Sunday, June 22, 2008

This Merry Widow Went To Market

The Salcedo weekend market is celebrating it's 4th year anniversary next Saturday on June 28, 2008.

I did some calculations and, based on mine and my driver's memories, the market itself began way before June. Our guesstimate is a few months earlier because when I began in July/August of 2004, my fellow vendors had been struggling for a few months already.

This means that this July, I will be celebrating four years of selling flowers! Four years of late friday nights, prepping flowers into the wee hours, hauling the bouquets and bundles early Saturday mornings, and learning how to sell with a smile.

Four years of seeing the market grow from one row, to double rows, then double-double rows, then extend into the park area, then further extend into the eating areas in the center aisle. Today, the market seems like an extension of my home. There, my face is familiar to all. I am known as the 'flower lady'. Many of the other vendors have become close friends, first of all is Marissa (coconut oil and other natural products) who has been on my left side for most of four years. She and her husband Roderick are also counselors and have given me a fair amount of free advice since 2004.

And there is Rene the fruit guy who, at the end of market hours, shuffles over with bruised avocados, or slightly dinged dragon fruit, or whatever is leftover that day. And in return, I give him flowers to give away to whoever he wants to give them to. He usually picks white, which makes me believe that, contrary to what words comes out of his mouth, the flowers are for his mother's grave not some hot chick.

There is also Gary, the banigs, etc. guy, who has the market equivalent of a corner office since he occupies the corner stall at the end of the center aisle. He comes to our area when he is heavily perspiring, has low blood sugar/high blood sugar or wants to gossip about other people.

I've dealt with all kinds of customers too over the past years: One cheapo Korean lady actually attempted to abscond with my flowers, putting money in my hand, grabbing the flowers she wanted and starting to walk away. Well, when I realized the money was WAY too little, I grabbed the flowers right out of her arms. A brief tug-of-war ensued, but I won.

One other lady bought flowers in the morning, put them in the car while she shopped and ate lunch. She came back screaming about dead flowers and demanded a refund. I guess she didn't care to admit she was stupid enough to leave fresh flowers in a hot, parked car. Lucky for her, I wasnt around. Angie refunded her money (my policy for any complaints), but the she-devil complained to the organizers and Mrs. Lichauco came around to ask what happened. Of course it wasnt our fault, so she asked us to be patient with the lady, who had already left the market.

I also remember a bunch of drunken Japanese men coming to our area once, but I paid them no attention when they started looking at my flowers. Too bad for Mrs. Gardan though, my stall neighbor to the right, that they focused on her expensive wooden bowls. They were loud and they rattled her, and made off with one of her containers at almost half the tagged price (they performed the same trick as the Korean lady, but Mrs. Garden is not as quick as me)!

But mostly, I've had no problems. Salcedo market-goers are polite when they haggle and they enjoy chatting with the vendors about their products. They are regulars, with the market now as much a part of their routine as grocery shopping. They spend hours looking, buying, eating at the tables and hanging out -- many of the first customers being call center people ready to eat their dinner at 7am. On a cool, sunny day, barkadas take over tables and stay until past closing. Whole families wander around with Rustan's carts.

Apart from my loyal, regular customers, my favorites are those who buy flowers for themelves or a loved one. It's so nice to prepare a small bouquet or arrangement and know it's a surprise gift or someone's treat to themselves. These buyers aren't big spenders, but they are the people who remind me why I started this whole thing in the first place.

All of you who know me know that I have always loved flowers. Doing this keeps me handling the flowers I love so much, making other people happy too in the process. I love it when I make an arrangement and, after a generous spray of water, hand it to a customer who exclaims "How beautiful!". It makes my day. Actually, it makes the four years worthwhile.

Here's to another four years of beautiful flowers and making other people happy.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

To Dad...

Happy Father's Day to the person who:

Taught me how to eat differently from other kids and to love the strangest food (homemade lassi, turkish delights, mueslix and wheat germ, chapati, raw nuts and dried fruit, kimchi, pate... It gets weirder).

Spent time with me poring over The World Atlas and National Geographic while making a commentary based on his own travels, planting the seeds of curiousity about other cultures and the world in general.

Encouraged me to paint and make me believe, even for a while, that I had enough talent to become a real artist when I grew up.

Provided the soundtrack of the first half of my life by always playing music around the house, car, wherever and singing spontaneously at any given moment if the music was catchy. I am the same way today.

Had an insane love for reading that bordered on obsessive.... but also liked to discuss what he learned in books and read in newspapers and magazines with whoever cared to listen. Debates welcome, just don't get into women priests and homosexuals without expecting blood vessels to start popping.

Always liked to observe random non-human things -- passing scenery, cloud shapes, plants and insects, photographs, colors, mirages after the rain. It taught me how me how to pass time creatively and allow my mind to wander.

