Sing Along

Yesterday, we had some sort of a double celebration. One was the super typhoon’s dissipation into a less destructive natural phenomena, which proved a good sign because the supply of power was restored. The other being the eleventh birthday of one of my godchildren.

I planned to go online but the invitation to  attend a small gathering was too difficult to refuse. My godson, who often riled me with his curious questions came in person.

“It’s my day, Ninong,” he boasted, parking his bike beside the fence, where I knelt removing grasses in between plants. “Come to the house because there will be singing.”

When he referred to singing, the image of a video karaoke machine automatically crossed my mind. In a nation of singing sensation wannabes, I could not blame even the locals who might be having illusions of making it big someday.

“Right!” I agreed. “I will come once I hear someone wailing, er, singing.”

“Don’t forget, Ninong,” he said as an afterthought. “To bring my gift.”

Holy cow! I went to the town center the other day but the idea of gifts was never a consideration. I was more concentrated on ordinary provisions.

“Of course,” I said. I had to find an empty envelope. I was sure he would accept cash: he was a frequent visitor of the bank.

When I came over, I was offered a plate even before I could say my greetings. I did not take into account that it was already lunch.

It was indeed a family get together because I was the sore thumb, so to speak. Aunts, uncles and cousins were almost complete.

I was not considering singing on an empty stomach. The food was not only great, it was plentiful. No one would go home without the traditional doggy bag.

Listening to the concert, I began to prepare myself for some ribbing which was more or less a practice during this type of celebration. One should choose the appropriate song to sing or else the comments afterward could be bruising to one’s ego.

“Ninong, it’s your turn.”

What? I was still chewing a small chunk of the chicken adobo when my godson called me out using the microphone.

“I have not chosen my song,” I waved him to select someone else. “Perhaps, a bit later.”

“I chose one for you,” he grinned. “I heard you singing this often.”

There was already clapping, egging me to take center stage.

I was on the spot. Even though I planned to excuse myself later on when they were all fighting it out for their opportunity to shine, I was not ready to shock them with my moves. 🙂

Well, you guessed correctly. I made a fool of myself (laughs), singing halfheartedly a perky song.

When the machine’s verdict was shown, everyone looked confused (or was it utter disappointment?).

It was awesome. I received a hundred. 😀




I could be imagining things but I believed people kept staring at me. Why?

For a second, I laughed at the remark the driver gave me earlier. Then, I realized he was talking about himself, how being handsome could scare people away. Or was being conceited his major problem?

Nope. I never considered myself handsome. If that was true, women would be knocking at my door. The only females who visited me were either ambulant vendors or those four-legged kinds.

I checked my pants if inadvertently I forgot to zip my fly. I had hilarious episodes before when such small detail became my undoing.

Grateful that my fear had no basis, I went on purchasing items I needed. Like-minded individuals roamed around, busy like myself, eager to finish their shopping before the dark clouds on the horizon decided to unleash the rains.

It was the mother and her children again. That was how small the town center was, people would bump to each other whether they liked it or not.

I needed to ask her what was the matter, why they left me in a state of confusion. Okay, I would not want to scare her even more. Following them around could be counterproductive: I did not want to be called a stalker.

I stopped in front of a store. The glass window could reveal something I might not have considered so far. I enumerated inside my head all the factors that bothered me ever since I rode the jeepney.

Someone tapped me on the shoulder. Only an acquaintance would do that. Many people did not know it but I was a bit edgy in places far away from the safe confines of my home.

“Are you lost?” he asked, his eyebrows raised when I turned around to face him.

“Why did you say that?” I asked, noting he was the tricycle driver I used to hire when I needed a quick ride.

“Check your shirt, man.”

Horrors! He was right. In a hurry, I did not check myself in the mirror. I wore my shirt inside out. That was probably why people kept staring at me.

“Bad morning, eh?” he continued, his squinting eyes showed only humor.

