THE CITY termite was so excited to have his country cousin visit him. His family tree linked him to most of the 1,700 species in the termite world, but he always felt proud to claim blood relations with this particular fellow.
Cousin Global was well-traveled, having eaten his way in and out of furniture exported all over the world. So, despite his humble start in a mound buried in the bamboo thickets of Lepanto, Alegria, Global was a cosmopolite who awed his Cebu city-residing relation, Local.
On their first night in town, they guzzled beer while watching news footages of a giant billboard curled around a car flashed on a gigantic flat screen.
“Milenyo flushed away a million of our relatives in the south,” Global commented. “But the very next day, a couple of queens on our maternal side made up with a few million births.”
“Long live the queens,” Local toasted, keeping an eye on the level of his beer (his wife gave him only a little pocket money, aside from it being a fact of nature that termites have no pockets).
“Why do humans make billboards, cuz?” he asked. As no one could catch Milenyo winds to file a case against it, the report said the public trained its fury on giant billboards that caused one death, downed power lines and flattened cars.
“They have poor eyesight,” Global told Local. “Humans cannot see what’s in front of them unless it is a nostril blown up to the size of a small island.”
“You said our cousins in Transvaal, South Africa have built mounds whose spires reach 15 ft,” wondered Local aloud. “But our mounds house the whole colony: workers, soldiers, reproductives, the king and queen. What are billboards fit for?”
Both termites listened to the reporter say that officials were still trying to locate the owners of illegal giant billboards so they could be sued and asked to pay damages. “The human condition is tragic, cuz,” Global said. “Their god sees the infinitely small sin but humans deny whatever gets too big to be ignored. Let’s order another mug, shall we?”
The next day, the cousins hopped down from a delivery of rosewood cabinets to take in the sight of what Local bragged was the latest landmark, the Cebu International Convention Center.
He spouted figures he memorized before consuming the newspaper report for breakfast: “According to the governor and the architect, 750 humans are working in two shifts to complete this. Its floor area is 25,000 square meters. It will use 2.8 million kilograms of steel. The center is 90-percent complete.”
Global, seeing the edifice’s holes and hollows, was reminded of a cat carcass abandoned temporarily by fire ants too sated to finish it.
To spare his cousin’s Bisdak feelings, he commented elliptically: “The church of the Holy Family in Barcelona became famous to Filipinos when it became the backdrop for Toni Gonzaga and Lucky Manzano in ‘Crazy for You.’”
“You mean that ugly church whose spires look like birthday candles left to melt and burn out?” asked Local, who liked Lucky-Toni less than Lucky-Anne Curtis.
“The Church of the Holy Family was designed by Antonio Gaudi, Spain’s most eccentric architect,” said Global. “Critics say its four towers resemble ‘elongated termites’ nests.’”
“No wonder the cathedral is hailed as a work of art,” exclaimed Local, who quite forgot his earlier bias.
“Oh, yes,” said Global, looking thoughtfully at the center’s shapely ribcage. “Gaudi never finished the church but, as with billboards, humans can never tell. Shall we go for a beer?”
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