Monologue of the working class
It’s the early hours of Monday morning and I am awakened by the repetitive sound of clanking metal, followed by a few hushed expletives coming from the mouth of my senior-citizen father.
Our gas, which had lived past its one-month expected life, has finally run empty. I get up, make my bed, go to the kitchen, and I see him, sitting on top of an old paint can, a makeshift stool of sorts as he sits by the gas range, disgruntled that he can’t boil his kamote today using the modern marvels of combustion and LPG.
He looks at me and my older sister, who is preparing to go to work and has also taken a look at the slight ruckus he is causing.
He asks us both, “May pang-gas ba tayo?”
My sister and I quickly exchange looks that mean one thing: “Wala. Pa, kapit lang ng ilang araw. Wala pa kaming sahod, wala pa tayo pangbili ng gas.”
Seeing the looks on our faces, he slowly gives up on the LPG tank and reluctantly gets his old bolo, proceeds to pick up a couple of pieces of dried wood from an old pile that we keep for situations like this, and starts to build a fire in our chipped-but-functioning kalan so that he can finally start to cook his breakfast.
Pa, I’m sorry, Pa. If I had the money to buy you a dozen LPG tanks, I would have. But I don’t.
This is but a normal occurrence at our house, which we just brush off because we’ve all become used to it, like millions of other Filipino families. It’s that time of the month again — petsa de peligro — and like a cursed old lover, it waltzes back into your doorstep when you least want it. And we all hate it.
Considering the fact that I live in a household in the province with extended family, and that two of the five adults (myself included) are employed, we should be enjoying a relatively easy life and be able to accommodate and provide for basic needs like this without batting an eyelash.
But life and its harsh realities rob every working-class Filipino of that enjoyment. Monthly recurring water and electricity bills, food for the household, medical and hygiene supplies for us five adults and two of my sister’s kids, snacks and other expenses of the two children, personal needs accompanied by the cost of being currently enrolled in a post-graduate program, the cost of using public transport because owning and maintaining a car is beyond my financial capacity, phone bills, insurance, St. Peter Plan, self-care and other expenses elsewhere — these and more, which leave me asking: To the person who said that everything gets easier once I land a job, where are you, I just want to talk — how do adults do this? How. HOW?
When I was a kid, I used to think adults had everything under control. Surprise, surprise — they actually don’t. Or maybe most of us adults now don’t?
Overworked and underpaid — this is the daily unsung litany of the working class. We are the poor, the tired, the overworked. We want to live our best lives, but it’s not that simple. In fact, it’s expensive, because not all of us are born under the plethora of privileges that so many take for granted.
You can’t just tell a person to save for their dream vacation when they have to immediately provide for the needs of family. You can’t just compare owning things and achieving degrees and titles at a certain age when you don’t have to think about who’s going to pay for your tuition in the first place. You can’t shrug your shoulders and snub those who can’t keep up with your wannabe Kardashian.
All of us are busy doing our own hustle, “raket,” side jobs and what not just to stay afloat in this vast tide of rising prices and lower-than-average salaries. But it’s on days like this one, with an LPG tank gone kaput, that I feel the slow tug of being pulled under the most.
Again, Pa, I’m sorry, Pa. If I had the money to buy you a dozen LPG tanks, I would. But I don’t.
I pause and breathe and try to think clearly that my paycheck will arrive in a matter of days. In a matter of days, I’ll be able to pay off bills, give money to refill that darn LPG tank, and hopefully even save a bit.
But then my inner monologue is once again shoved in a box, in a vault, in the deepest trenches of my mind as my commute to work comes to an end. I arrive, and I brace myself. It is another working day, another day to hustle.
The world does not stop for anyone, and so I am trying my best to keep up with it — we all are. As what that TV ad always plugs: “Aray pero ’di bibigay — laban lang.” A laughable source of motivation, but it gets the message across.
From one lower-middle-class struggler to another: May the odds be in our favor (even if the realities tell us otherwise). Let this be just a day leading to a beautiful life.
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Katrina G. Lucena, 25, is a government employee by day and a law student by night who’s trying to be human in between, and keen on living still.
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