“Are you going home?” I asked, arguing with myself if I would take off my shirt on the spot and correct my mistake. “I need a ride home.”

“Sorry, man. I am still third in line.”

Throwing all those modesty rules out in the window, I took my shirt off in one motion and wore it back as quickly as possible.

“Ma, he’s whiter!”

I was absolutely sure: the voice was owned by a small boy.

When I sought the origin of the remark, I saw them again: the three was transfixed at where they stood.

I did not know what has gotten into me but the only thing that crossed my mind was the simplest reason I could think of to erase whatever inference they had about me.

“I am a farmer, that’s why.”



In preparation for the effects of the super storm in our locality, even if we are further away from its path of destruction, we still made ready food provisions if and when stocks become scarce. If experience should be taken into account, some unscrupulous traders hoard supplies to jack up prices.

Riding a passenger jeepney to the town center, a mother and her two children sat on the aisle across me. When I smiled at them, she freely smiled back. On the contrary, her children looked serious: I, being a stranger, was not considered familiar to earn their casual approval.

I learned to accept such cold treatments, especially from those who could not understand what I was saying. The language barrier was too constant a problem here that I had to learn several regional dialects to successfully blend in.

Surely, the children had no inkling that I understood them when they began to argue about me. Like I used to do, I wore my neutral face and pretended I was not paying attention at all.

“He’s dark,” the girl mumbled in Ilongo (a Visayan dialect). “Maybe he’s a foreigner.”

“If he’s a foreigner, why ride a jeep?” the boy, older and smarter, corrected her impression. “He could be a half-blood.”

“What is that?” she asked, nudging her mother who was probably half asleep during the ride.

“Sssh! You’d wake her up!” he admonished. “A half-blood is like a vampire.”

Frankly, I wanted to show them my fangs just for the heck of it. I controlled the urge to burst out laughing.

“No way!” she said. “How come he is awake in the morning. They said vampires are awake only at night.

“That’s why he is a half-blood,” he explained, scratching his head when he himself could not believe his logic. “Don’t look at him straight. He might give you a spell.”

How long could I take it was a matter of decision. I could simply talk in their dialect and prove once and for all I was as human as they were. But then, the mischievous side of me won. In a way, I would like to hear the conclusion of their argument.

“Only witches could put a spell on someone,” she eyed her brother with suspicion,

“Don’t you get it? A half-blood could do that too. He could fly if he wants to.”

“Why ride a jeepney? she asked, returning to him his earlier query. “Why spend money on fare?”

I was already smiling. Their discussion was going nowhere.

“Sorry for that.” the mother remarked, pulling the children closer to her. “Kids!”

“It’s all right,” I replied in Tagalog. “They have great imagination.”

“Oh, they’re not imagining things,” she said. “In our place, we experience a lot of unexplained phenomena.”

“I am talking about me, how they see me right now.”

She stared at me, inspecting my features as if her words would be enough to calm her children.

“So, what’s the verdict?” I asked.

She whispered to each of them, their eyes widening with surprise.

I had no idea what she told them but when they alighted at our last stop, they hastily walked away from me as if I was diseased.

“Don’t mind them,” the driver spoke behind my back. “They’re always afraid of handsome men.”

Well, he was probably telling the truth. 😀



The midday sun provided me with favorable heat . In a few hours, the newly-washed clothes would easily dry up.

I was resting under a low mango tree when a group of indigenous people passed by the road. Naturally, I supposed that the quartet I hosted earlier had already spread the news where they could receive gifts. It was not surprising at all.

However, such worry was probably incorrect because I noticed the group lugging sacks: they looked heavy as each bearer walked with much strain. Perhaps, they were no carolers at all.

“Like some yams, young man?” an older woman called out to me from outside the fence.

When I heard the words ‘young man’ I was a bit surprised, no, more or less confused. Either she had eye problems or she was simply being friendly. But since I liked the sound of her offer, I immediately stood up and approached her group.

