24" x 24"
acrylic on canvas
(She will be part of an group exhibit entitled KRISTO for the Holy Week)
“Ahihihi, ikaw koh-ya yung artist sa Jacinto no? (You’re that artist living in Jacinto?)” she giggled as she recognized me buying while I was buying at a vendor’s cart beside the church.
“Yeah,” I answered, turned my head towards her and took the plastic cup filled to the brim with gulaman and sago.
“Nako koh-ya, i-drowing mo naman ako, yung seksi kong katawan (you draw me and my sexy body),” she offered and traced with her hand her rather shapely hips.
I smiled while my eyes followed the way she traced the curve of her body. “You come here on Wednesday for novena?” I asked her.
“Oo naman koh-ya. Malay mo baka swertehin at bigyan ako ni Lord ng mayamang jowa. (Yeah. Who knows I might be lucky and God might give me a rich lover),” she said and gave out a giggle.
“By the way, aren’t you Ariel’s wife, the guy who sells fish?” I asked.
“Hay nako, matagal nang wala yung malansang lalaki na yun sa buhay ko no (that smelly guy is already long gone from my life),” she said and the smile was gone from her face.
She looked at her watch and abruptly told me, “Nako koh-ya, male-late na ako sa club. Pag nagpunta ka, hanapin mo ako at bigyan kita ng discount (I’d be late for the club. If you go there, look for me and I’ll give you a discount),” and gave me a small card with the club’s name and number. “I-drowing mo ako ha? (Draw me huh?)”
Then she turned around and walked away, her hips swaying wildly.
*gulaman at sago – a dark syrupy, vanilla flavored drink with jello.
“Hey Brian! Saw you at the last pew. You come here every night?” I tapped him on the shoulder as he sat by the edge of the pond with the rippling fountain that has a statue of some female saint by the side of Baclaran church’s courtyard. I fished out a coin in my pocket and then I threw it into the murky shallow water. I thought I might win in the lotto that I never made a bet on, or perhaps Lady Luck would smile on me and I get a windfall of cold, hard cash the next day.
“Hey Kuya. Yeah. You know, novena night. How about you?” he looked up at me with a bit of a start. Gave me a weak smile and moved a little to his left. He gave me a bit more space to sit on that pond’s edge so I can avoid sitting on the wet part. I sat beside him, took out the bag of roasted peanuts in my shirt pocket and offered it to him. He opened his right palm and I poured some of the nuts.
A lot of people were walking by that night, pouring out of the church doors. Office ladies, men in slippers and backpacks, old women with their maids, ragged men and women with humped backs and rich women in their carefully coiffed hair… we watched them as they made a steady parade in front of us.
“Nice night eh? The moon’s full and the breeze… it’s just right,” I quipped while I was staring up at the dark sky with the bright cookie-cutter moon. I poured a few peanuts into my mouth and chewed, not even bothering to rub off the thin brown crust of each piece.
“Kuya… do you think He’ll forgive me?” Brian asked. I looked at him quizzically, wondering what his thoughts were. I saw in the bright moonlight his eyes that were beginning to glaze over as he stared at nowhere. Suddenly, I knew.
“HE always does. HE always will, and I guess HE already has,” I assured him.
A few more minutes passed. We sat there. I ran out of peanuts. The people, they just walked by, in and out of the church doors. And the water just kept pouring behind us from the fountain making its rhythmic rippling sound.
“I have to go now Kuya. I still have to go to the club tonight. You know. Big Night,” he said as he came out of his daze.
“Yeah, I’m heading off home too,” I said.
A few days ago, he helped his girlfriend abort the fetus in her womb. They were both 21 years old then. She’s a co-ed in a nearby college and he works as a stripper in one of the several all-male clubs in the city.
Several times I have seen him go to the Wednesday night novena praying to the Lady in the altar. Wednesdays are also the Big Night in the club where he dances, where “competitions” are held with prize money for the best performer. This was the one of those nights we’ve sat down to talk. It was late 2003.