• Grandfather’s Lomi

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    (After “My Father’s House”)

    Looking for lunch one day
    I decided to make good of a promise.
    You see, our washing machine
    broke down and I learned that there’s a hardware store
    that sells lomi here in Naga City.
    There’s no mistaking it for there’s the usual
    Binondo-style booth window,
    where you could see a Chinaman
    stretching noodles the way a beautician
    would straighten strands and strands of hair.
    Only this time, there was no such chinky cook
    but an old tsinoy fellow looking so forlorn and misplaced.
    But you could see Chinese viands for delectation:
    pansit gisado, mami, miki bihon, dumplings, siomai      and—the lomi.
    There was even pork adobo with quail eggs and tausi.
    I bought a washing machine timer for 350 pesos
    and noticed that right above the food items
    were glass containers for various electronics:
    wires, cables, antennas, timers, radio and TV parts.
    They even sold machine oil and asayte.
    I promised to be back for the lomi
    but the old man seemed not to care
    and gave me my change in a hurry.
    Father once told me that from Parian,
    many of the Chinese opted to settle here,
    opening up bazaars and noodle shops.
    My great-grandfather was no exception.
    Coming from Amoy, he evaded Manila
    and bought real property in Camarines Sur.
    Most of his children grew up here
    while he ran a shipping and copra business.
    A nice and smart Bicolana became their helper
    and was impregnated by one of his sons,
    hence my father. Grandfather later married
    another woman and had four other children,
    displacing my father into the periphery
    of their landed existence. He was sent to school though.
    And every Sunday, father would look
    in various noodle shops to chance upon grandfather
    so they could have some time together—
    talks about the lantsa that got sunk during storm Sining,
    the crops and some disloyal encargados,
    the possibility of a trimobile business in Naga City,
    which eventually, my father started.
    As promised, I stepped into the hardware slash
    lomi shop,
    glad to have had this unplanned visit.
    I found my seat and realized how discreet the place was.
    I gazed at the door, out into the busy noontime street
    and wondered if anyone would come.
    I was the lone customer.
    But the old tsinoy gawked a smile at me as if to say:
    “I knew you would come back.

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