Her name is Rochelle. Rochelle Depillo.
I was surprised to find out that Rochelle’s sister was also in grade 3. When I asked her sister why, she just said “Nagtitinda kasi si mama noon kaya di niya ako naasikaso.”
Their house was near a pond full of trash. I mean, I there was less water and more trash. The pond was gray, no sign of water lifeforms; there were big rats though.
“Ui may manok.” I exclaimed, amazed that there was only one chicken in their house. Usually, I see at least three to four chickens, but this one was different. They only had one chicken! It’s a guy, so it could not lay eggs…
“Para saan po iyan?” I asked.
Rochelle’s mother would frequently cover her mouth with her palm as if she was embarrassed about it. Actually, it was my first time to encounter a family who joins sabong.
“Ano hong trabaho nila?”
“Dito lang ho.”
“Si mister ho?”
“Sa construction ho, pero wala pang contrata kaya bahay-bahay muna. Siya po gumawa nito.”
“O? Talaga? Gusto ko rin ng asawang makakagawa ng bahay ko.”
I surveyed the place and found out that the foundation of their house was resting on a tree! I mean, how do I describe this… Their real house was made of cement, but outside was a lobby all made of wood. Yep, the one that I stepped on to. I felt like falling any minute, but somehow managed to trust the architecture of the house.
“Sa puno ho ito nakasandal?!”
“Ay nakakabit naman ho ito sa bahay.”
“Hindi ho ba delikado yung ganito?”
“Sa ngayon naman po okay lang naman po. Wala naman pong nangyayari.”
Though I won’t wait until something bad happens…
“Nakakakaba naman ho ito! Bukod ho ba sa pagconstruction ni mister, ito hong pansabong din ho?”
“Dalawang beses na namin yan nilaban at nanalo, pero wala pa rin taya.”
Oh, so they make the chicken fight but they do not give money for a bet.
We chatted about Rochelle’s grades especially that she rarely passed an assignment. Though there was a five-second worth of silence, and Rochelle’s mother was the one who broke it.
“Ang sipag niyo ho ma’am.”
“Lahat ho sila talaga binibisita ko. Para sa kanila.”
And yes, even though at times I feel tired–this will never be about me. This will always be about them.
As I said my goodbye, I whispered to Rochelle, “Galit ba si papa?”
“Hindi naman po. Pero naglalasing si papa eh minsan.”
As we walk I learned that Rochelle’s parents weren’t married yet. I told them it would be nice if they would like in a Kasalang Bayan. Her mother smiled at me and again told me, “Ang sipag niyo ho.”
Student number 36, check.