By Consuelo Maria G. Lucero
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:19:00 07/03/2008
The day after "Ka Bel" died, my father sent me an email urging me to go to the wake for the party-list representative. He said Crispin Beltran was once his boss and one whom he deeply respected, and he felt it was his filial obligation to offer flowers and prayers at his wake. But since he was away in Maastricht, the Netherlands, on a scholarship, he asked me to go his place.
I'm no leftist; I'm not even politically inclined, as some of my schoolmates have probably noted. So when I put on my denim pants and rubber shoes to go to Manila's Quiapo district to buy some flowers, I thought that I was merely doing what my father had asked me to do: to offer flowers and prayers for a dead man.
When I got to Quiapo, I searched the flower vendors at the side of the church, trying to imagine what colors my father would have wanted. I stopped at a nondescript stall with green, maroon and pink flowers, not just the usual yellow and white. The vendor told the white or yellow mums would cost P100, but if I picked assorted colors it would cost me P150.
I tried to bargain, and she brought down the price of the latter to P140.
I asked if the funeral wreath came with ribbons. "Extra P20 kung may ribbon," she said.
I did not bother to haggle anymore. Then I handed her a piece of paper on which I had copied the epitaph my father wrote: "Pagpugay sa dakilang anak ng uring manggagawa, Ka Bel; Ang buhay at alaala mo'y titis ng pag-asa sa pakikibaka ng uri. — Kas. George."
The vendor was shocked by the long message. I figured that she was used to writing only "Condolence and sympathy" on the ribbon. But she talked so loud that the other vendors came over.
"Santissima! Kay Ka Bel mo ba ibibigay?" a vendor of Lego-like toys asked.
I nodded and smiled.
"Diyos ko, Mare, huwag mo na singilin!" she told the flower vendor. "Kay Ka Bel naman pala eh. Kapatid natin iyon sa pakikibaka."
They called their friends, who were selling trinkets worth P10 or less. One of them offered to do the writing, declaring his handwriting was the best. Others shared their opinions about Ka Bel. Some told the flower vendor to add more flowers on the wreath.
"Nakakasama kasi namin sa rally si Ka Bel," the friendly toy vendor explained.
"Oo, at wala siyang paki kahit mga mahihirap kami," the man with the nice handwriting chimed in.
Some asked me if I was going alone, or if I was with a leftist group. I politely told them that I was going on behalf of my school organization.
When they asked me what school I attended, someone said, "Mabuting may mga matatalino pa ring sumusuporta sa mga mahihirap." I did have the courage to tell them I was no leftist.
Finally they finished the wreath, beautifully done. The flower vendor told me that with all the additions, the wreath was now worth more than P200, but she was giving it to me for free as her own offering for Ka Bel. A vendor of plastic bags gave me a big red-and-white plastic free of charge. And while I was preparing to leave, a cigarette vendor came with a small bouquet of white mums and asked me to bring them to their champion. Then they all bade me a cheery goodbye, while asking me to extend their condolences to Ka Bel's family. I rode the jeepney to Taft Avenue with a heart that was never more deeply touched.
Had my father been here, he would have gone every day to the wake. He would have go to Ka Bel's funeral, marching with his buddies in the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno, sharing pictures and stories of Ka Bel and the KMU. He probably would not have thought of asking me to go with him, knowing that I am not interested in rallies and leftist organizations.
But maybe it was a good thing that he was away and had to ask me to do this. I never would have come so close to the poor and neither would have known how deeply they felt about Ka Bel, their "brother in the struggle" against poverty.
Consuelo Maria G. Lucero, 17, is a third-year Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature student at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
Posted by bananas at 4:10 PM