What's Up


Post-birthday blues in the Philippines

This is what I get from staying until twelve midnight last night—sleepiness.

At two o’clock yesterday afternoon, being my birthday, I went out to buy plastic containers for the pansit (Chinese-influenced noodles) that I would distribute to neighbors as part of thanksgiving and tradition on my special day. I walked to the corner of our village and took a tricycle supposedly bound for San Pedro City Public Market in Laguna Province. While on our way to the market I asked the driver where I could buy puto (rice cake) to be a pansit combo since it’s a Sunday and the puto vendors in their stalls were usually unavailable on a holy day as one of the precautions and restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic as there were less buyers of the stuff.

The driver volunteered he knew a puto seller in Barangay San Vicente, a stone’s throw from the market. I asked how much it would cost for a small box with perhaps two dozens of the native cake. “No’ng nag-birthday ang Nanay ko, ang bili namin (When my mom celebrated her birthday recently we bought them for), three hundred pesos,” he informed.

I have five hundred pesos in my purse so I calculated the expenses. Tricycle (P100), plastic containers (P60), cooking oil (P20) etc. I was ready to purchase the rice cakes.

We detoured to go to a store of plastic materials outside the market. I also shopped for sweet potatoes for P10 and two pieces of ginger for P15. Then we proceeded to the puto store taking a different route because the traffic enforceers might catch him for violation.

We reached the puto haven only to find out that it would take a two-hour order. I couldn’t wait for another couple of hours because it would delay or muddle my kitchen time and I would again spend for a tryke fare. So I decided to just buy Spanish bread and pan de coco to go with the pansit. I also bought iodized salt.

We rushed home for my pansit cooking which was done at five.

I packed the pieces of bread for distribution in between my cooking pansit. I was done at about 5:30. I still had to pray the rosary before I could finally bring out the packs of birthday “relief operation.”

After all was finally dished out, I went to a halfway delivery hub to fulfill my request of a San Mig drink. Inside the makeshift bar, there were people in physically distanced arrangement playing cards. I took one corner more than two meters away from them. I seated in a mono block chair and started to gulp my beer as a one-man celebration. By the way, I also gave out a birthday pansit to the staff of the delivery center although the cook informed me he was also doing a pansit for snacks of the players. The chef finally decided to bring home my food gift.

Suddenly, the cook told me some of my neighborhood guys have been drinking in their place in the past nights. Oh! These were the usual suspects so I thought of going to one of the boys’ houses and invited him. It turned out they were already having a drinking spree with Fundador brandy as the main culprit. I invited them for a drink in the halfway bar and they were ready to go after its two bottle. I was offered a brandy in a plastic cup which I relented.

An idea dawned on me just to order San Mig because one of them wouldn’t want to go to the village improvised bar.

So I ordered ten bottles of beer which were delivered right in the drinking session hall of physically distanced individuals.

I counted the spirits that got in my system. Four beer bottles and one cup of brandy made my day.

I went home at around ten in the evening to post back thank you greets to all my cyber well-wishers. I realized later that it was a long reply period because it was almost twelve midnight and I was just in one of my Facebook accounts.

It was exciting although tiring to answer individually the birthday greets heaped on me mostly by my kith and kin. Although only short replies would suffice each post but my internet wasn’t smooth a one-minute wait was accorded on reply.

My sister Lily V. Arriero in the US even helped me out answered some of the greetings herself by sending okay signs.

I had to retire at exactly twelve and promised myself to continue my responses the following day. It was good I had fallen asleep quickly but I woke up in the middle of dark at three am still thinking of all the greeters.

Not taking my breakfast yet, I faced up with my online greeters again and posted back thank you note or any short missive.

Until this very moment, I haven’t done answering all the words of wishes from my cyber friends and relatives in my other FB account which I promised to do later. It’s heartwarming and at the same time tedious to run through all the greetings of the same messages. But I wanted to get the feel of equal distribution of attention although it’s quite delusional.

Just a simple “thank you” or “thanks” makes the world go round especially on a special day as birthday which happens to anyone in this ultra- modern high tech time.

The effort and the time these people have exerted tapping and sending notes are to be reciprocated although it might be mechanical. 

The thoughts and feelings in the impersonal machines can humanize each one of us in time of uncertainties like the new coronavirus invasion. They can ease up the tense atmosphere and situations most of us are compromised. No matter how far and wide these greetings were coming from, they bridge the gap of physical distances and they healed the wounds of discontent and discomfort in these times of the pandemic.

Share this article