My first wallet was a gift from Santa

Mama and Papa used to lie about Santa in a funny way – that we didn’t realize, of course, not until we grew up and learned about what really went on while we dreamt of the white-bearded old fat Santa on his reindeer-driven flying sleigh. They’d tell us, indeed convincingly, to go to bed early because Santa wouldn’t drop by if kids stayed awake.

So we went upstairs to bed, leaving our socks pinned on the wall. I would usually ask Papa if he could lend me one because mine were too small, I was thinking they couldn’t hold all of Santa’s gifts for me.

It was hardest to doze off on Christmas eve. I remember forcing myself to sleep but would sooner find myself sneaking out the mosquito net and peeking through the slice of light at the door. My eyes would search for Papa’s sock I borrowed and would find it empty. How sad I was, feeling forgotten by Santa. So I crawled back to bed. My older brother and my older sister both asleep. Maybe.

Early the next morning, we were awakened by Mama’s small voice tickling us, rising us up from sleep. She’d say the magic words, Papa behind her, “Puno na ang medyas!” And suddenly, we were more than awake. We’d run downstairs and I’d feel like chasing after my own heartbeat. It brightened my eyes to see the sock bulging irregularly in shape, like my heart perhaps. We were all smiles and “Yehey!”

After pulling our socks off the wall, we’d sit down on the floor, open the socks, and one by one, take each little thing, each of Santa’s little gifts out and spread them all on the floor. Sometimes, we’d do barter. But oftentimes, we believed Santa had a long list with him and everything in each one’s sock had been listed beforehand. So, no barter.

There was one gift I couldn’t forget apart from the dragon egg-shaped chocolates we could buy from the market, just across the street from our little house – the small pink wallet with blue and green flowers all over. It had a mirror, a coin pocket, and a bill pocket. If my memory served me right, it had five “piso” in it.

I remember taking really good care of it. It was with that little pink wallet that I first tried to save up. From my day’s allowance consisting of a few coins, I’d see to it to keep safe two pesos in my little wallet. Because at the end of the school day, before Papa would cross the highway to fetch me at the school gate, I’d drop by at the dirty ice cream stall. With Papa holding my left hand, and with a small cone of mango-cheese ice cream, sometimes ube, in my right, I’d cross the street unmindful of everything but my ice cream, to our motorcycle ever as young or old as I.

At home, I’d check my little pink wallet. Sometimes, a “piso” was left. Oftentimes, I would just find myself smiling at the thought of ice cream.

Years later, when I was already in college, and when going home was as seldom as cutting my hair short, Papa and I were having a great time telling stories of our childhood. He was cooking rice for lunch and I was sitting by the table. He told me about Santa. Or “The Santas” and how they’d sneak out the house and to the market to buy the so-called Santa’s gifts. Papa told me, there was a store owned by Mama’s relatives. They’d buy the gifts there, and ask the owner (Mama’s “some kind of aunt”) to keep the goods until they’d return by evening. They were afraid we’d accidentally find the goods with my sister always busy arranging things, my brother going in and out for his toys, and me just going around and around. And while we were drifting away with Santa and Rodulf in our dreams, the Santas were sneaking in again to stuff our socks ’til they bulge, deformed.

Then, while listening to Papa and laughing at his stories, I remembered and figured Mama and Papa weren’t home on that Christmas eve when I crawled out the mosquito net to peek through the slice of light at the door. Santas at work. Definitely.

*big smiles*

This Christmas of 2011, I got a wallet, purple, and not small anymore. The gift has grown, and it seems to remind me of the length of time – between my little pink wallet and this “lady-ish” purple one. Thanks to Tita Mar, someone I’ve just met on the same day she gave the purple wallet, sealed for me. 🙂

And this time, I’ll be saving up not for dirty ice cream anymore, but for some gifts for my not-so-old Santas.

My first wallet was a gift from Santa

The Last Free Ride

Mid-morning of one rainy December day, I was on the bus, on my way home to Manila. I was having a tough time fighting my tears back. The TV program on board was a Filipino movie, – about family, father and son, hating and forgiving, God – totally dramatic and whose goal was solely to squeeze your tear ducts. Of course, I love movies as powerful, as touching, as sensible as that. As dramatic, but not when I’m on a public vehicle, “Goodness gracious!”

I was sitting in the front row, by the window, my vision gazing through the window glass trying hard to ignore the raindrops banging against the glass. They were good at teasing my eyes so I had to look away, tilt my head up, and hold the tears there at the edge of my lower lids.

And just when I succeeded, having brought my head down to face the window glass again, I saw through it such…disturbing sight – a truck, a canter maybe, loaded with more than a dozen cows stamped with big blue numbers, some on their belly sides, some on the upper part of their hind legs. Maybe half of them were facing me, their noses tied to the metal poles enclosing the canter’s car.

Their faces told of acceptance, their eyes of fear. It was weird enough to heed they were actually looking at me. But it was far more disturbing to realize that for a moment or two, there seemed to be a connection – unwanted, untold, automatic, and necessary.

The serenity on their faces betrayed by the fears in their eyes, that I had to see. Death was nearing and becoming inevitable as the wheels ran meter after meter along the asphalt roads of SLEX. And acceptance was a requirement. It suddenly saddened me as the story of a cow’s life came playing in my head. They live without another choice than what people had doomed their lives for. Milk, cheese, death. And then beef.

Creatures deprived of freedom like a clan of aliens long sentenced to perish for having trespassed another world. If sharks could be hammerheads, those cows on the canter were soon to be “hammered heads”.

Now, I’m trying to recall if I’ve seen a cow with happy eyes. *Snort* Most males were mad, most females were snobs, and baby cows were usually at play but not necessarily happy. Or how would I really know? But their looks, I bet, come in unison once they receive their big blue number stamps.

And sooner or later, the baby cows would discover what they are for. Their destiny decided, agreed on; their future told, death scheduled.

From a human perspective, their struggles might have been cut short. Planning and worrying about the future are not necessary. Making money is not a problem. Making a living is not a thing to deal with every single day. Zendagi migzara, life goes on, with only whatever is available, until the hammer’s concluding blow.

Then, as my bus finally took over the canter, I had this reply to the cows’ parting message. At the end of your free ride, you will find your purpose. We humans, have our endless roads to go. So please don’t make me feel guilty. Taco’s my favorite.

And once again, I had to tilt my head up and hold them steady. Weird.

The Last Free Ride