By Renaizza Sheen D. Fuentebella
Sweat was trickling down my face when I reached Centro, the settlement right outside the immense campus of Mindanao State University. The walk was tiring, but I had chosen not to ride a habal-habal because I had to save money. I still had to ride a sikad, a lighter type of tricycle, to get home from Centro.
While I was seated inside a sikad, waiting for another passenger to fill it, someone caught my attention. It was an old woman, standing beside the electric post on the side of the computer shop where many sikads were parked.
The woman’s gray hair, which was tied into a bun, complimented her off-white dress and brown slippers. She was carrying a green knitted bag on her right hand and a black umbrella on the other. It looked as though she was waiting for a sikad to stop by and give her a ride, but none did, even the driver of the sikad that I was riding.
The sight wrenched my heart, so I decided to ask the driver to give the old woman a ride, but just as I was about to do it, a white sikad stopped in front of her.
The driver, a man in his fifties, peeped above the roof of his sikad and smiled at her. “Pauli na ka?” he asked.
Her face lit up. “Oo,” she answered. She put her things inside the sidecar and then climbed in.
Since then, I would notice the sight every time I rode a sikad in that area. The old woman would be waiting, and the white sikad would show up and take her home. I wondered if it was just a coincidence.
When I asked the other drivers about the woman and the sikad, they told me they didn’t know her either. All they knew was that whenever they offered the woman a ride, she would decline and wait for the white sikad.
For a couple of weeks, I was not able to go to that area because school often ended late due to one activity or another, and my father had to fetch me from school instead with his motorcycle. One evening, when my father couldn’t fetch me, I decided to walk from school to Centro. The rain was pouring hard, and I was soaking wet, but I had no choice but to continue walking.
I finally reached Centro. I went to the spot where I used to ride toward home, but no sikad was in sight. There was only the old woman standing in her usual spot.
She was under her black umbrella, but it was not enough to shelter her from the cold wind. She was shivering. I felt pity for her, so I approached her and asked her to sit beside me on a wooden bench under the roof of the computer shop.
“Ngano wala pa man ka nakauli, Nay?” I asked her when we were seated.
With a worried look, she replied, “Ginahulat nako siya moagi.”
“Katong drayber sa puti nga sikad?”
She didn’t respond. She stared at the water dripping from the roof. “Asa na kaha to siya? Ganiha ra ko nahuman og pangompra para sa panihapon. Gigutom na jud to si Jun-jun didtoa.” She sighed.
It dawned on me that the driver of the white sikad must be her husband.
Several minutes passed, and I was starting to get worried not only because it was getting late but also because of the old woman’s situation. She remained sitting beside me, staring at nowhere. The white sikad finally arrived.
The driver got off his motorcycle and came to us. He was wet, and I could see from his eyes that he was exhausted and worried. He bent down to look at the old woman. “Pasensya kaayo kung nadugayan kog anhi,” he told her. “Lapok man gud ang dalan.”
She stared back at him. Her eyebrows furrowed. “Kinsa ka?”
The driver froze. I stood there speechless, not knowing what to do.
Tears formed in the corner of the man’s eyes, but he wiped them off and then went back to the sikad. His head had been bent down for a while before he peeped above the roof of the sikad, like he always did. He smiled at the old woman and asked, “Pauli na ka?”
Her face lit up. She walked to him and said, “Dali na kay gutom na jud to karon atong anak nga si Jun-jun.”
The old woman got inside the sikad. The driver offered me a ride home in appreciation of my staying with the woman. I hopped in.
The driver opened the U-box of his motorcycle, took out a jacket, and draped it on the old woman’s shoulders.
She suddenly grabbed the driver’s hand and looked at him. Her eyes glowing, she smiled. “Sukad siya nawala, ikaw na ang gasundo sa akoa,” she said. “Salamat, Jun.”
Tears welled up in my eyes.