By Virginia J. Pasalo
2018, and the kaimito still stands! I walk with hope each day, praying that this tree will survive man’s attempt to claim space, thriving despite the “engine” air. So many people passing by, just walking and stopping to take rides. I crossed V. Luna Street, with a mother and his son, carrying a backpack, towards the door where I normally have my pancakes.
I nibbled on the pancake slowly, savoring its softness, and swallowed even more slowly. The boy and his mother sat on the next table on my left.
“Mama, gusto ko ring kamayin ang kanin.” (Mom, I also want to use my fingers in eating rice.)
“No, anak. Use your fork and spoon.”
“Bakit yung mama doon, pwede?” (Why is it okay for the man over there?)
Pointing at the man by the window facing our tables, he started to eat with his hands too. The mother firmly spoke to his son in a whisper.
“Michael, you have a spoon and a fork, use them.”
She continued to read the front page of the Philippine Star. I looked up and saw a man mixing a handful of rice, a malasado (half-cooked) egg and pieces of Chicken Joy, with his bare hands. His hands were clean without a tint of polish. His face is thin, partly covered by a mustache and a beard, partly by grains of rice. He ate like a soldier deprived of food after a long war, and licked the remaining mixture that stuck in each of his fingers with his tongue. Accidentally, he looked up, locking eyes with the mother of the boy, and suddenly stopped eating. He stood up. I had the impression that he will go to the comfort room to wash his hands, but he did not. He wiped his hands at the back of his pants. When he came back, he carried a brown bag and put the remaining food directly inside, without the box. A man from behind me spoke to him.
“Tonio, akala ko gutom ka, bakit di mo naubos?” (Tonio, I thought you were hungry, why did you not finish your food?)
“Okay na ako.” (I am okay.)
“Gusto mo ba yung soft drink mo? Ako na iinom.” (Do you like your soft drink? I will drink it.)
“Sige. Akin na yung susi ng kotse. Hintayin kita doon.” (Okay. Give me the car keys. I will wait for you there.)
Tonio walked to a green car with plate number UFX 906 and inserted the key. The car did not open. He inserted it for the second time, it did not open still. He gave up, walked to the other side of the car, hidden from my view. He was jittery despite the warmth of the soft morning sun. Seeing his distress, the man who stayed behind hurriedly gulped his soft drink and left.
The mother, now reading the entertainment page, chanced seeing his son’s hands mixing the eggs and rice with his bare hands, and alternately licking his fingers. Aghast, she slightly hit his son’s head with the newspaper.
“Michael, huwag kang baboy!” (Michael, don’t eat like a pig!)
She stood up and firmly held his hands and led him to the wash room. Outside, I saw the keys tossed in the air and being caught by the other man. He motioned Tonio to go to his side, and showed him how to open the door from the driver’s seat. Then they slowly backed off and spaced-in slowly in the “bumper to bumper” stretch of Kalayaan Road.