By Virginia J. Pasalo
AS I lined up to order pancakes at Jollibee V. Luna, I saw a couple seated at my favorite table. Their plates were already empty so I estimated they would be leaving at about the time I am done with my order. The man kissed the woman on the cheek, and left. The woman did not leave, she was reading a thick book. Finally, I got my order and I asked her, if I could share the table, and she smiled and cleared some of her things. I noticed that she was reading a book on caregiving, by a foreign author, a nurse.
“Are you taking an examination?”
“No, Ma’am. I enrolled at TESDA to qualify me for Caregiving NC II. Dati po akong caregiver. I want to be better at the work I do, and earn more when I get back to work.”
“Wow, that’s nice. We should never stop learning. Babalik ba asawa mo?” (Is your husband coming back?)
“Ay, di ko po husband siya. Partner ko po siya. Pumasok na po sa Quezon City Hall. Siya po nagpapa-aral sa akin” (Ay, he is not my husband. He is my partner. He already reported to Quezon City Hall. He is the one supporting my studies.)
Her openness surprised me. She gave me her name. She told me her parents were from Marawi, and gave me a history of the Meranaos. She had a tattoo on her right arm, with the words, “delphfin” and a rose beside it.
“Ano ibig sabihin ng tattoo mo?” (What is the meaning of your tattoo?)
“Hahaha, nagpunta ho kami ng partner ko sa isang tattoo artist. Pinagawa po niya to. Pinag-isang pangalan po namin.” (Haha, my partner and I went to a tattoo artist. He had this made. It is our name put together.)
“Hahaha, parang aso no! Napansin mo yung mga aso, itataas nila paa nila, tapos iihi sa mga lugar na sa tingin nila kanila.” (Hahaha, very much like a dog! Did you notice, the dogs put up their feet, and urinate to mark territory.)
“Oo nga po. Ibang-iba po siya sa asawa kong driver ng jeep, exciting po siya. Pagdating sa bahay pagod, nang-aaway. Pinagselosan lahat ng bagay. Pati kaibigan, pinagseselosan.” (Yes. He is very different from my husband who drives a jeepney, my current partner is exciting. When my former husband arrived home, he was tired, and he quarreled with me. He got jealous with everything. He even got jealous with our friends.)
“Why did you separate?”
“Because he had other women, and we have three kids that we can hardly send to school. He beats me up whenever I talk about it. I cried for many years until one day, a friend invited me to a christening and I met the godfather of one of our children, who is my partner now. He was separated then, because his wife left him after finding out he also had other women. He added me as a friend on Facebook, where we developed a caring relationship, until I mustered the courage to separate from my husband. Nakatira po ako ngayon sa Bulacan, kasama ng partner ko.” (I now live in Bulacan, with my partner.)
“Saan mga anak mo?” (Where are your children?)
“Sa bahay ko po kasama ng husband ko. Malalaki na po sila. Naghiwalay kami ng maayos, pero ayaw pong umalis ng husband ko sa maliit na bahay na nabili ko bago kami ikinasal. Naawa rin po ako, kasi wala siyang matirhan. Kaya ako po ang umalis, total may alok sa aking tumira sa Bulacan ang aking partner.” (In my house, with my husband. My children are grown. My husband does not want to leave the little house I bought before I was married to him. I also had pity on him because he had nowhere to live. So I had to leave, my partner offered me a house to stay in Bulacan.)
She caressed the tattoo telling me it is symbolic of the friendship, because according to her, they were not in love the first time, both just needed to talk to someone. The “talk” bloomed on Facebook, she said, and grew slowly into “pagnanasa” (desire). She had this aura of quiet happiness, achieving what I call the Individual Index of Happiness (IIH), something I derived from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (GNH). Her tattoo seemed to glow like an ISO, a symbol achieving the standard of something that penetrated beyond her epidermis.