Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Lady of the Fans

This essay won 3rd Place in Essay Category during the Ika-22 Gawad Ustetika, the university-wide literary competition organized by The Varsitarian of the University of Santo Tomas.

It happened last semester. I found myself walking along Dapitan Street searching for a new pen to buy after giving in to the idea that, indeed, searching for the pen I had just bought and lost earlier that day was only an exercise in futility. I felt the need to just run away and give myself the relief of purchasing a new pen upon realizing (a) that I had just made an extensive search-and-rescue operation for the lost pen, (b) that I just stood frozen upon remembering that I got loads of school works to do inside the organization room and I can’t afford to waste any of the remaining hours that I have, and (c) that I surely need the pen but I am already getting tired looking so I need to move on and just get a new one.
[Photo Credits:]
One thing that I regretted that day about how horribly tactless and unorganized I am with my things is the pain of crossing the street filled with angry roaring machines emitting huge amounts of stinky smoke and carbon monoxide. What a shame. I know I need not be bustling along with the thick rushing crowd that day for just a piece of pen had I only been careful where I placed the can’t-afford-to-lose pen. I was pissed off, tired, and extremely busy that day. All I could do was just to curse under my hot breath and endure the high temperature. The sun was harsh and the air burned my skin. As soon as I reached the next sidewalk, I saw something that I never thought would be one of the greatest turning points in my life. She was wearing bluish denimlike dusters covered with earth. Her tattered clothes were very visible under the burning sun that was tearing her weary skin and graying hair. Her eyes were yellow and deep-sunken. She was, indeed, a speck of dust slumped at a corner of the cemented sidewalk. The sidewalk was filled with a fast-moving crowd. I wondered how she endured it all. It was painful looking at her. It may be impossible, but I can’t help but think I was the only one seeing her. No one seemed to care. No one seemed to empathize.

Had I not taken notice of a string of abanikos in front of her, I would have concluded that the lady was a beggar. But she wasn’t. She’s a clear picture of a struggling abaniko vendor in a sidewalk trying to catch the attention of anyone who may wish to buy one of her handwoven products. She was holding one of her abanikos, and she appeared to be fanning herself. The effort to give herself this comfort seemed to drain all her strength and effort. Her whole thin fragile body seemed to sway against the force of her arm holding the abaniko.

The next second, she looked up and moved her head to my direction. “Paypay,” she uttered in a raspy voice. “Paypay.” Streaks of white hair moved as she continued to fan herself. She bowed down. This woman was tired. My eyes noticed her fragile body, dirty yellowing nails, unkempt clothing, and deep-sunken eyes. I looked at her. There were very long years of strife, pain, and indifference.


I walked back to school with the sight of the old lady at the back of my head. I held on to my newly bought pen. I was in a great desire to fight a tear back to my eye. I never succeeded.

It took me one woman to tell this story. She changed my life. Because of her, I became grateful for all the blessings that I am enjoying today. There are, indeed, brief moments in our lives when we just suddenly decide to give up and quit doing the tasks that we were supposed to do. When we look for things, we only see what our eyes want to see. We never search. When our lives suddenly become complicated, we sulk and forget too many simple things worth rejoicing for. When we succeed in getting the things we want in life, we take for granted some of the blessings that we were once grateful for. The old lady had taught me one of the lessons I cherish up to this time, and that is to hold on to all joys and blessings that I have. She taught me how lucky I am despite my many shortcomings and disappointments. She was only a sight that caught my attention one busy hot afternoon, but it all changed me, and I am truly indebted to her. Because of her, I made a better picture of who will I become in the future. The next time I see her, she’ll never make me cry again.

I’ll make her smile.

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