than most beer gardens in P.I.
Since I got it built last year, the
Shangri-La is the place where we would party to chill out after five days of
work. Not party as in real party where other guests are invited but just the
circle of friends where there is always that sort of party atmosphere whenever
the ends of circle meet. Where one can be themselves and not worry about being
out of tune when singing a new song or telling stale jokes and then forgetting
the punch line which in return will elicit laughter’s not from the joke but
from one’s forgetfulness. Where everyone is welcome to bring in something for
the group or for Shangri-La no matter how little or how inconsequential it is--
it's the thought that counts. Where there is no obligation and the circle of
friends will not condemn someone who because of work or prior commitment did
not have the time to prepare something so excuses are needless. Of course not
doing it as a habit, otherwise you get shanghaied by the group. This is where
the bonding comes in. Bonding will forgive and forget trivial things. We still
value our friends like golden eggs even if they’re a little cracked.
Shangri-La was built with my leisurely
sweat, my own sweet pace, and therapeutic effort. Nothing can compare to the feeling of
satisfaction and accomplishment greater than when something tangible and useful
rose out of practically, nothing.
With my friends bringing
and adding bits and pieces of “love” to
furnish our hideaway like... Abe’s used leather couch
and perk parking sign, Yul’s Maytag gas stove I converted to propane, Loy’s
aluminum dish rack and plastic food covers, Oscar’s cork bulletin board to tack
pictures, Fred and Alice’s flower picture frames, everyone’s pictures, casino
cards, memorabilia from wedding and anniversary parties we attended, etc we
might as well call Shangri-La our Luvgri-La.
Of course every once in
awhile someone brings in the literally “stinky” but good eats dried fishes from
Visayas for breakfast during the sleepovers. Good thing we were somewhat
cooking outdoors, otherwise the drapes and furniture covers will need airing
out for a week. Tapsilog, itlog na maalat with diced tomatoes,
fried rice, scrambled eggs with diced sausage, onions and tomatoes, longanisa
(sp), and leftover dinner, main dishes were our standard menu the next morning.
I guess it is kinda hard to go on a diet with this group.
We will not grow old because we party. We
will party while the other people grow old. That will be our mantra. Our motto
will be, “Shangri-La, the happiest little pie-shaped corner on earth”.
If I didn’t hear Nory’s to-die-for laugh,
and her rendition of “Cold, old heart”, Abe’s barber shop jokes and western
songs, Randy’s 99 karaoke’s scores interspersed with timely jokes, Fred’s Gerry
Vale’s voice, Alice’s “This boots are made for walking” , Oscar and Esther’s
own styled songs, Nannette’s “ the Knife”, Tikboys “I cant stop loving you”,
Myrna’s “Evita”, Ped and Delia’s duet, Rene’s imitation of Louie Armstrong’s
raspy voice on “What a wonderful world” Yul’s jazzy songs and Edna’s tagalong
songs, Frank’s Elvis’ “Don’t”, Winton’s BeeGees and Lablab’s Visayan songs,
BertC’s tenor and second voice, then there’s something wrong with this picture.
And if I did’t see Loy, Arlene, Chit, Rudy,
Ray, Lita, Adora, Myrna, Pam, Carmen, Shila, Rene, Tikboy, Ped, Delia, Emma,
Edwin, Elma, Yul, Edna, Winston, Bernadette, BertC and Josie doing line and
ballroom dancing’s then something is missing too. When Joe and Lawrence were
not telling their navy sea and army grunt stories and someone’s (no name or I
get in trouble) “alam mo ba…” stories, when Bobbie S. was not cooking his navy
chow then there’s definitely something wrong with the picture.
Of course other people who are not into dancing and singing are also
included. If one received a personal invite (albeit not from a second party)
once, then one can be sure that she or he is always welcome to come again and
join the group and maybe become part of the circle.
If one is not having or did not have a good
time while at my Shangri-La it’s because of these two reasons:
First and foremost-- that one must not have
been invited. You see, I pick my circle of friends. I try not to socialize with
lazy people 'cuz I am not lazy and I don’t want to do all or most of the work.
Secondly, I try not to socialize with people that I have observed at other
get-togethers who do not carry their own weight when it comes to money
contributions, food pot-luck, chipping in for the good of the group in other words
people I have known or observed taking advantage of the kindness or goodness of
a group like cheap-skates and free loaders, for I don’t want to get taken
advantage of all or most of the time. You do it to me once, shame on you, you
do it to me twice shame on me. Reciprocations and sacrifices are the main
ingredients of a lasting friendship in my book.
Those reasons might sound so selfish but I
always remember the response of a centenarian who was asked what does she
think she can attribute her longevity to and she replied, “I try to do the
things that make me happy and be with people that makes me happy”.
Those people in the two categories do not
make me happy--they annoy me. Consequently, fundamental requisite is that I
need to bond with the person (s) before I can be comfortable enough to include
them in my circles of friends. Bonding takes time and one cannot dictate the
length of the waiting period... you just feel that warmth in your heart when the
time comes. Like peeing in your pants you feel the warmth in your legs, people
might be able to see it but only you can feel it.
We have so much fun at Shangri-La that we
forget about the time of the night. If we break off the circle before midnight
it is because some of us have to wake up early and have to go to work the next
day. And of course the retired people or the ones on disability would rather
stay and keep on partying. That’s the reason I stock up on earplugs and have
some handy just in case, so when some of us decided to camp out in Shangri-La
for the night (I have a locker full of camping gears) then we can get some shut
eyes while the singers sing their hearts out. Sometimes even my dog Kiddo goes
to his dogloo to sleep while some “feeling high” singers are still belting
their karaoke songs. I guess even dogs get tired too but not the singers.
What a life! Is all I can say. It can’t get
any better than this. We laugh a lot, and hope to live a lot more.
Tampo, Botolan, Zambales
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