They stopped and unburden themselves with their load. Under my ten-year-old Acacia tree, whose shade covered a wide area including part of the road, we sat down and prepared to haggle with the price.

“How much?” I asked while they opened the sacks to show me the produce.

“Exchange,” she grinned, unashamed to show her set of teeth missing the front section. “Rice. Anything, No cash.”

So, she wanted to do business the old-fashioned way. It could be tricky somehow because they were more knowledgeable about the system than me, who was more accustomed to cash deals.

“I do not have a scale. How could we estimate the weight?”

For a while, we were stumped. A kilo of rice would fetch the same price as two kilos of yams.

She picked up a large rock by the side of the road and placed it inside a plastic bag.

“Here,” she showed me the hastily-made scale, composed of an approximately two-foot twig with a short finger-sized rope she tied at the middle.

Well, I should have thought of it first. Her inventiveness awed me.

I excused myself and went inside the house to get rice. Using another form of estimation, a used can of milk provided the solution. Filled to the brim, ten cans were believed to weigh more or less two and a half kilos.

When I came back, I saw her placed the rock in the bag at one end of the scale while at the other end, yams in another bag. Once level, she repeated the process. She set aside the two portions and took from me the bag of rice. Fortunately, the scale was near balanced, the bag of rice weighing a bit more than the rock.

To cover for the deficiency, she added three pieces of yams to the two portions.

“I think it is a fair exchange,” she said finally.

If I was not mistaken, she handed me almost five kilos of yams. Indeed, there was nothing fairer than that.



Was washing my laundry manually earlier when I heard outside the faint melody of an unfamiliar rhythm. By my estimation, the sound was produced by crude instruments, most probably creations of someone who could not afford the genuine items.

I stood up, knee joints creaking due to the prolonged squatting position. Since I also needed a walking break to let blood circulation in my lower extremities flowed normally, the distraction was rather welcomed, although I already had an inkling on who could be my unseen visitors.

When December comes, many indigenous folks walked down from their mountain homes, trekked to the city proper and roamed the streets to ask people any Christmas donations. They had discovered that the tradition of giving was to their advantage.

What faced me was nearly a complete family, less a father who probably separated from them to go solo to another household.

The mother smiled while in her arms a baby slept. Her son, who played a tattered guitar, a relic from someone’s past, strummed it with gusto. Her daughter, on the other hand, rhythmically struck a homemade drum made from a large tin can, opened at the bottom, with a transparent plastic sheet on top held to the can by several rubber bands.

It was not their impromtu performance that knocked on my heart to show pity but their mere presence, perhaps tens of kilometers away from home, which encouraged me to go inside the house and looked for something to share. Before, I simply gave money and let them leave as they arrived: in silence. Later on though, I learned that they also needed the conversation, that short banter to alleviate whatever tiredness resided in their frail bodies.

They were probably new to the language of the lowlanders so I had difficulty communicating with the mother. What she did understand was the sight of water and bread which I handed to her children. I could feel her gratitude from the sincere smile on her face as she nodded repeatedly to display her approval.

Before they left, I gave them a medium-sized plastic bag. Inside were a few old clothes, rice and some canned goods. As a bonus, I gave the two children twenty pesos each: they were ecstatic.

Frankly, their visit made my day. They probably did not know it but I was happier going back to my laundry which was a chore I often hated. 😀



I just got in!

The tail end of the powerful storm unleashed strong winds that battered our area half an hour ago. Along with it, continuous rains fell, giving us the scare of an all night watch for flooding. Hopefully, the situation would improve before midnight.

I was at the neighbors (again) to check the news. It was a short trip, balancing myself precariously on the slippery one-foot wide pathway between paddy fields to my godson’s house. Because of the rain, there was erratic signal so I decided to forego my viewing and walked home using the longer route which was the safer village road.

