Her name is Theresa. Theresa Navidad.
Theresa is a silent and simple girl, almost like Axl only a bit quiter. Her name ‘Maria Theresa’ sounds so peaceful that her face reflects her attitude. Her innocence captured me as we first met; simply because I could see a fictional character that I created for second novel, Mary.
It was the last day of the week, but I decided to push through with the visit. Her two brothers went with us as we traveled to her house.
I tried conversing with her, but I ended up bending my knees to hear her response. Her voice almost sounded like silence.
We arrived at their house soon after. There was a wooden ladder wherein steps are only as thick as my arms; nails were almost loose. My bag was heavy so I told the kids to bring my bag first upstairs or else I might end up falling.
On my last step, I saw her father dressing up. Maybe he was resting when we came. He immediately offered me a seat as he looked for his wife.
There house was really small for a family of seven. Clothes were hung on the left side of the house, and basins served as their cabinets. There were no beds, no furnitures, no refrigerators… no comfort room. I assumed that the duyan that hanged on the wall was for a baby, and the others slept on the floor.
“May baby kayo?” I asked her brother.
“Wala po.” He responded.
“Eh kanino yan?”
“Dito po si papa, tapos dito ako.”
Anyone who would have seen that duyan would think it was for a baby. But, I was surprised that the duyan had two divisions separated by a cloth which was also part of the duyan. It’s hard to explain, but the thing was… two people sleep in there.
While talking to his brother, I was surprised when Theresa stepped by the blackboard near the window. One wrong move and she’d fall. After reaching for her shirt, her other brother stepped on the edge of the window!
When their father came, his first question was, “Ano po bang maipaglilingkod ko po?”
“Bumisita lang po talaga ako kasi gusto ko po makita yung kalagayan nila.” I said, “Wala pong problema kay Theresa. Napakabait na bata.”
“Akala ko po may problema.”
“Ay wala po. Katunayan napakabait nga nitong si Theresa. Tahimik po sa school. Mahiyain din po ba dito sa bahay?”
“Oho. Mahiyain din ho. Ito lang ho yung brusko.” He pointed to the brother I talked to about the duyan.
“Eh kamusta naman po si Theresa dito sa bahay?”
“Ayos naman po.”
“Mahiyain lang talaga ho ano? Naglalaro po ba to sa labas?” I asked out of curiosity.
“Hindi na. Pinapanatili ko na lang sila dito sa bahay para tulungan kami.”
“Ano po bang trabaho nila?”
“Si misis po?”
Another unique experience for me–to meet and visit the people selling sampaguita.
Theresa and her smaller brother grabbed a chessboard and played. They were both quiet. It’s a challenge to tell the rowdy kids to be silent, but it’s actually harder to make Theresa talk.
“Kamusta na ho kayo dito?”
“Ayun po. Maraming problema. Madami akong problema dito sa Maynila. Mas gusto ko na nga lang sa probinsya, doon na lang maghanap ng trabaho.”
“Bakit ho hindi?”
“Wala rin ho eh.”
His eyes was not actually looking at me but on the TV. He seemed to search for ‘something’ to look at actually.
“Sa totoo lang po ma’am, magrereblock dito. Guguhuin to kaya namomroblema kami.”
“Sabi nitong March. Mas gusto ko na nga lang idemolish tapos pahanapan ng pabahay. Eh kapag reblocking, patitirahan pa kami doon, dito din.”
“Hala, nakahanap na po ba kayo?”
“Wala pa nga po eh.”
We chatted for a while about that dilemma, until we jumped to Theresa’s condition in school.
“Ayos naman po. Makakapasa. Pero parang ho nung unang mga buwan, umaabsent siya.”
“Nagkaproblema po kasi kami noon ma’am.”
He stated his problem, but it wasn’t clear to me if it was a third party of some sort.
“Naghiwalay kami nung misis ko. Ako rumerenta sa may Payatas. Eh pumunta siya sa akin, sabi niya hindi niya kaya. Patitigilin na niya daw sila. Eh ayoko naman non. Nahihirapan din sila noon kasi pabalik-balik sila sa Payatas. Ayoko silang maging tulad ko. Gusto ko sana…”
Then, he smiled at me and at Theresa. There was an awkward silence after that, since I was waiting for the continuation, but there was none.
“Kaya po bumalik kayo dito?”
“Opo. Basta makatapos.”
I decided to go home minutes after that topic. He went down first, then offered his hand since I was having a hard time to go down. While on the way, he asked me why I was doing the home visits.
“Gusto ko lang po talaga sila makilala.”
We arrived at the terminal soon after. I saw him put his hands on his pocket as if getting coins. “Ako na po bahala. Wag po kayong mag-alala.” Again, he smiled and said thanks as I said goodbye.
On my way, I cried.
Student number 49, check.