Pogi

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


NOPE he is not the senator with the codename. He is the money changer suki of ours when we were in Hongkong. No one knows who baptized him with that nick, it just happened. I think it was on the second day that Chona told me, magpa change muna ako kay Pogi. I guess I gave a strange look and Chona explained that someone gave him that nick.

On our first day, we were looking around for a moneychanger that gave good rates. We went up and down along Nathan Road and passed a number of moneychangers until we came across Pogi in a side street. He offered the biggest exchange rate but that would mean stretching it a bit because compared to others, his rate was a few cents higher and that was enough to convince our family that this was where we would have our money changed. Me? I really could not care less because I had no money as I gave all my money to my wife for safekeeping. But back to Pogi.

Why was he baptized Pogi? Well because he was. He was actually pogi and so the name stuck. But there was something strange here. I actually never heard his voice. My family could have but I never did. He was inside this glass window of his and when we asked for the exchange, he merely tapped his calculator and showed the exchange figures and that was it. He smiled a little smile and patiently waited for my family as they drew out the dollars. After the exchange he would smile a little and then we would be off. We were in Hongkong for four days and it became a morning ritual for us to troop to Pogi’s establishment. In fact, after breakfast we would all say, kita tayo kay Pogi. It helped that his business was a two-minute walk.

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They and I mean my family would smile at him but he only gave back a weak smile. There was even a suggestion on the last day that we would all have a group picture with Pogi. I just shrugged it as typical family banter. I would have agreed to it but I would have wanted a picture with Dragon Lady herself. Besides I would not know how Pogi would react with a group picture. He could have obliged so as to put an end to it or probably he would have posed because he thought it would be amusing or even silly.

I guess he was just doing his job. The people I met were not exactly enthusiastic because they were so focused on work. In the restaurants we ate in, there was almost a hurried kind of feeling. Eat and then get out. Same thing when we shopped or asked around. The people we asked had this distant look which I could not interpret. But there were exceptions of course.

We were in mall and we were trying to figure out where the metro station was. And we saw this cleaning lady with her broom and mop. We asked for directions and she was so flushed because she did not speak English. She smiled and just kept talking about something which of course we did not understand because not one of us spoke Chinese.

But she kept on talking and talking as if she were embarrassed that she could not help us. In fact, when we asked someone who spoke English we saw her again and still she sounded so apologetic. We smiled at her and thanked her. Nice lady.

You get to know a place by its people. Somehow you do. And it does not matter what they look like, pogi or not.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on June 23, 2014.

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