There were random vehicles that passed by. It was only eight in the evening but it seemed the road would be deserted even before nine. The wet surface often discouraged motorists: accidents normally occurred during the night and mostly when it rained.

I wore my hooded raincoat just in case rain fell while I was on the way, the boots protected my legs and feet against mud and more importantly from the crawling creatures of the night. Even with a flashlight in my hand, illuminating the road in front of me, I had to be sure I would not accidentally stepped on dangerous objects.

Only a few meters away from the gate, what I was afraid of fell hard. I had to seek shelter in a small shed by the road, primarily used by passengers waiting for a ride.

Something moved in the corner, which I noticed immediately. The grassy portion of the shed was thick with growth so I suspected it was a good hiding place for any animal, that like me, sought cover from being drenched.

If it was a snake, I would have ran at once, no doubt about it. If it was a rodent or a bear cat, I could have stayed and shared the dry place with it. However, once I dismissed all those probables in my head, I was suddenly frightened. What if it was something I had encountered before, something that sowed fear to everyone in the village.

I turned the flashlight toward the commotion, trying to make sure my guess had no basis at all. When I saw the small snout, every hair in my body rose. In a split second, if I made the slightest motion to startle it, a chemical reaction would set off inside its body, producing a sickening odor that would foul the air. To be near ground zero was tantamount to being gassed toward unconsciousness.

Ran, I did, dashing more or less like a sprinter, as quickly as possible away from it. A ten-second distance was enough to escape the sticky smell after it farted.

Soaked wet, panting when I reached my house, my nose concluded that it successfully released its potent countermeasure against predators. I was a hundred meters away but the wind carried the odor to my direction: the stink was suffocating.

I was lucky. If I stayed a little longer, I would have been a sorry victim. To remove the stink from my person, body and clothes, I could have stayed all night, bathing myself with smoke from the burning pile of assorted dry leaves of trees. In some way that would be a minor disaster in itself: where would I find dry leaves after the all day rain?

It was another lesson learned. Perhaps tomorrow I should stay at home. 😀



“Why the long face?”

The next morning, he pushed his bike toward me, dismay was pasted on his face.

“Father got angry last night. Mother turned off the television because I asked that question. Did you hear about it?”

Hmmm! My kumare possessed that habit in which to cut off any argument, she would remove the origin from where the discussion started. Last night, the issue began while watching TV. She turned it off and problem solved. I guess my kumpare was not amused.

“Did they answer your question?” I asked, suspecting they did not.

“They told me to go to sleep. We all went to sleep.”

I would not open up the subject again because I myself  was not too comfortable explaining it, especially to a small kid.

Ninong, why do girls act differently?”

“What do you mean?” Suddenly I was nervous. He could be asking those difficult questions again.

“My classmate Amy always try to get close to me. She gives me half her food during recess. Sometimes, she gets angry when other girls give me more attention than necessary.”

Frankly, I was speechless. I raised my head to the heavens and hoped my muses came quickly. It was an emergency. All the warning signs of puppy love was present.

“She’s kind and generous. It’s a normal behavior.” I wished he would swallow the explanation and moved on to other safe topics.

“Maybe because other boys do not bother her,” he mused, tinkering with the bike’s chain. “One time, I told everyone that if anyone makes her cry again, I will make sure that that someone will answer to me.”

“Hey! No fighting.” I admonished, wagging my forefinger from side to side. “You’re not supposed to make enemies in school.”

“But, Ninong, you told me that self-defense is okay. I won’t be bullied.”

Naturally, he had a point. I shared the view that if you needed to defend yourself from harm, you have the right to fight back. Self-preservation and survival instincts were woven in our genes.

“I can count on you to make the right decisions.”

His silence afterward actually calmed me, what with the girl thing already forgotten, for the moment at least, I could send him home after a few more reminders.

Ninong, is Amy in love with me?”

Boom! I heard the explosions in my head. This eleven-year-old boy would not stop until I gave him a definite answer, which I could not expertly provide.

