Year of the Rooster A tale of two friends PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 26 February 2017 14:56



BY Jack Edward Enriquez


Seated on his three-wheeled wooden cart Mang Kiko glanced at the people on the road passing by while different kinds of vehicles would come and go toward where they’re bound for. “Ubu-ubu! Hrmmph!” he grunted in deep cough, the mucus stuck in his throat. He flipped the cigarette butt. “I have to quit this, but I can’t,” he heaved a sigh. It’s the only vice left to wipe the sadness out of his lonely life.

Way back about 20 years or so, Mang Kiko had been well off. He was the trusted foreman of a known engineer who had prospered in life as a prominent contractor. He received a big salary plus the loud disco music coming from a Baliwasan jeepney picking up passenger in front of him. Flashed back in his memory those happy hours inside night spots drinking together with friends and the sexy GROs seated by the table. Most often the night would end up inside a cheap mot^with a tipsy GRO.

Mang Kiko remembered his boyhood friend, Paking, how he would be dumfounded listening to the stories about his exciting experiences with a voluptuous bar girls. Nor Paking’s limited earning as a truck driver and the obligations to his children in school were the restraints depriving his friends of joining him in his bar frolicking. Every time he delivered materials in the construction site, Mang Kiko would offer him free snack in the nearby eatery.

All of a sudden a tricycle roared in front of Mang Kiko sending a gust of black smoke to his face. “Pwee! Smoke belcher!” He remembered his tricycle. It was nicely painted with beautiful designs and the engine was well-maintained. Now, it’s gone. He sold it when his wife got sick to pay the huge hospital bills. However, all efforts were in vain for she failed to survive the malady, slowly rolled back in his mind the downfall of his life. After the untimely death of his wife, his good friend engineer vanished from sight when he fled to elude the hands of the law. He was allegedly implicated in a scam or anomalous transaction which was investigated by the local government. His eldest son was stabbed dead in a street fight between rival groups. Another son was thrown in jail when police operatives found illegal drug in his possession during a raid. The only daughter left school to go with her boyfriend after getting pregnant. Separated with the child, she went with another man. From then on, no more news about her and she was completely lost.

On the other hand, Nor Paking was able to sustain the studies of his three children through hard work and sacrifices. The eldest son and daughter finished college, became teachers and presently employed in public schools. The youngest son is now an engineer who is doing good as a private contractor. The proud father had retired now receiving a monthly SSS pension for his old age needs.

For almost two hours now on standby along the road, no one came out for his services to carry any load from the market. It’s a dull afternoon to earn a few pesos is not that easy. At 72, Mang Kiko still pushed his cart to earn a little and not depend solely by asking money from his son. “Papa, stop pushing that nasty cart. You’ll not grow hungry here with me,” his youngest son used to tell him whether they would meet on the road. The old man smiled blankly. At least, he had a thoughtful son.

Mang Kiko admired so much his youngest son. Despite of the depression that struck his family, the young boy strived persistently in pursuing his studies as a working student. Propelled by strong determination, he finished a four year course in Accountancy that paved the way for him to be where he is now, employed in a big private company. Undeniably, Mang Kiko felt ashamed for he did nothing to help his son. He jolted in his cart: “Ubu-ubu!”

“Throw that cigarette, my friend.”

“Aw- Paking,” he forced a smile on his face. “Yes. I’m quitting this.”

Nor Paking handed to him a paper bag of siopao and juice, saying : “Happy Birthday, Kiko.”

“Yes, Happy Birthday, too. We have the same birth date.”

Nor Paking smiled happily and remarked : “Correct. We’re now 72.”

“This is the year of the rooster,” Mang Kiko said in a pensive mood. “Not good year for me. I’ve lost big money in cock-fights. I’m also a loser in women.”

Nor Paking looked at his friend, said: “My belief is different from yours. I woke up early like a rooster to sing and welcome another day of work. Sorry I’ve got to go. Mrs. and the kids, my apo, are waiting for me. I’m giving them a simple blowout for my birthday.”

“Go, Paking. Thank you. Happy Birthday!”

Mang Kiko gazed as his friend crossed the street and lost in the crowd of people downtown.

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