By ALDWIN QUITASOL
The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings. — Okakura Kakuzo
The Filipinos traditionally observe All Saints’ Day and All Souls Day. They troop to their respective cemeteries to visit their dead. While they are spending their holidays either observing the “Undas” or invading the resorts and beaches as many Filipinos are doing, some people are enduring the heat and tiring environment of the cemetery to earn a living.
Balong (He requested his real name withheld), 27 years old, patiently waits for costumers in front of the gate of the Baguio Public Cemetery. This week, from the last week of October until the first days of November, will be a busy week for him in the hope of earning additional income. He holds a “sako” bag with a one liter of white paint and a paint brush and on the other hand is a “walis tingting”. He wears an old polo and slacks and a cap to protect his head from the heat of the scorching sun.
At last, an old woman approaches him and ask him how much does he charge for painting a tomb. He smiled at the old lady and said his price depends on the size of the tomb. They then proceeded to the tomb, while walking, Balong noticed that the lady approximately in her late 60′s can hardly walk especially between the other tombs so he carried her bag and held her hands while holding the rest of his load with his other hand.
After reaching the tomb, Balong surveyed the area. The woman then asked him how much then will he charge her. Balong again smiled and told her that normally he charges P350 for cleaning and painting. But because she is Balong’s “buwena-mano” (first costumer), he told the old lady to give whatever she can but not lower than a hundred pesos.
“Nu adda komentaryom iti panagpintor ko ‘nang ket ibagam latta ta mabalin ko nga uliten a pinturan,” (If you have comments on my work then I can repeat painting it) Balong assured the old lady.
Balong, agreed to be interviewed as he said this will be a good venue to explain their job. He said that he started as a tomb painter as young as 13 years old making him one of the veteran “pintor” in the business.
Balong’s family lives in what he called an abong-abong (shanty) beside Celestial Village. “Idi ket ditoy kami abay ti sementeryo, nakadekket lang diay balay mi idi dita pader ti sementeryo ngem gaputa adda met naurnong mi idi ket napan kami a nakilak-am ti bassit a lote ket nagipatakder kamin a ti bassit a pagsineksekan mi nga agpamilyan,” (We lived beside the cemetery before, our house was right at the cemetery wall. When we were able to save enough we bought a small piece of land and built a small house) he explained.
“Aginggana ak lang 2nd year High School ta napilitanak a nagsardeng gaputa kasapulan a tumulongak nga agtrabaho tapno adda ipakan kadagiti ading ko,” (I only finished 2nd year High School, I was forced to stop school because I need to work to feed the family). Balong has three younger brothers and two younger sisters.
His father is an ambulant masseur plying for costumers in the parks and other public places. “Uray bente-bente ti maala na iti maysa a kostumer ket ananusan met piman ni tatang ko tapno lang adda maigatang uray maysa kilo a bagas ken diay sagsasangapulo a reppet a tongsoy a pagraranudan mi,” (My father earns (P20 per customer) just enough to buy a kilo of rice and a bundle of water cress worth P10) narrated Balong. He said that his father is also working as a “pintor” before but opted to stop because he can hardly breathe and he cannot bear the smell of the paint.
His mother is a “labandera” (laundry woman) washing clothes from the nearby subdivision twice a week. Balong said his mother earns P200-P250 a day. “Maasiak garud kenni mader ta uray agpipikel ti ima na ket ipapati na nga aglaba ayat na lang nga adda masuweldo na,” (I pity my mother because she does the laundry even if her hands are getting numb just to augment the family’s income) sighed Balong.
Balong said his parents are urging him to continue his studies but declined saying that he thinks it is better for him to help in raising his siblings and make the load of life bearable to his parents. He said that it will be enough for him to see that his siblings will have a better life than what they have at present. He is not also thinking of marrying and raising a family of his own at the moment. “Saan pay a mabalin ta adu pay ti prayoridad,” (That cannot be yet as there are still priorities) Balong said with a smile.
He always reminds his brothers and sisters to study hard and get a college degree. “Tapno kuma met nu makaturpos da nu bilang ket makabirok da ti mayat a trabaho. Ket nu addanto ti pamilya da ket saan da a marigrigatan karkaro dagiti annak da.Ti iyunay-unay ko met ket saan da a lipatan met ti nagappuan da ken tumulong da kadagiti marigatan nu kaya da,” (If ever they will graduate, they will be able to find good jobs. And if they will have a family in the future their children will not have to endure the hardships. I always remind them that they should not forget where they came from and that they will help the poor whenever they can) Balong said.
He described the hardships of being a “pintor”. Balong said there are times when they have no income at all. They buy one liter of paint for P400 which could paint three to four tombs. “Adda met bassit a maala nga isu pay a nayon nga usaren ti pamilya,” (We can earn a little for our family) he said.
Balong further said that the “pintor” job ends when “Undas” ends. But he said, there is always a next year. “Agbirokak manen ti sabali a trabaho,” (I will look for another work) he quipped. He said he is still hoping that his family will have a better life soon. # nordis.net