By Virginia J. Pasalo
I pretended not to see him, the drunk man begging. I saw him just minutes before, urinating in front of an electric post, with his genitals exposed to passersby. I wonder if he is just a drunkard, or drinking because he has a bigger problem. Two meters away from where he stood, there was a makeshift dwelling made from pieces of cardboard. Opposite this dwelling is the family of an ambulant vendor who chose not to be ambulant anymore but to park near 7-11. On the upper portion of her cart is an array of goods: balut (developing duck embryo boiled and eaten from the shell), cigarettes, candies and other things. The lower portion of the cart has been turned into sleeping quarters for six kids, sleeping in shifts. I wonder where the husband is. Is he the drunk begging?
It is my nth time passing through this area, and I wondered, how long change will happen to them, or if they had heard of poverty-alleviation programs, or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Pasensiya na po, taga saan po kayo?” (Excuse me, where are you from?)
“Diyan lang po sa tabi-tabi.” (Just nearby.)
“Saang probinsiya po?” (What province?)
“Kami po ay dito na ipinanganak. Pati magulang ko. Pero ang mga magulang nila ay tubong Isabela at Pangasinan. Patay na po sila.” (We were already born here. Even my parents were already born here. But the parents of my parents were from Isabela and Pangasinan. They are already dead.)
“Saan po sa Pangasinan?” (Where in Pangasinan?)
“Di ko na po matandaan.” (I cannot remember.)
This is not an isolated story of fourth-generation urban migrants, with very little memory of where they came from, or their language, or their own people. They live on the streets, taking their daily drinking water from the toilets of fast food chains. I wonder where they take a bath or wash their clothes. Suddenly, the woman shrieked.
“Isting, putang-ina mong lasenggo ka! Masasagasaan ka, wala akong ibibili ng ataol mo!” (Isting, you drunkard! You will be ran over, I have nothing to pay for your casket!)
“Asawa mo?” (Your husband?)
“Opo, walang kwentang lalake. Iniwanan na niya kami noon, tangay traysikel niya, nakisama sa isang batang estudyante. Iniwanan din siya, ngayon bumalik na, wala na traysikel.” (Yes, a useless man. He left us taking with him his tricycle, to live with a young student. The student left him, so he is back, without the tricycle).
“Bakit gusto mo pa siya?” (Why do you still want him?)
“Wala po siyang mapuntahan. Awa na lang po. Kristiano po ako.” (He has nowhere to go. I have pity for him. I am a Christian.)
“Bibili po kayo?” (What do you want to buy?)
“Bigyan mo ako ng anim na balut, huwag mo na lagyan ng asin.” (Give me six balut, do not put salt.)
As she hurriedly wrapped the eggs, her eyes shifted on a half-naked child running after her drunk father. Sensing her urgency, I gave her a hundred pesos, and told her to keep the change. She sped off like lightning, just in time to lift her girl-child before she was almost hit by a crazed Mitsubishi Pajero driver. A sudden screech, scraping on the pavement, the window rolled down, and with it, a menacing curse and a dirty finger.
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