Lolo Vicente’s ‘sari-sari’ store
It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The weather in the Philippines is the same: too hot for old people to go outside, but not so for the little children who want to play.
During this time of day, the only person I remember is my Lolo Vicente. He loved siestas. He’d take over the living room every afternoon, with his radio playing nonstop and an ashtray beside his chair.
No one was allowed to wake him up. I could still hear him snoring every time I think about this scenario. I could even smell the coffee he used to drink before he took his siesta.
On the other hand, my childhood friends and I did the opposite. We hated sleeping, so we restlessly played hide and seek around the backyard under the heat of the sun. We shouted on top of our lungs when the “taya” discovered where we were hiding one by one.
This always caused Lolo to wake up. One time, he silently prepared a large water basin filled with cold water and showered us with it while we were hiding. He did so because we woke him up from his afternoon siesta. My friends and I went home wet and cold, and hated Lolo.
If you’ve watched any cartoon movies with a grandfather scolding and shutting away children, I would say that my Lolo was just like that. However, he was not just that.
Most of the people in our neighborhood remember him so well because he helped them in simple ways. He owned the oldest “sari-sari” store on our street, which was the source of income for the family.
But instead of piled money, his store was full of paper with names of people who owed him for items such as candies, sugar, “vetsin” (MSG), canned sardines and the like. He could not refuse to help them every time they needed something from the sari-sari store.
He also helped me go to school when I was in college. One time, he saw my mother crying because Nanay felt burdened; she had to send me and my sister to college. He hushed my mother like he was her real father.
After that incident, Lolo started giving money for our tricycle fare and an additional food allowance. Though the amount was small, the amount of love that went with it was immeasurable.
Lolo aged with kindness and compassion not just toward me and my family, but to everyone, too. Today, he is in the hospital, surrounded by oxygen tanks because of pneumonia, while I am here outside the country working.
I wish I could turn back time and be with Lolo again. But, instead of playing hide and seek, I will now make him his coffee before he goes to sleep.
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Justin M. Politico, 23, is an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in an international school in Bangkok, Thailand.
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