Letters of Youth


/ 15 January 2021

‘Sien’ series by Vincent Van Gogh

“Layaaaas!” this repeatedly plays almost every day; my strange alarm clock willingly provided by the border next to the room I have rented for ten years as she kicks out her married man who is a construction worker after catching the poor yet air-brained guy smooching lips with a teenager in Plaza Independencia. How do I know? Words travel faster than light in my advanced barbaric world. “It’s not Pasko yet and you already look like a Christmas tree, Cho!” the landlady who is KSP (Kulang-sa-Pansin) for breakfast slowly circles around me while digging her grave through cigarettes on her wrinkled hands, her pro-active eyes glued on my glittering UK-UK dress emanating a silver disco ball. She is continually struck by my leathered stilletos screaming danger and astounded by the pair of neon fake mascara still attached on my upper and lower eyelid. “Shut up, Nay Monsing. I woke up like this,” I responded while stealing one stick from her crossed fingers. The air consumes the ashes that fall and there goes my collapsed corpse soul.

Mariachula Makachungkang– that is my name when the sun starts to sink as I ramp on my territory—the undisputed Junquera Street of Cebu City! You might know a lot of raynas already from Miss Universe down to Mutya ng Sityo so allow me to own the stage as I, the uncrowned queen of the south, cause your ecstatic orgasm through my production number. Should I dance on your lap as I transition into a thief, grabbing your wallet as you grab my cheapness? Now tell me, who wins this painful comedy? What I am sure of though is that coins are easy to retrieve but my innocence is long lost in the abyss.

God must have heard me when I begged for cash especially when I am starving for He sends the retired policemen and bald-headed politicians that the cheque drown me so I would swim myself up to an old loyal buddy, Mang Inasal. Judgemental stares are my everyday enemy where I encountered a lot as I devour the pitso demanding another bowl of rice, and another one, and another one. Yes, I notice them. I notice you! So this is to enlighten every narrow-minded person that I also eat chicken, not only sausages. My relationship with Mang Inasal is tighter than my sleeping feline for there is a similarity between him and me: affordable and abused.

I passed by the University of San Carlos, the world-class institution promised by one of my customers but I evaluate myself as a nomad of education so I refused and remained a student of reality. Ah, it was near the Sto. Rosario church was a complete family of toasted-skinned Badjao squat on a worn-out Del Monte cartoon: a young girl, probably fifteen, breastfeeding a newborn, elbowing her brother whose stomach protrudes, and a younger sister wearing an old donated Abellana uniform laying down on her bony legs. The husband arrives and brought a plastic of pansit bam-i that prompted the extreme delight of his clan. It was a weird and ironic satisfaction seeing merriment in a situation I could not imagine myself into, but the theme is clear that even with simple reasons I could be happy too. This realization I took with me as I display my red-nailed thumb in the middle of the street, stopping the rusted jeepney sardined with exhausted passengers: a few wandering in their dreams and some criticizing my knitted stockings as their lice feast on their heads and scatter the unpleasantness of their body odor.

If I take the expensive route to Ayala, SM Seaside or City, and all the Robinsons with or without snakes, I have to admit that my pocket would run from my very short shorts for the prices are not for me. It is very humiliating that any top from Rustan’s is a third of my equivalence that is why I believe only a single yellow fruit will be able to accept my debatable identity—The Mango Street. I seem to discard a magnetic force luring men of all ages and races for I am the tourist spot.

The imaginary rooster known as the body clock wakes me up; it is time to go back to the boarding house and again, hear my neighbor’s endless drama. The humble transportation labeled 04C offers to take me home. The foolish sweetness of a couple opposite to where I sit bothers my emotions in diaspora. I wish ants would build hills on their faces that they would be admitted to the hospital the next day, diagnosed with diabetes. “Magbuwag ramo! (You’ll just break up!)” but behind that “Magbuwag ramo!” is a Mariachula Makachungkang silently screaming, “Ako napod (How about me?).”

“Plete oh…(Here’s my fare…)” the person beside me said, and so does the one beside him, and the one beside who’s beside him, and the loop goes on and on. That time, I realized that I am like a jeepney. I get paid on every drive I perform. I arrive at different destinations just to fill in the juice that races me on. Sometimes, life is heavy traffic but there are lucky instances when the road is loose. In the end, I am the one who steers the wheel, steps on the break when I need to, hit either a human or animal when I’m careless,  permits a person to hop in, and sends someone away. And for a microscopic moment, I wanted to take the right path.

“Lugar lang sa may eskina. (Please stop at the corner.)”