“Your mother is right,” I concluded, wishing to put an end to his queries. “You ask too many questions.”

“I guess you do not exactly know what love is,” he surmised, riding his bicycle, ready to leave.

“I beg your pardon?” That remark sounded wrong to me. “I know what love is.”

“Where’s my Ninang, then?” he asked with a smile. It was the usual question I always tried to avoid.

“Watch out! Christmas is near. Sometimes, I forget names.”

It was the best response I could think of. 😀



I like to watch television advertisements once in while. Some of them are well-crafted, somewhat a very short story shown for thirty seconds to a full minute.

For sure, they also break the monotony of a long viewing experience, giving viewers time to visit the rest room or in my case, sneak in and out of the Net.

I often go to the neighbors to watch whatever shows they preferred. I start with the news and leave before a telenovela series begins. I stay longer if a sports spectacle is on like a championship basketball match or if an international football competition interests me.

One time, I went to my godson’s house. They were only three in the household so there was slim chance a remote control fight for domination would take place.

The news was nearly finished so I began to prepare my exit.

“Ninong, look at the commercial,” he pointed to the screen. The half naked man was in front of the mirror shaving his beard. “Will I do that too?”

“Our family has no genes of facial hair,” his father replied, quickly intervening. “Be glad you won’t need to buy all those stuff.”

I could have seen him distraught. He probably imagined himself like the actor in the commercial when he grew up.

“Why show that on television? Men already know how to shave.”

Good point. However, he was not yet aware of the power of subliminal influence a commercial could provide to boost the sales of a product.

“You ask too many questions,” his mother reprimanded him. His distractions soured our concentration.

“He’s curious so I guess it’s okay.” He liked me because I often took his side.

The newscast was over so I stood up, ready to go back home to continue my online activities.

“Goodnight to you all.”

“Goodnight, Ninong.”

I was at the doorstep when I heard my godson asked his father when another familiar commercial came on the screen.

“Dad, why don’t they show on TV how to use a sanitary napkin? Where do they use them anyway?”

Frankly, I was grateful I was out of there. 😀



When he was still five, he could cite the names of the animals and their offspring. In the vernacular, it was an easy task: memorization could be entertaining.

The other week, when he approached me, I could not say if he was just being an smart aleck or seriously making a thought-provoking comment.

At age 11, he’s in fifth grade, old enough to reason out intelligently about any issue that interested him. Of course, I was his favorite sounding board since other people treated him like a small kid. I, on the other hand, listened to him like we were friends.

“Ninong,” he began, stopping near where I worked in the orchard. His grandmother bought him a bicycle which he constantly showed me. He was aware I did not have the talent to ride one. “English is a difficult subject.”

“It is not,” I replied, continuing my chore. “You have to practice a lot just like riding a bike.”

“I am wondering why there are too many words in the dictionary.”

Hah! Good question. It was my kind of topic, something that intrigued me, too, when I was his age.

“Words are created to describe a thing or an action. There are too many things and too many actions so there should be too many words.”

I tried to make my explanation elementary so he could grasp the connection.

“My teacher asked us to name animals.”

“You know them by heart.”

“In Tagalog, yes. But in English I could not. Not all of them.”

“Do you want me to teach you?” I asked, ready to leave my chore to assist him. “I don’t need a dictionary.”

He looked at me, trying to figure out if I was just boasting. There was a time he pointed to me my inability to cook something I earlier told him I could. That was probably circling his mind at that instant.

“Not now, Ninong,” he maneuvered his bike and was ready to leave. “But there’s one thing I want to clarify.”

“Tell me. If I can help you, I will.”

“Why not call all small animals ‘baby’ and just add the names to make our lives easier?”

“You mean, a small dog should be called baby dog?” I laughed, following his logic.

“Yeah! If there are 100 animals, I have to memorize 100 names.”

