Ukay-ukay

By Angelo Serrano
Essay

I was not spending more than P300 for a single pair of pants, so the obvious solution was to get one, and maybe a couple more, from ukay-ukay.

Now let’s be honest. You probably won’t find any Supreme or Gucci brands there, but if you’re just looking for something to wear casually, ukay-ukay will definitely not disappoint. It all comes down to luck really.

Now I haven’t traveled much in my short life, so I don’t know how it is for other places, but in Polomolok, my hometown, ukay-ukay covers one whole street every Sunday. The stalls have jackets, shirts, underwear, jewelry of doubtful quality, watches, bags, and, as the signs often point out, they are all bag-o bukas or newly opened.

When I went there, a large makeshift tent was draped over the entire street to keep the sun from giving everyone skin cancer. As a downside, the tent created a gargantuan oven, slowly cooking everyone within and drawing out the aromatic scent of sweat. One opening of the oven sold Vanss caps, G-Stock watches, and Roots (I haven’t heard of them either) bags. The other end sold Adidas shoes with Nike logos and cheap rings and necklaces that had marijuana logos on them.

A single long trail was flanked by piles upon piles of clothes on both sides. A mountain of shirts here, a small hill of blouses there, and a valley of seksi shorts every few feet. Above these fascinating landforms were their prices, usually in bright colors. Almost always below a hundred.

Finally, I reached a whole section dedicated to pants.

Ali na!” shouted a man. “Pantalon! Bag-o abri!”

His pile had a 75 sign hanging above it, which was definitely a good deal for a good pair of pants. I dug and rummaged through the pants, along with several other people, first looking if the color was nice, then if the material was comfortable, then if the size fits me by using the neck trick. In case you didn’t know, if you can wrap the width of the waist of your pants around your neck, then the pants will fit. The process made sorting through the pants easy for me, but I didn’t find one that I wanted to buy.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a dark-blue pant leg. I reached for it, and it felt soft, fine, and new. I pulled on it to release it from its burial ground of unwanted jeans, and held it up in all its glory. It wasn’t worn-out. Not faded, nor tattered. Just my type. I did the neck trick, and it was only slightly larger than my size, which was fine because I am quite the eater. For P75, it was perfect. I knew at that moment that it was what I needed.

I have no idea why, but I reburied the perfect pair under a mountain of jeans. I took a mental note of every aspect of it, down to the square that was on its button. I guess, in my mind, I was thinking, “I’d find a better, cheaper pair.”

I left it there—alone and awaiting my return.

I wandered around a bit. A few more sales chants boomed from the mouths of sellers from their stalls.

Bagong abre! Pantalon! Maong! Slacks! Singkwenta na lang!”

I looked around in the pile. Nothing of interest.

“Oh! Pantalon pantalon pantalon! Palit na mo!”

I found one that would’ve been perfect but was simply too big for me.

Bag-o ni abri, ma’am, sir! Palit na mo!”

This pile had a pair that was just the right style. If only it wasn’t too small.

Honestly, a good portion of my time was spent wondering whether or not the pants were for men or women. Luckily, my brain eventually said “Does it really matter? As long as it fits, and looks good on you, right?” and saved me a few minutes.

Pantalon! Slacks! Singkwenta na lang, one hundred tulo!” shouted a lady.

Now, three for P100 was definitely a good deal, so I dug my way through this mountain along with several others, pulling at legs buried under other pants and trying them on my neck. I found three that fit well and were of notable quality, but they didn’t even come close to the first one I had fallen in love with. So I left them there and went back to buy the perfect pair.

I shouldn’t have left.

For a solid thirty minutes, I scavenged for the perfect pair. I pushed all the other pants away, causing the pile to constantly shift, as if it was dunes in a desert. I denied to myself the crushing reality that the perfect pair had been bought by someone else.

Eventually, I grew angry with myself for not buying it the moment I found it. I even started to whisper prayers as I looked for it in the pile.

I was sad. I couldn’t imagine not having it. I couldn’t accept the thought that someone else was bringing it home, that someone else was putting it on. If only I had not been so greedy. If only I had been satisfied with what I had been given. If only I had not gone looking at other pants that obviously were subpar compared to the perfect pair.

If only I had not let her go.

 

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