I developed a kind of arms-length friendship with Pepe when I was backsliding from vegetarianism. I was eating meat, and fish, particularly my favorite pinakaging nga piniritong Bolinao.
With simple joys, I grew up along the shores of Sawang, Dimiao, Bohol in the 60s and 70s where the sound of the pangkow at dawn, followed by slippers rustling accompanied with murmurs such as naay nakakuha, was music to my ears. It means a real fresh catch (dili inicesan nga kinilawng Bolinao) will be the morning viand.
The family was very poor. My father was an honest and diligent janitor-clerk at DECS Lila, Bohol. My mother was a very good public school teacher; outstanding to my personal standards. But all they earned, if I remember right, was 250 and 350 pesos per month, respectively, less deductions. With six children to clothe, feed and send to school, naputos mi sa utang. Struggling, but happy nonetheless.
Aside from the fact that I was backsliding from vegetarianism, Kap Jean Ruiz of Ubujan judiciously distributed to all residents, whether voter or not, 25 kilos of rice from the city government of Tagbilaran. This was the beginning of the pandemic. I gave my 25 kilos to Pepe.
Speaking of voting, I first exercised by voting rights after the 1986 EDSA Revolution provided real democratic space. I began in Dimiao and have consistenly voted there ever since. In 1992, I voted for Jovito Salonga. In 1998, I cast my lot with Jeep ni ERAP. In 2004, I voted for FPJ. This one had a deep implication to my faith because Gloria Arroyo got the presidency with much help from Garcillano, and the Catholic Bishops Conference, at that time said, “the elections were generally clean and honest”. The rest of course was fraught with interesting stories about Mitsu-bishops, Rolex bishops, etc. and bags of money circulating the corridors of power. In 2010, I voted for Noynoy Aquino (much to the chagrin of my own mentor, Nicanor Perlas). In 2016, I voted for Mar Roxas, and Leni Robredo.
It is true that in the capitalist system, the rich becomes richer and the poor becomes poorer. Take the case of Pepe. All he has are his balde, taksanang baso, and his old Palos cap, shouting, “Isda, Sir” relying on a very small network of suki that counts me among them. How is he to compete with those who are on tricyles, with matching sound system that says, “Naa tay kugita, naa tay nukos, kijampao, lambay, katambak, etc”.
Of course, we consumers would go for the varied choices; and the lowly vendors like Pepe will just wither away. I once or twice gave him umbrellas seeing that he was selling in the rain, but I never really saw him use them. Convenience, perhaps. He stuck to his old Palos cap.
But now I have all the symptoms of Covid, all the theories, thoughts, rhymes and reasons fly out of the window. I am back to faithful vegetarianism. Pero kung pakabuhi-on pa ko sa Ginoo, like Hidilyn Diaz and Sir Gerry Garcia and BM Frans Garcia-Devenosa of the 2nd District, I will do the right thing in 2022, and vote for Leni Robredo.