“And if your teacher asks what their offspring are called, you will add ‘baby’ to the names.”

“That’s about it,” he summed up. “Easier to remember, right?”

How could I explain to him that what he said was valid but unconventional?

“Listen, like in Tagalog, small animals have their corresponding names. You’ve memorized them. It is the same in English. You can memorize them, too, once you are comfortable with the language.”

“My classmate Joey was offended when he learned that a small kangaroo is called joey.”

Now, that’s something to think about.

“Other children picked it up and jumped around calling out his name.”

I surrendered. Perhaps, small children should call small animals ‘baby’ to prevent such misunderstanding. 😀


Spitting Image

“Hello? Hello?”

I had my earphones on, checking out my last posts, when all of a sudden my dog barked several times. There’s only one reason: someone was outside who my pet did not recognize.

Blogging on hold, I stood up slowly and pretended I was not home. It was one of my ploy to check who the person calling, whether it’s a friend or foe. In these times, even I was aware of different schemes to take advantage of people, I as a prospective victim.

I discovered it was a woman. If I was not mistaken, she lived with her husband and child half a kilometer away from my place. I knew her by face; she knew me by reputation.

“Can I help you?” I asked, curious what’s her business with me.

“I wish to buy a hundred pieces of calamansi,” she replied smiling.

Frankly, I was reluctant to go to the orchard and harvest fruits. It was mid morning and I was busy in front of the computer.

“I am not sure how much it cost now,” I said truthfully. “Do you know?”

“Thirty pesos per hundred,” she responded quickly, perhaps grateful she had me guessing.

“All right,” I agreed. “But you have to wait a while.”

“It’s okay. I have to go to school and fetch my kid. I’ll come back in an hour.”

She opened her umbrella and went on her way. The sun neared its highest point in the sky, its penetrating rays painful to the skin.

Picking a hundred was an easy chore. The trees bore abundant fruits this season, owing to a better mix of dry and wet periods during the blooming and fruiting stages.

I was humming a tune, leisurely picking fruits, when I saw her coming back. Only ten minutes had passed but perhaps she changed her mind, deciding to take the fruits with her.

What peeved me the most was a promise easily broken, especially from a face to face talk. Because of her turnaround, I had to hurry up: hastiness made me ill at ease.

“You said you will be back in an hour,” I told her, walking past me.

“What are you talking about?” she asked incredulously. “I have not spoken to you.”

I was taken aback. She looked serious enough to tell me that it was I who was lying.

“You ordered fruits remember?”

“I did not,” she replied, her face looked surprised.

“Okay, my mistake,” I said, apologizing for my raised voice. “Have a nice day!”

She walked quickly, turning her head once in a while, checking if I was crazy enough to follow her.

I went inside the house and typed this episode, as fresh as breaking news.

An hour later, while I decided whether to post this piece as a complaint on how some people transacted business with one another, someone called out from outside.

What do you know? She was smiling from ear to ear, her daughter tagging at the hem of her skirt, afraid of my pet sitting quietly on the grass.

“Do you have the calamansi?” she asked, opening her purse.

“Yes,” I pretended not irritated by her constantly changing mind. But I could not help it but reminded her of our encounter. “I think you owe me an explanation.”

“About what?” she asked, patiently pacifying her child who kept complaining about my dog. “I came on time.”

“You came back earlier without your daughter and told me you were not aware of our transaction.”

“I was at school the whole time. We just arrived a few minutes ago.”

“You changed your clothes. I remember it very well.”

“You know,” she tried to recall what transpired on her way to school. “I met my sister about fifteen minutes after I spoke to you. She came from the opposite direction, going to our parents’ house down the road.”

I was awestruck. How dumb I was! I never considered the possibility that the twin sisters could fool my eyes without them knowing it.

“It’s all right,” I handed her the fruits. “I won’t make the same mistake again.”

She laughed, finally realizing the confusion she and her sister created.

“It happens all the time.”