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HONORING MY MOTHER | The Carabao thief

I SWEAR that this really happened as I had been a witness to it, and it happened a long time ago, during my college days. Some of my friends might have already heard it, so please bear with me for retelling it again. For starters, I had seriously contemplated titling this anecdote as, “Kinsang nangawat sa kabaw?” (Who stole the carabao?), but finally settled for what you now read in the heading. Surely, the experience of having loud co-passengers in the same public commute one is in, is not lost in everyone, and not too often, it turns into more of a source of entertainment rather than one of irritation (especially when one had originally envisioned a quiet ride).

It happened one day long ago, I was on one of those long-chassis passenger jeepneys bound for Bankerohan. As seating arrangements go, it was ten people to each side, and facing each other. In all this, I was conveniently seated right near the entrance (or exit, whichever way one looked at it), best seat in the house, er jeep, for reasons of ventilation and faster exits.

At that time, the jeepney was full, and at the seats just behind the driver, sat two middle-aged ladies opposite and facing each other, with their market baskets propped at their feet. Out of all the passengers during the whole length of the jeepney, they were the most noticeable. All because, starting from our point in Acacia, near Uyanguren, up to the public market at Bankerohan, they had been so loudly-engrossed in their conversation, that no one could help but hear what it had all been about.

Apparently, they had been gossiping about a scandalous incident that had just occurred in their own community. As usual, like all gossips go, spicing up the actors in the story make up the bulk of the whole exercise, and this was the creme de la creme for those who had been seated within hearing distance. In the duration of the trip, some passengers had even managed to slip in a query or two, which further delighted the now-animated ladies (they now had an audience). Nearing the end of their story (within this story), they interjected that despite the interesting characters in the barangay that they had so meticulously pictured, a carabao had been stolen! At this, one of the now-inspired storytellers exclaimed, “…and DID YOU KNOW WHO STOLE THE CARABAO?”

Almost everyone awaited the answer, judging from the sudden leaning of the passengers in their direction. However, her answer didn’t come as expected. Instead, she reached over cupped her hands and whispered it to the waiting ear of the other lady. All that everyone could hear was, ”and the thief was…” whisper whisper.

They were quiet for a while, but not as deathly quiet as all the passengers in the jeepney. Then without fanfare, one of them ultimately said “Para.”, and both ladies edged their way to the exit and alighted near the market. Now left without any other noisy distraction, the passengers had remained quiet still, even as the jeep reached Magallanes. Just as I was about to go down near the tennis courts, a fellow passenger had moved next to me and whispered. “Did you catch what she said, who stole the carabao?”

I swear, till this day, I don’t know.

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