The Spirited Anna…with sightless left eye
and dimming right one
by Apolinario Villalobos
I thought the woman whose name I learned was Anna, and who was sitting on the pushcart was just too trusting by not counting the money that I gave her for the items that I chose from among her “buraot” items, until she told me that her right eye can barely see while her left eye was totally useless. Her sight had been defective since she was a girl. While growing up, she was desperate and a loner because of her deficiency until she met her husband who took good care of her.
Anna and her husband had been selling junk items for more than five years. They would spread their items on a piece of tarpaulin as early as six in the morning along the old railroad track now covered with pavement as early as six in the morning, just when the vegetable wholesalers are packing up. An hour later they would transfer to the corner of the Sto. Cristo St. where I found her. With their four children in tow, her husband would leave her to clean their other “buraot” items in the railroad track.
She smilingly told me that she and her husband have been setting aside money for their children from the meager daily earnings. Just like most of the hardworking scavengers of Divisoria, they live on the pushcart…or rather, beside their pushcart that are heaped with their junks at the end of the day. Their children are aged nine, seven, four and three years. Just before noon, she told me that they, already with lunch bought from a makeshift sidewalk eatery, would join her.
Our amiable conversation was cut short by a sudden and steady drizzle. I had to help Anna gather her items on their pushcart and cover them with two pieces of tarp that I brought with me, intended to be given to the vendors like her. We stayed on the covered sidewalk, and it was at this time that Anna got worried for her husband and children. Not long afterward, a guy carrying two children, and two girls huffily came running and joined us.
As the pushcart was securely covered, I invited Anna and her family to the Jollibee outlet a few steps away. The eldest girl jumped and gleefully shouted when she heard the name. When we entered, other customers threw us inquisitive stares as the husband of Anna and the kids were dripping wet. It was their first time to enter the establishment and even taste its cheapest Yummy sandwich, but for such a happy occasion, I ordered the regular burger and spaghetti for each of them. While they were enjoying their sandwich, spaghetti, and Coke, they strike a picture of a happy family…of contentment, a far cry from many families that are virtually swimming in affluence, yet, not satisfied a bit. As a practice, I did not take their picture while enjoying their Jollibee meal, for I do not want the photo opportunity to come out as one done in exchange for something. So as not to instigate Anna and her husband to ask questions about me, I stopped asking more questions about their life….that way, I was happy not to be asked for my name, though, before we parted ways, I told them that the snacks were courtesy of a certain “Perla”. I was resolved, however, to see them again.