on the way to the market

by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – One of the good things that I love most about going home to Cagayan de Oro is our home’s proximity to almost anything and everything. The public market is two corners away. The university is only a 7-minute walk. The sports center is just a wall away from our barrio center. The superstores abound. The churches too. Whenever I am in Cagayan de Oro I always make sure to have breakfast even once in the public market. I remember growing up with this weekly “ritual” with our father then. I still go to the same carinderia (small restaurant with cheap but delicious food, not necessarily quality ones). Since the public market is a short walking distance from home, I always encounter our dear neighbors. It’s also the best to socialize and reminisce about the days and years gone by. Here are some anecdotes during these early morning rituals.

I chance upon a neighbor who married an American. She greets me, “welcome home!” I ask her about her kids. She replies, “they are at the hotel.” I ask again, “why at the hotel?” She simply replies, “they miss home a lot!” Since when did hotels replace the comforts of home when you are home already?

Another day, another neighbor. She asks, “are you back for good?” This question puzzles me no end. I wave at her and say, “I’m back. Not for good. But for myself.”

A male neighbor shouts from his window, “when did you get back?” I shouted back, “a week ago. Why?” He replied, “where’s my pasalubong? (gift)” I just shrugged my shoulders and went off. I have stopped bringing gifts from my travels. It’s not only heavy but they are also costly. One day another neighbor arrived from the US. I met her on the street. I asked her for my pasalubong. Not really expecting anything from her, she took her wallet out and handed me a 20-dollar bill. I thanked her heartily and she told me, “take good care of that money. I cleaned toilets just to earn that.” I wanted to return the money. But she insisted that keep it. This happened twenty years ago and I still have the 20-dollar bill.

I went once to the public market and had the usual treat -the infamous adobo. My favorite waitress said, “you get the best cut from the pot.” I smiled. An old lady sat beside me and ordered rice and a simmered marinade of the stew, which is free upon request. The old lady ordered another rice to go with the free marinade. Who is luckier now? I who got the best cut? Or the lady who got the taste for free?

My favorite waitress said one day, “I really love seeing you every morning with your hair not fixed and your face unshaven.” I was caught by surprise by this comment that I couldn’t order immediately. She shouted again, “just keep the RayBan on.” I replied, “why?” She came closer and whispered into my ear, “they look good on you but who wants those muta (eye boogers).”

Still on my favorite waitress. I ordered stuffed grilled eggplant omelette. She said out loud, “why do people like you love to eat eggplants in the morning?” I didn’t know what to say. She went on saying, “I know eggplants are best taken at night and almost raw.” Finally, I replied, “it tastes even better when taken hanged.”