Monday, May 7, 2007

What heat?

The house was low and small and welcoming in nine full-grown men, together with their bikes, was more than being hospitable. We reached the house late in the morning, were greeted in pidgin English by an old woman, and I had a feeling I could be in her house without having to keep a watch of myself. The old woman, called Mama Jing, small and brown-faced and very good-humored, seated us at the backyard. Later she offered us slippers and I thanked her and called her Mama Jing.

We huddled around the table at the center of the yard and in turns ladled arrozcaldo into a china bowl. I sat on a pile of firewood and started to eat. Mama Jing came back from the house with tin plates, put them on the table, and the host family joined us in breakfast. The arrozcaldo had native chicken, we were told. It was good chicken, and I ate the chicken part last and made sure the bones would stay in the bowl and away from the chickens loitering in the yard.

After breakfast we helped prepare lunch. Others cut the vegetables and they helped grill the tilapia and the pork chops. The makeshift cottage, where the grill was, brimmed with smoke and the trees rustling. I looked out into the woods and could see a cool glare. It smelled nice there in the backyard, and I felt refreshed out of cycling our way to Cavite like I had just took in a bottlefull of ice water.

Then Mama Jing's sister, a younger woman with light skin, loud and confident voice, called out and informed us that the Ray “Boom-Boom” Bautista fight against Rocky Medina was about to start. It was sort of a big event, with the 20-year-old Boom-Boom being poised as the next Manny Pacquiao. The host family told us to leave the lunch preparations to them. Nobody brushed off the invitation and we, nine of us, huddled around the TV set and watched Boom-Boom.

It was Boom-Boom that we watched. After he won by a unanimous decision, a couple of Mexican fighters got into the ring and we watched two of our companions play chess and it was generally silent and soporific there in the living room. We started back outside the house on the sixth round of the boxing match between the two young Mexicans and we had lunch. It was still outside and movements seemed to come only from the wind and the leaves and the yard animals and us.

After lunch the Dela Hoya-Mayweather fight brought back the happy loafing inside the house. It wasn't an exciting matchup if you asked me. Mayweather was just too good for Dela Hoya. But it was between a great fighter at the end of his boxing career and a black American billed as the best pound-for-pound fighter today. It was youth versus greatness, the overbearing young Mayweather against the composed and determined Dela Hoya. The older man lost by a split decision and there was no happy ending.

Then it was time to go home. It was hot that early afternoon, as in the past afternoons of the summer of this year. We geared up, checked our bikes, refilled our bottles, and said goodbyes. We started outside and in the street in front of the house it was bright and really hot and I came to a realization why the others were applying sunblock on their skins and took to wearing bonnets down to their faces.

Anyway, the heat was nothing. Or so it seemed. We said goodbye again and started the push back home. From Cavite we retraced the road back to Makati. Our first stop was under the bridge at the Zapote road. It was dark there and rather refreshing. I ate peanuts and squirted water into the roof of my mouth and it felt hot and acrid.

By the time we reached Manila I could not drink the water, but had to. The first thing I did when I reached home was to drink some more. I drank until I felt heavy and cool and when I felt it I was awfully tired and I looked back at the morning and the early afternoon and thought to myself that I wanted to do it all over again.

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