Many say life begins at forty. But Santi Lubindo, 54, a daily laborer like many of you there, and from the lowlands staying in Baguio City, found out that life and the tummy (stomach, if you will) begin to sag at 40 – or earlier.
Always, when he stooped to tie the shoelaces of his rubber shoes, he found himself out of breath. Nothing like that ever occurred to him before.
Reason? He was overweight. His stomach became distended and whenever he stooped, his stomach gets in the way. He cursed his stomach and swore he’d do something about the problem.
So he decided that Saturday and Sunday mornings, while still dark, he’d walk or jog around his neighborhood somewhere in Bokawkan (Buhagan) Road, just near Upper Burgos barangay.
So he did, doing brisk walking or jogging – in his pink pajamas.
Trouble was, there were also early risers, on their way to their jobs, the city market or wherever their feet tell them where to go.
And whenever they saw Santi in pink attire trying to sweat it out, they’d giggle.
Another trouble. Before Santi even began to walk or jog, he thought it unwise walking or jogging on an empty stomach. So, every time he decided to walk or jog, he’d wolf down a cooked egg and bread.
Last June 23, a Saturday morning, Santi, who jogged along with this bearded peon, asked why people snickered every time they saw him working a sweat on the street.
Not wanting to hurt feelings of his friend if he could help it, Santi’s friend simply answered, “Oh, mebbeso, they love to see you exercising come Saturday and Sunday mornings, a luxury they can’t afford for they have to rush somewhere else.”
Santi, who doesn’t trust his bearded companion one bit, harrumphed, “You really break my heart, Ah Kong. Why can’t you just tell me direct that people are snickering because I am jogging in pink pajamas!”
To smooth the ruffled feathers of Santi, bearded Ah soothingly said, “Come, come, now Santi, watch your BP. No use being angry and your BP rising when we are on the road with one objective to fight the battle of the bulge of the stomach, eh?”
Not wanting to be discouraged, Santi asked where will their next walk be.
Tongue-in-cheek, the bearded son-of a gun said, “Out of town.”
Last June 10, Saturday, the duo, now in the company of Dencio Dulilan, 55, from La Trinidad Poblacion, took a ride going to Acop, Tublay, and alighted exacty at the National Tollgate for Halsema Road at Acop. The time was past 6 A.M.
Dencio was also having trouble with a bulging tummy.
“From here, we walk back towards La Trinidad,” the bearded dullard announced to Santi and Dencio. Hearing this, the faces of Santi and Dencio suddenly became sad like they wanted to cry.
The trio were able to reach barangay Cruz when Santi and Dencio called for rest. They stopped before a little cantina on the right side of the road, selling hot coffee or tea and managed by a pretty lady. Bearded Ah wondered if the lady was married.
Right there a truck stopped before the cantina and the driver got out. But he left open the driver’s door, hanging out like a bird’s wing and made it dangerous for other vehicles to pass.
He ordered coffee and smiled beguiling at the cantina lady, who also batted her eyelashes coyly.
Out of curiosity, Dencio told the truck driver, “Mabalin makilugan?” (Can we hitch a ride in your truck?) But the truck driver paid no attention to Dencio, as he assessed the possibilities of the cantina lady.
Dencio repeated his request, saying, “Ehem, can we hitch a ride…?” It got the driver’s attention.
“Aho! Adda gayam makitungtungtung kenyak. Wen, mabalin makilugan kayo,” he said.
They left the cantina, climbed aboard the truck which shuddered to life and set off. But they noticed the gear lever kept slipping into neutral every many meters or so. The driver had his foot on the accelerator yet the speed of the truck decreased.
“Apo drayber, Kasla project ti gobierno daytoy truck mo, ah! Nu maminsan, napaspas, nu maminsan, nabuntog,” Dencio intoned.
The driver roared with laughter, slapped his knee and said, “Boss, nauneg diay inbagam, ah.”
Below La Trinidad’s provincial capitol building, the three alighted and waved off the truck driver. It was already past 9 o’clock A.M. and, already, La Trinidad was a beehive of activity.
Off to their left just besides the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) provincial office, a group of elders were huddled, talking. Suddenly, they burst into merry laughter.
Looking at the elders laughing and ribbing each other, the demented and bearded companion of Santi and Dencio muttered to no one in particular, saying, “You never saw mortals cut their throats with broad grins on their faces; it’s a grand preventive for suicide.”
Santi and Dencio looked at their bearded fool of a friend and Dencio said, “Apay kasarsaritam manen ti bagim, Ah Kong?”
Smiling sheepishly at his friends, the bearded nitwit glanced again at the elder group and thought:
“A human is a republic in miniature, sometime difficult to govern. Each human being is a little world, who can reason like a brute or reason like an angel. A human can traverse the vast universe, comprehend the present, past and the future. In humans are the principles of life and death, light and darkness.”
“In humans are united the most contrary of elements, and most incompatible of qualities.”
From La Trinidad provincial capitol, they took a jeep ride and stopped at La Trinidad market, near where Dencio was staying. Dencio led them to a restaurant for a snack before parting ways, to each’s own home.
And Dencio ordered bread with little slices of ham in it and coffee.
Santi got hold of his share of bread and began wolfing it down, the way he would before he went walking or jogging. He didn’t know the little slices of ham in the bread were laced with siling labuyo.
And Santi isn’t fond of pepper.
Suddenly, Santi began to wheeze, then cackle. The cackle turned to cough, ending in rounds of coughs as he begged for a glass of water. He gulped the water as mucus started dripping from his nose.
Bearded Ah kept laughing at Santi’s predicament. Soon it dawned on him that other people in the restaurant were staring at him, concerned looks on their faces.
A few shot bearded Ah with dirty looks, wondering why he was laughing at an old man, who seemed to be in the middle of an asthmatic attack.
Santi didn’t seem to notice. If he had, it probably would have made him laugh louder.
Finishing their snacks, each bade goodbye, for home.
Aaah, yes! At the sacred name of home, a new life seems to renovate the constitution of every person.
Weary travelers forget their fatigue seeing the smoke of their cottages rising above the foliage that surround it, or when, heart throbbing to the harmonious impulse of an attribute higher than philanthropy, they fly to embrace loved ones.
What delicious feeling they enjoy as they grasp the hands they embraced and beholding the eye of infancy beaming the welcome of home.