“Would like to join us across the river?”
Accompanied by Manong, Rolly wished to visit their other relatives in the next village. I wanted to come but I was tired of memorizing faces that I passed the opportunity for another sightseeing trip..
“Maybe some other time,”I said, sitting still by the river bank. “I’d like to go around and familiarize myself with the surroundings.”
“Be careful where you wander,” Manong warmed. “There are insects that you possibly have not seen in your life. They bite, you know.”
“Oh, thanks for the reminder. I guess I’ll just roam around the house. See if I could be of help.”
“That’s up to you,” Manong grinned. “You might learn a trick or two.”
I saw them off as they boarded a small canoe. They would be away for the rest of the day so I was left to nose around.
“Would you like some?” Akay, Dan’s pregnant wife, offered me a young coconut. “Drink!”
I did not hesitate and grabbed it from her. In the city, nothing was free.
“That was so refreshing!” I said after drinking the natural water from the opened nut.
“If you want more, I’ll open a new one,” she said, moving on toward the dirty kitchen.
“What will you cook?” I asked, observing her removed the husk of an old coconut using a long bladed knife. In her condition, I ought to give her assistance but I could not: the task needed knowledge that I did not possess.
“It’s okay. I’ve done this a thousand of times.”
What she performed looked so effortless, the technique that was learned from experience. “I’ll mix coconut milk to yesterday’s fish cooked in vinegar.”
“You mean you will recycle the leftovers? Like old cooked rice into fried rice.”
“Yes. We do that a lot of times. Sometimes we start with grilled fish. If there’s something left, we fry them. If there’s still left with the fried fish, we cook them with tomatoes.”
“What if there’s still left?” I asked, curious of what the last dish was called.
“I think the dogs would not mind finishing it for us,” she laughed.
“What can I do to help? I don’t want to stand here and watch you burden yourself with all the preparations.”
“Do you know how to scrape the coconut meat with that?” she asked, pointing to a crude contraption composed of a metal with small diagonal teeth like a saw, firmly fixed at the end of a short log. “You sit on top of that and scrape the coconut like this,” she motioned the task so I could repeat it.
That’s not so difficult, I thought. “I’ll do it.”
“Please be careful,” she warned. “You might cut yourself.”
Slowly, I managed to do it as she instructed. She waited patiently. If she was to do it herself, it would take her a few minutes: I accomplished the job in half an hour.
“You’re a good man,” she observed, “Can I ask you a favor?”
“If I can, I will surely do it,” I was eager to be accepted.
“I want you to be the godfather of my child.”
Without a doubt, I gladly accepted,