By Christine Nicole Montojo
She held her shopping list close while entering the wet market. Fingers clammy, there was a haggling session to her left; a vendor watching TV to the right, and all these voices became almost unrecognizable. Nearly indistinct.
It was Monday, and though there wasn’t any schoolwork, the wincing didn’t stop. Red and green posters were everywhere, reminding her of who was speaking later that afternoon. The SONA was required viewing. It was more to know what was going to happen next — her obligation than anything else.
It took her a minute, but the young girl found the rice stall. If she were her mother, she would’ve found it faster, but there were too many things in the way.
“Magkano kalahating kilo ng sinandomeng?”
“21 pesos,” the vendor replied, giving her a plastic bag. Said vendor knew her parents, avid supporters of the winning side. Too bad their daughter didn’t feel the same. “Kumusta naman nanay mo?”
Did it help that the vendor sounded smug? Or was it the residue of an anxious mind? Things that the young girl would parse later. Don’t get into a fight.
“Masaya naman,“ the girl replied. An empty space, an oddity in the marketplace. The girl kept her hair out of the way, finally seeing the scale. Words failed her while receiving payment.
“Diba SONA ngayon, nak? Manonood kayo sa bahay?”
It was an automatic yes. The girl’s mother was glued to the television during the new president’s SONA. A mocking tone as she screamed profanities at the other side, almost disavowing anything that wasn’t red or green. Most would find it silly, but colors had that effect on people.
How could her daughter not forget?
*Remember the list.* An attempt at regaining focus. She remembered the final week of campaigning — almost a distant memory. It was nearly two months ago. The rush of going house to house. An all-encompassing warmth. Would she feel that again?
No, she wouldn’t feel it, not for a while.
What answered her was the curdling pit in her stomach. It came in waves, some days better than others. Though she tried to smile and nod away, the aching lingered in the back of her mind. Doing errands only made things burn. Yes, burn — leaving a different kind of warmth. Maybe things wouldn’t click now, but it made her feel something — a breath of fresh air from the numbness that haunted her for months.
“The state of the nation is sound,” the new president claimed with no hesitation.
She watched the news. Gas was reaching nearly a hundred pesos, and with it, everything else increased. Going beyond the barangay was a logistical nightmare. What was she to do? Waste away inside?
That wasn’t an option. Even with a pandemic, life moved on. The world still spun despite her distress and injustice. Maybe she could volunteer. To keep fighting, even if it exhausted her. To live for a better future or die trying.