It is the Sunday of mother's day within the 30-day reprieve you permitted yourself to have after months of going through the process of purgatory in the organization you all envisioned would spell the difference between greed and social responsibility.
You were based in Los Angeles, remember, where Filipinos murder each other for the sake of the dollar and for the sake of rising up by decapitating others.
In this city of strange settlement of peoples of all kinds, your kind included, division has another name: fractiousness.
You get the feeling that this is a reflection of what is happening in Manila where politics is a game they play every minute of the people's lives--and always, always, at the people's expense.
There is mulck and dirt and sin everywhere.
And there is no redemption in sight, not even an iota.
And so we become impotent witnesses to what gives everyday, in Manila as in Los Angeles.
There, in these two cities, those who made it in life make it a point to enslave others in order to enrich themselves some more.
In Los Angeles, the Filipino who is indocumentado gets a job in a nursing facility or home care or some such other cottage businesses of Filipinos by becoming that all-around caregiver.
Do not talk about the salary: this is highly confidential not because the owners of these businesses are afraid of karma but because they want more dollars for the stay-in job of caregivers who cannot complain precisely because of fear.
We think of new forms of slavery--and this is it.
In Los Angeles and elsewhere, in New York as well as in Hololulu, these are realities, ugly and unjust, that we have to contend with everyday.
Listen to the stories of these people and you feel rage welling up from your soul: If only our politicos know how to take care of our people.
Well, the play of the ifs.
But then back to this business of dining on Macapagal Avenue, that very costly avenue inaugurated by the current resident of Malacanang in honor of her father.
We understand the patch of commercial land where the Mall of Asia and the Shrine of Jesus the Way the Truth and the Life are now a goldmine from what used to be a marshland reclaimed from the potent fluvial capacilities of the famed Manila Bay.
We are meeting up with Manang Precy here, in these parts.
It is 4:00 PM and we are figuring out where the Danny's Grill is. We are cruising along, with the rain and the miracle of a traffic in these parts, like the freeway in Los Angeles during the early hours.
The avenue is a short stretch of a road, perhaps five kilometers but it is heaven: four lanes and all leading to where social and political happiness can be a bargain.
We get to the place on time. The host is there.
We weighed the pros and cons re the food to be ingested, the price costly, stiff, and equivalent to a month's wage of a sales clerk or the resto waitresses.
I squirm but I do not tell my wife and kids.
I squirm but I do not tell my host.
I squirm but I take in each moment of culinary delight.
God, I tell myself, God bless us.
I think thoughts about people who are starving, the young boy vending sampaguita blooms in Pugon de Manila along P Tuazon in Marikina on a late night.
Is he hoping he can get some baon money from his wares at this late hour?
I cry within, I suppress a tear.
How come that all the symptoms of poverty and misery are in the places where we buy satiation aplenty?
What a contradiction!
But then again, faith has another name. And hope too.
I enjoy the night.
I enjoy the food.
I enjoy the company of friends.
That, to me, is enough.
To dine or not to dine ceases to be a choice but a moment to hope for the best for oneself and for others.
Or a way to justify my petit-b pretenses and privileges?
A. S. Agcaoili
May 14, 2006
Danny's Grill, Pasay City