Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Standbys of Makati

   Jessie and his family rented the top floor of a three level walk-up condo.  It was located in South Cembo, Makati.  He has never lived in that area before.  He was bullied in high school. 

   The first thing he noticed was the group of ‘standbys’ (‘Standbys’ was a word used for people who hang out in the streets.)  The group congregated in the street corner store, right in front of his new home.  The standbys looked menacing, always with beer or some kind of liquor in their hands.  Bullies have been known to pick on new residents on the block.  Usually they would ask a guy to come have a shot of whatever they’re drinking.  Then if he refuses they will pick a fight on the grounds that he had insulted them by rejecting their invitation.  If he took the drink then he would have to contribute to the drinking budget for the evening.  He dreaded the day when he comes home from work and be that lucky guy.  There was no way to avoid them. 

   When Jessie’s mother, Laila found out their new address she went to visit them unannounced.  There was nobody home so she went back to the street and waited at the corner store.  She ordered soda and told the lady owner she had come to visit her son Jessie and his family.  The store owner introduced herself, her husband and children.  Then Laila turned to the drinking standbys.  She asked them if they have met her son.  They said they’ve seen him but have yet to actually get acquainted.  Laila took note of the beer they’re drinking.  It wasn’t that expensive.  She bought a round from the store.  That took the boys by surprise, a pleasant surprise.  Then she engaged them in a conversation.  They joked and laughed like old friends.  When Jessie's car pulled up she bid goodbye to her new friends and joined his son and his family up the stairs to his new digs.  Jessie didn’t see his mom come from the store.

   A few days later Jessie’s car needed maintenance so he had to take public transportation.  That meant he would come home in the evening and walk past the standbys around the corner.  All day at work he dreaded the anticipated encounter.  When the moment arrived, true enough, the standbys called out his name.  How can they even know his name when he has not been introduced to them?  They were asking him to come over.  He braced himself for one ugly moment.  

   “Hey you’re mom’s alright!  Man, any problem you got from anybody in this neighborhood you just tell us and we’ll fix it for you!” one of the guys said as he got closer.

   “My mom?” Jessie asked.

   “Yeah, we met her when she visited you last week.  She’s ok.  You have a good evening.”

   Jessie thanked them.  The next time he saw his mom he mentioned what the standbys said about her and asked what she did to gain their friendship.  

   “Honey, they didn’t call me ‘Kanto Girl’ for nothing!” Laila replied.  'Kanto' means street corner.  She was one of the  standbys of Pasay.

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