Mang Jose has always been the ever reliable neighborhood “basurero”. He would wake up early in the morning to collect the trash from the trash cans that lined the street, so by the time that the sun was already high up and everyone was just starting their days off at work or at school, Mang Jose had already accomplished his mission for the day. For the rest of the day, he would either collect some more trash from the other neighborhood, or would just try to decipher what’s written on the wall adjacent his “kariton”. Not a secret from anyone, Mang Jose is illiterate. Yes, he’s a true blue no-read-no-write guy who spends his remaining hours of the day trying—and failing—to read the letters in bright red paint: B-A-W-A-L M-A-G-T-A-P-O-N N-G B-A-S-U-R-A D-I-T-O.
One particularly sunny day, as he was collecting trash form a rather small house, something caught his eye. He looked up from the junk of cups and spoiled food, to the house on the other side of the street, where a fellow “basurero” was collecting the trash. Mang Jose was immediately infuriated, swearing loudly about how no one should even dare take his place as the “neighborhood basurero.” He strode off to deal with the “filthy” intruder.
“Oh! Wait ‘til I get my hands on him, that filthy bastard!” I’ll show him who’s authority.”
Fuming, he faced the “basurero” and waited for him to look up. The moment the “basurero” looked up, Mang Jose was dumbstruck. The “basurero” was far from the “filthy bastard” he was fuming about. And it’s not even a “basurero”, but the most beautiful “basurera” Mang Jose has ever laid eyes on (not that he has laid eyes on many).
“I… I… You’re… You look nice,” he blushed at having said the words, and taking in the questioning look of the “basurera”, who he swore smelled of fresh apples.
A new chapter in his life has been opened. Ever since he saw Emilia (yes, he still managed to ask her name through a series of stuttering) he was even more determined to read the characters in bright, red paint adjacent his “kariton” to impress her.
One time, when he was still musing about the characters in bright, red paint, he heard the loud whirring of a siren. He was startled, as if waking up from a trance, and automatically went to where the source of the siren was coming from.
Running rather stupidly, with Emilia still occupying his brain, a great force hit him in the face, and he fell on all fours. The sensation of drowning overcame him, and it was a few minutes before he realized that he was being hit full force with a water hose by a fireman. He struggled to crawl away and to keep himself from suffocating. After a crucial 5 minutes, he managed to wrench free and was able to breathe again, his pulse racing.
A fireman rushed to him, muttering his apologies. Mang Jose took first the form of his ruined, priceless Manny Pacquiao boxer shorts, which he found in a dump only four weeks ago. He was planning on wearing it for another few months before changing into something else. He grimaced at the sight of his boxer shorts at his feet, leaving only his briefs for the people to view. Its garter looked like fried bacon on a Sunday morning. The fireman asked if Mang Jose had been injured, that he didn’t mean to, because it was too dark to see a man running down a street.
“Were you injured, sir? I didn’t mean to, it was too dark to see a man running down a street,” said the fireman, panicking.
But Mang Jose wasn’t ready to forgive yet.
“I’m not ready to forgive yet! I almost suffocated, and you ruined my priceless Manny Pacquiao boxer shorts!” Mang Jose said loudly. He stood up, stroke his wet hair away from his face. After a few hours of bickering, he noticed (finally) that he was only wearing his briefs, which bore an emblem of the great Nora Aunor in her early teenage years. Turning a shocking shade of pink, Mang Jose turned his back on the fireman, embarrassed that anyone should see his other priceless treasure (the Nora Aunor briefs, or something else?)
Little did they know that a dozen of reporters were investigating the said fire, and they caught a glimpse of Mang Jose’s briefs. Tito Boy, drooling and heading a team of cameramen and lights men, immediately showed Mang Jose the infamous Magic Mirror and asked him the famous line: “What are you saying?!” (“Ano ang masasabi mo?!”). One question lead to another, and the next thing Mang Jose knew was that he was being blinded by spotlights reciting some of Ate Guy’s famous lines:
“My Brother is not my pig! He’s a human!” Mang Jose dramatized his syllables to have an extra crisp in his speech.
It was like a dream. Emilia would love him now that he’s famous. And Nora Aunor, delighted at her picture on someone’s briefs, loved him so much that she made him president of SAUNA (Support and Understand Nora Aunor) Foundation.
One particular evening, Mang Jose was carrying colorful balloons on the way to his “kariton”. He planned on giving it to Emilia. She would surely appreciate it, the balloons were his prize for winning a rather difficult round in All About Nora, a famous game show in Channel 69.
Emilia, however, merely shrugged and popped the balloons. Mang Jose’s heart popped together with the balloons and his wasted affection for the snob “basurera”. He knelt down, spread his arms outward and faced the heavens, and it started to rain. Just like cliché scenes in movies, when a tragic story ends, he started to cry and shouted, “Walang Himala!!”
(original post date: October 4, 2005)