Erlando Almaez-Ayuste Finds Solace and Strength in His Volunteered Spiritual Undertakings

Erlando Almaez- Ayuste Finds Solace and Strength

In His Volunteered Spiritual Undertakings

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

Orly, as his friends call him has been living along F. Torres in Sta. Cruz district of Manila for more than 50 years. He used to occupy a small studio-type apartment on the second floor of an old building that unfortunately got razed more than 20 years ago. The incident made him sleep on the sidewalk for several months until a friend took him in temporarily while waiting for the vacancy in another old building. He moved on to the new studio room and with a found makeshift table, sold coffee and costume jewelries that he assembled out of beads from broken ones that friends give him or he buys from junk collectors. The owner of the small building allowed him the use of the studio room for free but the electricity and water are on his account.

 

The portion of the street along which he lives is where one can find sellers and buyers of second-hand cellphones, watches and jewelries. F. Torres is stretched parallel to Arranque St, the famous “thieve’s market”. At five in the afternoon a short portion of the street teems with the curious and ambulant “merchants”. To them, Orly sells coffee, and from some of them he buys broken jewelries. The earning is meager, just enough to buy him three meals a day and replenishment for sachets of coffee and small bags of sugar for his business.

 

The first time I saw him, I thought he was some kind of an office worker who just dropped by the place to buy cheap jewelry or cellphone. He was then attired in a collared shirt which was neatly tucked giving him a sleek countenance. The next time I saw him, he was in walking shorts that exposed the varicose veins in his legs. And, as it was early in the morning, before 8AM, he was washing a couple of shirts in the makeshift lavatory in front of the slim table where his coffee mugs and some plates were stacked. As he was aloof, I did not bother to talk to him while ordering a mug of coffee.

 

As I felt that his life could be colorful, I kept on observing him, until after several mugs of coffee and days of dropping by, he sort of trusted me with a modest smile. That broke the ice. During our talks, I led him to open up and share his experiences when he was just a stranger in Manila. According to him, he arrived in Manila from Tacloban during the 60’s when Ramon Magsaysay was the president of the country. He initially worked as a houseboy. He did his best to save out of his earnings so that in no time, he was able to get a small room and supported himself by selling snacks and coffee on the sidewalk.

 

I was surprised to learn that despite his meager formal education, as he finished only Grade Five, he is able to speak a sprinkling of German, though with fluency of Spanish and English. He told me that he is a fast learner and a voracious reader. Another surprise is that he can read musical scores despite the lack of a basic music education.  He plays the piano and organ but admits that he needs musical sheets to guide him. He learned to read music during the early years of his membership in the Sta. Cruz parish choir, as he was then, fond of observing their pianist. In this regard, he has been singing with the Sta. Cruz parish choir for more than twenty years now.

Orly’s sister, Lydia lives in Masangkay with her own family, and which is not far from F. Torres where he lives. Today at 77, he dreams of owning a piano so that he can put to life the melodies that have been bugging his mind. He dreams of translating them into musical scores. I told him to go on dreaming for this blessing, as it is free anyway…for who knows, some day, we might meet a musician who got tired of his Weinstein that needs just a simple retuning of strings.

 

Every time I drink at least two mugs of Orly’s coffee, I wonder if others can muster life just like he does sans bank account or just a few pesos stashed away, and only with a few decent shirts and pair of pants to wear on Sundays for his scheduled singing with the choir in honor of the Nuestra Seἧora del Pilar. That’s Orly …strong and gutsy guy, who at 77 sings and plays the piano for the glory of the Blessed Mother!

 

 

Mga Adventure sa Manila

Mga Adventure sa Manila

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nang una akong tumapak sa Manila ay nang dumating ako galing sa Davao kasama ang iba pang mga aplikante na magti-training sa PAL. Escort namin ang namayapa nang si Bud Aseoche. Kasama ko sa grupo sina Abet Yu, Boy Asistido, Rey Porras, at Fred Derequito. Hilong-hilo ako paglapag ng eroplano sa airport – culture shock! Diretso kami sa boarding house sa Baclaran, malapit sa Airport Road na namumutiktik ng mga beer house.