Didn't care about "stuff", unless it was odd gadgets and anything to do with music and photography. You guys still remember the Bamix??

Never talked too much, but in many ways, shaped my personality more than anyone else.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Say What You Need To Say

Take all of your wasted honor,
Every little past frustration,
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put them in quotations...

Say what you need to say.

Walking like a one man army,
Fighting with the shadows in your head.
Living out the same old moment,
Knowing you'd be better off instead
If you could only...

Say what you need to say.

Have no fear
For giving in,
Have no fear
For giving over.
You better know that in the end
It's better to say too much,
Then never to say what you need to say again.

Even if your hands are shaking,
And your faith is broken.

Even as the eyes are closing,
Do it with a heart wide open...

Say what you need to say.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cut It Short

I finally had my hair cut short again yesterday, and it felt great.

I've always had short hair, worn a hundred different ways. Growing up, my mom used to cut my hair in the same chin-length china-doll bob. When she started sending me to Virgie's, Virgie cut my hair the same way, except for an occasional style twist like the shorter back/longer front bob, or the slightly fringed baby bangs. I consider the one time my hair was tightly permed to be a total lapse of judgement -- blame it on the Flores de Mayo festival in Sta. Rosa and Virgie's misguided attempt to make me look feminine enough for my frilly parade dress.

By high school, I had Demi Moore's siete-cut months before Ghost came out (I have dated Kodak prints to prove this) and this morphed into a classic one-length bob by senior year. I entered college with another one of my shorter boys cut, still managing to beat all the other girls with their long, perfumey unreal hair to the cutest boy in school. Ha!

When I started working, I stuck to short bobs. And this is where I took a break... When I got engaged, I automatically stopped cutting my hair. By the day of the wedding and for the first time in my life, my hair was past my shoulders. It was long enough to cover the fake hair piece ala pusod that Jing Monis attached to my nape to make me look older than my tender age of 22.

I was married with long hair, moved to the US with long hair, gave birth to my first son with long hair, and got pregnant again with long hair. Three years after the growing began (with tentative trims in between), I was over it. My husband and I returned home to the Philippines. I went back to Jing and, true to form, had my hair chopped off. At his salon Propaganda, I tried everything from 80's undercuts, to frosted tips, to assymetrical bobs. Later, with Jasmine at Hairworks, I experimented with the full bangs, and the modern china doll cut.

Then my husband got sick, and before I knew it my hair was growing out. When we started to spend months on end abroad for medical treatments, I was unwilling to pay $80 for a decent haircut. I let it grow. And grow it did all these months while I was taking care of my husband. When things started to get difficult, it began to feel like for every inch my hair was able to grow, it was bonus time realized. For the longer my hair was, the more it seemed like he was hanging on, staying with me.

The long ponytail I wore to his funeral was testament to the long fight he fought. Every day that I've tied up my hair since then was another day I remember waking up in the hospital and grabbing my ponytail holder and fixing my hair before the doctors made their early morning rounds. I remember pinning back my long bangs so I could prepare my husband's TPN without unconsciously brushing my hair back and contaminating my gloves. When we would stroll through the mall, I remember tucking all my hair under my wool cap so I also looked like my husband who had no hair.

But that was yesterday, and this is today. Today my hair is short again, and today I did not cry because I remembered. Today I smiled when I woke up and felt my short hair. Today I did not use a brush, hairspray or gel. I simply woke up and went on with my day, my hair so light on my shoulders. Thank you to Leo Pascual of Razzle Dazzle who listened to me when I said I didn't want crazy layers, but still snuck in an assymetrical length while my face was glued to the pages of this month's Vogue.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Set in Stone

Today I finally ordered the brass letterings of my husband's niche after putting off the task for too long. The typewriting paper with his laser-printed name, birthday and date of death that was hurriedly taped to the marble six weeks ago was already wrinkled and starting to turn yellow. Amongst the other well-tended niches, it looked pathetically neglected. This wasnt right, or appropriate for him. Shame on me.

I went to the parish office to set things right and fill out a small form with his information. The lady in charge started to count how many letters and number I indicated on the form, and I actually found myself considering whether or not to spell out the whole word "february", or shorten it to "feb" and save myself 210 pesos (it's 42 pesos per letter, in case you're too lazy to do the math). Is this how weird it gets? And why did I feel guilty for thinking this? Hey, Fe Panlilio is in the niche above him and her months were stylishly shortened to look austere and simple, so shortening doesn't mean I'm cheap. Or does it??

Later, I walked around to look at other niches and noted the graves that practically sparkled with all the brass lettering. I wondered if their families ordered their letterings without thought of the cost, or precisely with the thought and therefore the excess. Were there other widows like me who first thought of cost, then winced from the guilt?

So this week, I will not have a massage and in two to three weeks, my husband's niche should be appropriately marked with fully spelled words in shiny brass, and I will feel so much better about myself.