A rainy-day encounter | Inquirer Opinion

A rainy-day encounter

04:03 AM March 17, 2020

The rain drizzled.

I was sitting on the narrow, red ledge of the bus stop, three overused, recycled bags full of a week’s groceries at my feet, when he hovered over. White-haired, probably in his 70s, small, and clutching a brown bag. Half of the ledge was wet, so I stood up and moved over to the covered edge of the stop, so he could sit down. He looked surprised by the gesture, and said “Thank you.”

He didn’t sit down. He shuffled, made some space from the narrow seat, glanced at me, then offered, “Sit over here.”


I would recognize that accent anywhere, but politely asked, “Are you Filipino?”


“Yes.” His old eyes looked into my face, discerning if I was a kababayan. I’d seen that look before—Filipinos around London mistake me for Thai, Vietnamese, even Japanese, for some reason. “You?”


He smiled, looking a little surprised.

“Taga-saan ka?”

“Dito po sa dulo ng Camden, pa-Tottenham. Nag-aaral po ako sa Westminster.”

“Nakatira rin ako dito sa Camden, pero doon,” he tilted his head, then looked past his shoulder. “Pataas.”


His fingers tugged at the light brown plaid scarf around his neck.

“Taga-saan po kayo sa Pilipinas?”

“Tacloban,” he answered. He looked at me closely, probably wondering if I had been to his hometown. A rush of nostalgia warmed me up, somehow. I was fond of the city, the small airport, and the chocolate muron you could only find there. But my memories were that of a visitor’s; that place was his home. I could only imagine how he felt.

“Nagtrabaho po ako para doon dati. Pagkatapos ng ‘Yolanda.’ Nasa disaster rehabilitation po ako noon.”

His face lit up with what I shared.

“Ikaw? Taga-saan ka?” he asked.

“Manilenya po ako.”

He nodded.

“Nauwi pa po kayo?”

“Etong darating na Abril,” he replied. “Kuwan, nag-che-chemo kasi ako dito.” He fixed his scarf again, knotting it in place to cover his chin. “Tawag na nang tawag yung pamilya ko.” He sighed. “Mag-isa lang kasi ako dito.”

I considered asking, and I thought I knew the answer to my question, but gently said it anyway: “Bakit po hindi sumunod yung pamilya ’nyo dito, para po magkakasama kayo?”

He looked at me, rather sadly. “Wala kaming pera para makapunta sila dito. Ginagamit ko. Okay naman, pangkain lang naman ang kailangan ko dito. Yung iba, gobyerno na bahala. Dito kasi ako nag-retire.” He paused for a few seconds, then continued, “Alam mo, maayos kasi yung chemo dito. Naka-iskedyul. Nagpaalam na nga ako sa doktor para umuwi, pumayag naman.”

That pulled me apart. I was glad he had a chance to go home, but I was also worried. “Buti po makakauwi kayo. Pero ingat po kayo sa pagbiyahe. May virus po na umiikot ngayon.”

“Mag-iingat ako. Dito nga sa London meron na rin e. Kinalat nila.” He shook his head. “Pero sana hindi lumala. Dinasal ko nga, kakasimba ko lang.”

The rain had slowed to a light drizzle. I glanced around again, and saw my bus approaching.

“Sa 88 po ako sasakay.”

He nodded. “Ako naman 276. Anong pangalan mo?”

“Jean po.”

“Jean. Ako si Abe.”

I smiled, then said goodbye, and asked him to take care. I hopped onto the bus, took a seat at the lower deck, then turned to the glass window. Abe was looking at me, smiling. I waved goodbye. He waved back until the bus turned on the corner.

When he was hidden from my view, I looked down and said a short prayer for his protection, in the way I usually said it for my mother and sister back home. I thought, families could be apart, across countries, but family could also be all of us, anywhere in the world.

I looked out the bus window. The rain had stopped falling.

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Ragene Andrea L. Palma, 29, is currently studying in London as a Chevening scholar.

TAGS: opinion, Young Blood

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