4:30 A.M., last Saturday: Daily Laborer waited at Melvin Jones Grandstand, Baguio City, for Jeffel Galiso, a social entrepreneur, to interview him prior to Galiso boarding a bus bound for Mountain Province.
That Saturday the city’s atmosphere smiled promisingly. Effulgence of early morn began; brightness tinged Baguio’s hilly landscape while the moon had already retired beyond the western mountains.
Feeling Baguio City nature’s early morning amiability, Daily laborer thought any person in Baguio, awake at this time, who didn’t feel the influence of this delightful season’s interval upon his/her bosom, when the sky is full of songs, and the atmosphere aglow, and who can’t cast his/her eyes around and behold the delicate tints of nature’s unrivalled pencil, is less to be envied.
In the Grandstand, persons grouped in two, three or four menfolk and womenfolk unwinded, stretched, bended and twisted like screws, preparatory for their walk, jog or scamper around Burnham Park or Harrison Road. Some rotated their hips clock-wise and counter-clockwise hoping to shoo away that “bilbil” (belly fat) clinging at their hips.
There were ladies chitter-chattering gaily while chiding their children they took out with them for morning exercise to be extra-careful romping at the Grandstand’s cement stairs.
Aaah, Daily Laborer mused, who was that Baguio old-timer who said before to him, “An early morning walk is a blessing for a whole day.” But he failed to remember the guy. Nowadays, Daily Laborer gets most of his exercise by counting those who exercise.
Suddenly, in the course of the children romping around, one of them stubbed his rubber shoe on the upper lip of one of the stairs, fell down to the alarm of one of the ladies who said, “O, kitam, kunak kenyam tattay, Donald, (apparently, the boy’s name) ag-an-annad ka!” Although ruffled by his fall, he straightened up, looked his Ma in the eye who was still chattering, admonishing him to keep still, stared curiously at where he fell and dismissed his Mom by re- joining the frolicking kids.
Indeed, Daily Laborer intoned to himself, in praise of the boy who, never complaining, picked him up, “Curiosity is the instinct of wisdom.”
And for the mother who gently chided her child to “ag-annad,” Daily laborer thought there’s not in the whole range of musical combinations, a sweeter tone of instrument than the tongue of a woman, when out of abundance of heart and gentleness speaks the soothing of tenderness to a wounded spirit, or the softened chastening of reproof to the wayward.
After some arguing where to start off, the exercisers trooped out and headed to Burnham Park Lake. The Grandstand became silent.
It was when Daily Laborer noticed a woman, sitting alone, partially hidden by one of the huge, imposing post of the Grandstand. In her hands, she cradled something, wrapped in a blanket. He discerned she held a child – a baby.
“For mercy’s sake, what are a Mom and baby doing at the Grandstand at such early hour?” Daily Laborer thought. He noticed the mother eyed him. Daily Laborer mused she was suspicious of him, he being unshaved, unkempt and criminal-looking scoundrel.
After some time, the woman rose, neared Daily Laborer where he sat and timidly said, “Sir, dakayo kadi ni Bony, diay columnist ti Herald Express?” Surprised, Daily Laborer answered, “Wen, Ma’am, siak ajay.” Daily Laborer saw relief flooded the woman’s face, who smiled, turned, went where she previously sat, retrieved her bag, came back and sat near Daily Laborer.
She said, “Sir, kanayon mabasbasak ti column mo. Ay wen, siak gayam ni Judy Camilo.” Daily laborer told Judy to simply call him “manong.” Her nervousness abated.
To cut the story, Judy related she was at the Grandstand, waiting, too, for somebody, to iron out their differences and probably save their being a couple. Daily Labor sighed heavily for it was a story as old as time, as tragic that often happened to girls. Anger coursed in Daily Laborer for males who leave women hanging by the wayside.
It was already past 6 O’clock A.M., but the person Judy waited failed to appear. As the two talked about vagaries of life, the innocent little soul in her arms (Judy said he was 15 months old) began to cry. Judy automatically began to undo the bottons of her shirt. But she paused. . .
