Lola Bicolana.

I was in grade school when my mother taught me how to buy ingredients for food we cooked for lunch and dinner. In the wet market where I used to go, there was an old woman from whom I would frequently buy vegetables from.

I knew her because of my mother who talked to lola one day when she took me to market. I learned lola was also Bicolana, speaking the same language my mother did, which I grew up listening to. In a way, it was that indirect familiarity which made me loyal to her stall.

I became lola’s suki and she frequently gave me discount. But we never knew each other’s names, nor did we meet outside the market. She was, for me, the spry and soft-spoken lola with curly hair. I never really thought of her life outside her stall.

I eventually moved out of the parents’ house. During those few times I visit Makati, I hardly pay attention to the old wet market I used to frequent. The market is still there: There were several changes here and there. The vendors I used to know have grown older or have left their stalls; younger stall keepers have replaced many of the people I used to see. Even after I moved back in again, I don’t buy from the wet market anymore; that task has long been passed to other siblings.

Last night, on my way to work, I saw lola again. She still has her old stall, still selling her vegetables. Her hair is still curly, but has grown white and thinner. She looks thinner and more fragile. How many years has it been since I last saw her? Five? Seven? Time hasn’t been too kind on her, it seems.

Maybe isn’t too late to know her better. Or maybe there isn’t a point in knowing now. We were, at most, passing acquaintances.

I don’t know if I should be happy to see her again, in the same place I fondly remember. Or if I should be sad to see her still working, despite her age and the toll of time on her aged body.

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