Hunger kicked in at the same moment the skies opened up. The drizzle turned into angry, fat drops that drowned out Sungha Jung’s guitar rendition of “With or Without You”. Should she have the instant noodles for lunch? Nah. Walking in the rain in search of real food seemed more fun.
Armed with the green umbrella, she stepped onto the glistening street. Everything looked gray, but the cool air and the rivulets of rainwater skimming through her feet left her energized. The spattering sound brought back memories of her last climb, when rain and wind pounded the way to the summit. Just 42 days ago, yet it felt like a lifetime.
Little streams of floodwater were starting to form on the main street that led to the corner eatery owned by a certain Angelita. Her foot sank deep into sand left behind by the construction crew digging something up from the sidewalk yesterday. The dirty limb didn’t faze her. How many times did her feet and butt squish into mountain trails muddied by the rain? Standing inside Angelita’s, she stuck the mucky foot out. Water running down the roof washed away the dirt in seconds. It was time to eat.
She was the sole diner, probably why the lady, who could be Angelita, was especially kind. Could be because she was a regular. Angelita made sure the girl sat where she would stay dry.
She ordered adobong kangkong and fried tilapia. Angelita offered to heat the vegetable before serving, something no turo-turo on the main street has ever done. The girl nodded her head in delight.
After serving the fish, Angelita disappeared into the house. Out came the kind-looking man, probably Angelita’s husband, with the girl’s half-rice and a cup of hot, cabbage-filled soup. Steam rose from the dishes in front of her, framing the downpour outside. Then, Angelita was back with a bowl of hot kangkong, a half-size order that could feed two people. Ah, the girl felt like a much-welcomed guest.
The kangkong was delicious–the sourness of vinegar fighting it out with salty soy sauce refereed by the vegetable’s watery crunch. A dash of cayenne pepper made the dish come alive even more. The fish was of fresh quality and would have been crispy straight from the frying pan. It was a perfect lunch, punctuated by lightning and a deafening thunder that sent passersby scurrying to nearby stores.
Cheap, too. Fifty-two pesos for fish, rice, a huge bowl of vegetables, and a boiled egg for her post-workout snack later. It dawned on her again that eating right did not have to be expensive at all.
Angelita asked with concern if a plastic bag was needed for the egg, but the girl had already stuffed it inside her cargo shorts. She thanked the nice lady and crossed the street to buy bananas, another post-workout snack, maybe dinner too. From the sari-sari store window dangled packets of cookies–little glimpses into her childhood and of afternoon jaunts to Tsang Sylvia’s store to buy the sweet goodies. They would be great with coffee on this rainy afternoon. She couldn’t help it; she bought two packs. Thirty-two pesos for those and two large bananas.
The floodwater had swollen on the main street. She had no choice but to wade in on her way home. Everything still looked gray, but the rain had relaxed to a drizzle, back to the slivers of moisture when lunch would have been reduced to unadventurous instant food.
It had been a nice break from days past, an afternoon of awareness, of taking it a moment at a time. She had not been kind to herself for a long while. She thanked the rain, and ladies like Angelita, and good ol’ Pinoy meals and sweet childhood cookies.