Daily Laborer knew what she was about to do and immediately turned sideways – away from her. Judy said, “Thank you, manong,” And she began to nurse her child from the breast of life.
Her little child settled down, Daily laborer, cast his glance at the towering trees along Melvin Jones football ground and somewhere, he thought he saw how that delicate living creature in Judy’s arms, and those other delicate living creatures in the arms of other mothers, came to, in this world:
It was darkness. Stillness. He/she hankered for illumination or light. Yet he/she didn’t know what light was all about.
Somehow, he/she felt being freed from the warm cocoon he/she was imprisoned for 8-9 months. But he/she didn’t know. Somehow he/she heard a strange sound coming somewhere. If he/she only knew, the sound he/she heard came from a doctor, the words which meant, “He is a boy” or “she is a girl.”
And he/she cried in automatic reflex. And he/she did not know he/she had a voice.
Somewhere he/she knew, a soothing sound came to him/her. A sound which to him/her became very familiar when he/she was in a warm cocoon for 8-9 months. Hearing the sound, he/she relaxed.
But for the first time out in the world, he/she felt hungry and again cried. Gently, something was put in his/her mouth by the one with the familiar sound. He/she automatically opened his/her moth and began to suck. He/she felt a warm, soothing liquid pass to his/her throat and he/she felt at peace and contented.
He/she opened his/her eyes often but couldn’t see. As time passed, he/she continued opening his/her eyes and one day, behold! “There was light!” He/she parted his/her lips and hailed the world with a cry.
He/she was a tiny canoe embarking on a journey, but he/she had no compass. He/she did not know where he/she was. He/she had no reckoning, no chart and he/she was pilotless.
He/she could not understand the sounds coming from those around him/her. The sounds were sensitive to his/her nerves. So he/she saluted them in the one universal speech of Almighty’s creatures – a cry. Which anyone of God’s children can fully understand.
But there was always that familiar sounds, soothing and comforting that he/she became accustomed with when he/she was in a safe womb. There was none other sound like it. And he/she felt comforted.
By and by he/she felt hungry again and cried. He/she somehow heard a strange sound saying, “Hala, nabisin ni baby, pasuso-em isunan.”
His/her face was laid by the person he/she was familiar with against the fount of life, warm and white and tender. Nobody told him/her what to do. He/she knew. He/she began to feed and…
Daily laborer’s reverie on how babies came to this world was cut short when Judy suddenly blurted happily to her baby, “O, nalpas kan nga nag-suso!” Apparently, also a signal by Judy to Daily Laborer he can turn around from where he was seated sideways. He did.
Judy buttoned the last of her shirt and smiled at Daily Laborer with a sense of gratitude. They talked for some time until Judy decided, “Sir, Bony agawid nak san ta saan nga umay diay ur-rayek.”
Before parting, Judy said, “Di bale, manong Bony, I will do my best to raise my child. Nakaamong tu jay ama na, if he will recognize and support his child, “she said in Taglish. “And thank you for having me as your friend, “she added.
To which, Daily laborer assured her, “Time will come there will be a reckoning for you and your baby, there is a law otherwise known as Anti-Violence against Women and their Children (VAWC).”
Daily laborer accompanied Judy at the side of Harrison Road, hailed a taxi for them. Before they parted they shook hands in the closed-fist style of today’s Covid time. And the taxi sped off.
Daily Laborer turned back to the Grandstand when he spotted Jeffel Galiso nearby who eyed him very, very suspiciously. Galiso growled: “Adda samet sekreto nga ilemlemmeng mo. Nakitak didyiay. Inpalugan mu isuda. Anak mo siguro diay eggem tay balasang. Nu awan tat-tao nga aglablabas ket baka ginud-bye kisses mo pay diay balasang. Ay caramba, ipulong ko sika ta agnakem ka, bwiset ka!!!”
Daily Laborer indignantly sputtered in protest: “Jeffel, pards, it’s not what you think or suspect, let me explain . . . ,” further muttering to himself, “Oh boy, what mess did I get myself into?”
Jeffel retorted: “Your explanation about what I have seen better be good, or the interview is off.”