“It’s not his birthday!”
Rolly told Manong in time how I made a false claim. He could have easily produced the chickens at such short notice. He was that resourceful.
“He said so himself,” he related, bewildered why I told him that information.
“I know the date of his birth and it is not today,” Rolly explained. “He’s probably talking deep like he used to.”
“He’s right, Manong,” interrupting their conversation, “I am sorry, we did not understand each other. Just that I was moved by the beauty of the surroundings that I feel reborn today.”
“It’s okay,” he said, accepting the apology. “No harm done.”
“It’s a place where time stands still.”
“You speak like you are poet,” Manong surmised, recalling my comment about the lobster.
“Oh, no! Not me.” I swore. “I am only speaking the truth.”
As we neared where we would disembark, I noticed the congregation of well-wishers, a large number of children with their parents, who lined up the river bank.
“I feel like a superstar,” Rolly intimated, waving to the crowd.
“We’re over with this fantasy before. Can we please come back to reality?”
“Admit it, you also like the attention.”
“The sooner those people accept me as one of them, the better for me. I am not at ease with special treatments.”
“Sorry,” he said, a bit of sarcasm included. “I almost forgot about your crazy idea.”
We stepped onto the makeshift pier, made entirely of wooden slabs, leading to a bamboo ladder that reached to the ground level.
The children waited anxiously to check out how city people really looked like.
Surrounded by strangers, I felt like an alien, scrutinized from head to toe. Rolly, on the other hand, congratulated each one as if he was running for an elective post.
Manong began the naming of names, pointing to every individual, indicating their relation to one another.
Frankly, I could not follow the thread as the appellations include the popular nicknames Toto, Nonoy, Inday, Neneng, Akay and Atong. It was too easy to mix them all up. I took a mental note to rediscover who was who at a later date.
“Just remember the husbands’ names. The wives often use their nicknames. For example, Akay Dante. His wife is Akay.”
“That’s me,” the smiling pregnant woman raised her hand.
“They are our nearest neighbor. Dan is my wife’s nephew.”
“I think I’ll start from them. She is not difficult to forget.” I pointed to her stomach.
“Do you want me to repeat their names?”
“Not now, please.” I said, scratching my head. “I’ll get a headache if I try to memorize them.”
“You have just met a small fraction of the entire clan,” Rolly commented, finished with his round, “On his wife’s side. You have not seen our clan yet.”
“Yeah, I am sure you would not be beaten in number. Thanks to the lack of electricity around here.”
Rolly and I laughed, sharing a shaded joke, which all the others probably did not understand.