Whatever Happened to Master Hopia?

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Today is my 5th day here in Baguio for a week-long strategic planning session with the heads of sales and operation. We are confined in the company owner’s houses which is located near Burnham Park. Work normally starts at 5AM and ends whenever the task for the day is done. I usually wake up at 4:30 AM and retires to bed at around 12:00 AM. Stroll time is limited to the area near the compound and the nearest places to go are Burnham Park and Session Road.

Last time, three of my colleagues asked me if I wanted to stroll outside of the compound. I hesitated at first because I was already tired and sleepy and it was supposed to be the 1st time in four nights that I could sleep earlier. I discouraged them to stroll and even told them that it was risky to be going out at night. One of them told me that she was a frequent visitor of Baguio so she had an idea how night life in Baguio was.

So, okay, I counted myself in and minutes later, we hailed a cab and asked the driver to drop us off in Session Road. Along the way, I saw the night market in Harrison Road and asked the group if they wanted to see it (as it was also my first time to be going to a night market here).

Two decades ago, ukay-ukay or selling of imported used clothes and shoes were already existing here but I never got the chance to buy then because my allowance as student simply could not afford any excess expenses.

Wy, one of my companions, bought corn in a cup. I would have wanted to try some but being cautious of what I eat while on vacation stopped me from doing it. The ukay-ukay excited me and most of the goods were good and were priced very cheaply. I saw a small sweater suited for a little girl and thought it would look good on our former neighbor. The price was a steal at PhP20 only but I refrained myself from buying as I might end up occupying half of the company van!

So after a quick tour at the night market, I asked them if they wanted to go to Session Road already. They agreed and so we proceeded. I noticed the long queue of jeepney commuters near Silang Street and I said to myself that there was nothing really new about it as it was just like that two decades ago.

“Is it okay with you if we go up to Mabini Street and from there, proceed to Session Road again?” I asked the group.

“Why? What’s with this street?” they asked.

I did not answer right away. They noticed that I was taking pictures. I was not sure if I just missed it but I did not see any Tiong San store in Mabini. The arcade where we used to go bowling was not there already.

“You see that Victoria signage? I used to buy my groceries from there.”

“But why?” they asked.

“Because I spent five years of my life as student here,” I said.

They were a bit surprised because maybe, they assumed that I finished my college from a Manila university and my secretive nature was partly to blame because I don’t divulge personal information to people unless they ask. The good thing was, my colleagues became just excited as me.

I took a picture of the dorm where I stayed as a freshman and memories of that place just kept reminding me. It was my first abode in Baguio where I met my first dorm mates. It was there where I had my first boyfriend of only two days. It was there where I first broke a man’s heart by breaking up with him a day before Christmas. It was there where I first tasted alcohol while my ex-boyfriend and friends watched over me while intoxicated. It was there where I first had a beach outing without my family. It was there where I had my first serious relationship that lasted for five years.

Our favorite bakery was just across the street. It was a small bakery named Master Hopia. The bread, hopia and siopao were tasty but very affordable for students like me. On the roof of its second floor extension were cats cuddling and sometimes fighting; they were my source of entertainment aside from the television located on their second floor room.

Unfortunately, Master Hopia is no longer there for reasons still unknown to me as of this writing. In a bittersweet moment, I  realized that I’ve been away for so long a time. A lot of things have changed: the people, the weather and the places that I used to go.