No, it’s not the usual manner through which I always lose accessories like wallets, hankies or umbrellas: my lack of tenacity. On one hand, that’s a positive sign of not being materialistic, but on the other hand, I can be faulted for being burara or worse, being incapable of holding on to things. I don’t want to be accused of something that I’m not, especially of mishandling friendships or love affairs. Careless or otherwise, I lost my phones to theft. I rushed to get a shower but the recharging phone I had checked before entering the bathroom vanished after 20 minutes. Just that: gone in 20 minutes. Returning from bathing, I saw the main door ajar, the recharging phone and the camera phone inside a fake lacoste purse nowhere in sight. Slowly, expecting the worst, I reached for the tattered black bag containing the laptop I had used earlier to copy syllabi from. It was untouched. Maybe the thief was too idiotic to realize that the laptop is more expensive than the two phones combined, or maybe s/he was too much in haste to sneak away a bulky machine that might catch the attention of the kuyog-ready crowd downstairs. Whatever the case, the morals of the story include: 1. appearances deceive, 2. poverty breeds desperadoes, 3. trust no one as evil lurks everywhere, 4. huwag magtapis pagkatapos maligo. Theft is far less traumatizing than holdup, which happened to me many times in the past. I would nonchalantly ride a public utility vehicle, and the next thing I know, holduppers were already declaring their means of livelihood. Last time I waited for a jeep on an ungodly hour, two men came up to me using the alibi of asking for time. One produced a shiny, dangerous fan knife and barked that I hand over my phone. Fearing my entrails would be used as the following day’s pavement wax, I gave the Nokia 3210 which I previously intended to discard, having bought another phone to use alternately with my camera phone. Unlike in anecdotes wherein N3210’s are being returned by holduppers since such phone model isn’t worth the risk of being busted by cops, my 3210 wasn’t tossed back on my lap. The heavens listened to my plea for my new phone to remain silent. Only when my muggers had left that it rang—my friend ben-hur texted “kumusta? can you set me up for an orgy?” The surviving phones would disappear two years hence. It did not matter that their values have much depreciated over time or that phones have become so much cheaper nowadays; I depend so much on these for contacts from clients (which qualifies me as a call boy, pun intended), I have since discarded my manual phonebooks, my memory card contains some nostalgic songs, pictures, audio recordings and videos, among other essentials. In short, the thief caused a paralysis in my life that entailed my starting all over again. With lost phones, I’m practically plagiarizing the condition of colonized countries: I am back to scratch, my history is erased, but life must go on, beginning anew. It didn’t help that on the way to work, a long queue leading to nfa rice stalls signaled a real food crisis. It depressed me more, since what happened to me might be repeated sometime somewhere owing to the aggravating poverty. I imagined my thief, ignoring his/her screaming conscience, selling the stolen phones to afford the skyrocketing commodity prices. S/he could be one of the hard-up faces in that crowd, and I felt sad that the face masks an inclination that’s no different from those of corrupt government officials. This is what my poor people have been reduced to. I knew I had to see pangga after my devastating experience, notwithstanding the lovers’ quarrel a couple of nights before. His mommy let me in, and pangga was not in the least surprised to see me around. In fact, he was expecting that the visitor was I. I told him what happened, adding that “mawala na ang materyal na mga bagay sa mundo, pero kailangan kita sa buhay ko.” That sounded to me like claudine barretto singing a rey valera song, but it was enough to melt his heart. He took the phone which my student lent me temporarily and keyed in his mobile number. He suspected that I was “nagpapaawa” when I lied that even the laptop had been stolen, so he frisked my bag and verified his suspicion. He said that according to his mother, things like that occur so that accidents will befall on one’s most cherished possessions instead of on oneself. That was believable in the context of sacrifice: one lets go of one’s most precious because in the end, the benefits are at their greatest. Gollum could not agree more.
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