Today, as usual, I have to walk a few blocks from our house to buy Pan de sal. It’s bread that we consider “ours” making it so Pinoy both in taste and in texture. As I usually take the route going to the “Panaderia,” I have to pass by the house of one of the oldest relatives I know of. She was white haired, she is a great grandmother, has poor eyesight, and stays all day cleaning their front yard, the street’s sidewalk, and then stay in a sit beside a street store, wondering, conversing to people passing by, simply watching life go on.
I don’t know what is on her mind every time I see her. It’s not like I am interested in reading minds, but her look, the usual “mask” she wears is there. I never saw her angry, she was and always is complacent about things going around. Even when Auntie Takya and Auntie Talin (both “grandmotherish” for their age and status, but I still call them aunt) , both her daughters fight, I can’t seem to figure what she is up to, or does she recognize me even? So as I was striding going to Centro, I have to make the basic respectful gesture of asking for their blessings through “Mano po.” It’s supposedly a sign that you recognize ageism, and together with it, wisdom and great knowledge is treasured, though personally I have to budge the idea. Then the irritating comment of Anti Takya would be, “Straight Body! Dai para luya luya ta halangkaw ka tapos kuba ka, iyan ang doktor!” (Stand up Straight! Don’t look like a weakling! You’re tall yet you walk like a hunchback! That’s what a Doctor is!). Again, I feel that nuisance of hearing the same irritating noise, the same familial expectation that I don’t want to be. The loathing that I have to live with someone else’s dream and fulfill their wishes even if I practically don’t need to do that. It makes me feel that I have to throw a stone in the air and punch it right up till it becomes a bag of sand, to lift my fury and to stay calm. But when I touch my other relative’s hand, she will hold on to it, ask the same question, I get everyday, “Nag ieskwela ka pa noy?” (Are you still going to school?). Every time I hear that I always like to ask myself the question, Do I look old that I can’t go to school? Should I get a job even if I haven’t finished my degree? Why is this the only question she asks? For a change of attitude and to live differently, I answered her with the simplest word I know of, “Dai po” (No). Then I left. When I looked back, she simply smiled. What if she tells her daughters about it, then they will tell other people and then they found out I lied. I have to worry nothing about it since it was their fault for being nosy. What I cannot get is the same old face, happy, just cherishing life, sitting still, and before I can leave, she will hold my hand and ask a question of familiarity, “Nagieskwela ka pa noy?”.
I don’t want to lie, but I also don’t want to keep myself in a cyclical rhythm, in a circular manifestation of queries, of hopes, or wishes. I want to live life according to how I see it, how I want it to be.
What about you, what would you do?