I know Rizal, the province, is a neighboring province, but I didn’t know how far it was until my travel buddy invited me to a baptism there.
For an hour we waited for the FX at Cubao to reach its quota passenger. You know this waiting could be absurd especially if you’re not sure if anyone’s coming at all. The waiting rests on faith, pure faith, that anytime soon, someone, that particular day of that particular hour, has incidentally the same interest as ours in getting to a place from that parking lot at Farmers Cubao. It’s not every minute that people would want to go to Rizal, from Farmers Cubao. Every minute people might want to eat chocolate or head to the toilet, but cmon, Rizal province? From Farmers Cubao?
Anyway, an old woman and a child arrived. And I felt an urge to ask them, what on earth held you back so long? In the cosmic order of the universe, we’re all supposed to ride this FX an hour ago. Why so late? Didn’t receive the cosmic message that this FX should be at point B, and not point A, by X time?
Then I forgot everything when we were almost there. Rizal seems to be a province of hills along the shores of Laguna de Bay. It wasn’t scenic and it’s one of the most boring places to be in. I was trying to think of another place that reminds me of the roads, then I realized, almost every highway in the Philippines looks like this road:
sarisari store: house: house: eatery: sarisari store: house: house: vulcanizing shop: house: bakery: bakery: bakery: house: pharmacy: house: bakery: house: sarisari store: sarisari store: mercury drugstore
Mabuhay subdivision, our destination, sits on top of a hill, along with a universe of houses and subdivisions. One has to ride a tricycle or a motorcycle to reach this subdivision. Their trike is not an ordinary one for it is elevated two or three feet from the ground and there’s so much room inside for leg space, but for economic reasons, drivers put a block of wood in front of the seated passenger to add seats inside. Imagine two rows of seats inside a trike, both facing forward. Adventure starts when the motor roars to life because of the tilt the trike will take as it tries to pull away from gravitational pull. Steep hills.
We were late when we arrived, as usual. The party’s over, but food and booze still flowing. And since they were all strangers–or I was stranger, I decided to focus my attention on my plate.
I heard the man of the house is a chef in Mandarin Hotel so I wasted no time piling my plate with tuna kilawin, fish steak, beef and cucumber (okay, I don’t know what they’re called), etc.
My party started when alcohol was served. All the boys gathered ’round the table and started talking about their families, their jobs, their take on politics. They’re around twenty years old, all with wives and babies, and romance stories to tell. I asked one of them, the cute, chubby, Chinese-looking Ian, what he likes about fatherhood, he paused, smiled, and said he liked having a tiny child walking around, calling him Daddy. SO, wow, they were serious about being a father.
Then I finished my Red Horse Litro.
A woman (who said she’s about 40 years old) joined us and noticed that I finished my part rather quickly. “Mare, ang bilis mo a!”
She talked about politics (she was wearing a red shirt with bold ERAP on it) and I tried not to stare at her shirt with a confused look. When she mentioned something about Villar winning the lotto, I looked. And this was the start of our session. She and I. First she talked about politics. I don’t usually feel like listening to politics but she has this charisma. Then she asked if I was still studying.
I said I’m teaching. Where, she asked. UPLB, I said. She gave me the usual wow reaction, and told the rest of the table “uy bigatin pala ‘tong kainuman natin e!”
She moved to “Stories of My Life” part of her talk when we were getting tipsy. She went to US for some time, after graduating from UST (I understood then why she sounds too refined to be called a manginginom, or too educated to be a political agent), then went back and waited for her family to help her migrate.
She marveled at the power of Facebook to re-connect relationships, dead or dying. She said that she’s being invited by former classmates to this reunion and that she doesn’t see the point of seeing them again.
We probably ate more kilawin and drank more beers than the boys, because we had more alcoholic stories to intoxicate us till the sun set in the hilly town of Binangonan.