 

Dahil tinipid ko ang training allowance, hindi ako namasyal tuwing weekend na walang pasok sa training center. Isang beses dahil sa tindi ng hatak ng adventure, sinubukan kong lumabas ng boarding house at sumakay ng DM Transit. Namangha ako dahil noon pa lang ako nakakita ng “konduktor” ng bus na babae. Animo karton sa pagkatigas ang uniporme dahil sa almirol. Panay lang ang tingin ko sa labas bintana – window tripping. Nang lumapit ang konduktora, nagbayad ako. Ilang beses din siyang lumapit…panay din ang bayad ko, tatlong beses! Yon pala, ang paglapit niya ay para lang makita ang tiket ko kaya nakalahad ang kamay niya, subali’t dahil di ko alam, hindi ko pinapakita ang tiket, at bayad lang ako ng bayad, tanggap naman siya ng tanggap!

 

Narinig ko sa kwentuhan ang Avenida, maganda raw. Sinubukan ko ring puntahan. Sa kalalakad ko, nakarating ako sa Ongpin St. na bahagi na pala ng Chinatown. Namangha uli ako. May nakahalata yatang manggagantso, nilapitan ako sabay pakita ng isang retrato – maganda ang babae, tsinita. Tanong niya kung type ko raw. Dahil kabado ako, tumanggi ako, pero sa kapipilit niya at curiosity ko na rin, sumama ako. Malayo ang nilakad namin bago makarating sa Trinidad St.,  na kahanay pa rin ng Avenida pero malayo na sa sentro. Sabi ng bugaw, pahinga daw muna sa kwarto, sabay turo ng pinto. Dahil napagod ako, tumuloy na ako at humiga sa kama, pero hindi ko binuksan ang ilaw. Maya-maya pa may pumasok, malakas ang amoy ng pabango, lumapit at minasa-masahe ako. Bandang huli, pumayag ako sa sandaling masahe. Pilit niyang sinasabit ang pantalon ko sa isang bahagi ng dingding pero hindi ako pumayag kaya itinabi ko sa unan. Nang umabot sa puntong may nasalat ako sa kanya, nagalit ako at nasipa ko siya. Bumalandra siya sa dingding at sabay noon, may nabuksang butas na ang takip ay umiikot pala! Nataranta din ang “babae” at lumabas ng kwarto, ni hindi ko nakita ang mukha dahil madilim sa kwarto.  

 

Nagmura ako kunwari habang nagsusuot ng pantalon, t-shirt, at sapatos. Ang brief at medyas ibinulsa ko na lang dahil hahabulin ko nga ang “kaguwang”.  Hinanap ko rin ang bugaw na tumakbo palang palabas ng maliit na bahay. Susundan ko sana subali’t nakita kong pagdating sa kanto, may apat na siyang kasama, kaya ako naman ang nagmadaling umalis at pumunta agad sa bus stop. Nang may dumaan, sakay agad ako nang hindi man lang nagtanong kung saan papunta ang bus. Nakahalata yata ang konduktor na bagong salta ako kaya siya na ang nagbanggit ng mga lugar na pwedeng babaan. Pinili ko ang Luneta. Dahil sa naghalong niyerbiyos at pagod, bumili ako ng softdrink sa isang kiosk, habang tinitingnan ako ng mga tao. Naawa yata ang tindero, sabi sa akin, “sir, baligtad ho ang t-shirt nyo…”. Noon  ko pa lang naalala na hindi ko rin naisuot ang medyas at brief ko. Sa comfort room ng Luneta na rin ako nag-ayos ng sarili upang magmukhang disente uli. Nagpasalamat ako sa pangyayari dahil narating ko ang Luneta for the first time. Three weeks after, may nabasa ako sa diyaryo, reklamo ng lalaki na doon din dinala pero nadukutan dahil pumayag siyang isabit ang pantaloon niya sa dingding na may butas pala! Ang nagmasahe, bakla…kaya pala may nasalat ako noon.

 

Hindi pa rin ako nadala. Quiapo naman ang sunod kong pinuntahan. Madaling puntahan dahil sa landmark na malaking simbahang Katoliko. Habang naglalakad ako, may lumapit sa aking may dalang nakarolyo….pabulong na sinabing bold magazines daw. Buy one take one daw at nakabalot na. Mura kaya binili ko subali’t nang bubuksan ko para tingnan, sabi ng nagbenta sa bahay ko na lang daw buksan at baka mahuli kami ng pulis, bawal kasi. Sa boarding house, nang buksan ko, para akong pinagsakluban ng langit dahil ang nakabalot pala ay dalawang issue ng Liwayway. Akala ko ay Playboy man lang o Penthouse na pwede ko ring  i-share  sa mga kasama ko.

 

Dahil sa mga adventure na yon, nabawasan ang pinaka-iingatan at tinitipid kong allowance. Pero okey lang. Inisip ko na lang na para akong nagbayad sa isang tour guide….