Khok: Always about food

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My nephew watched me as I was writing this week’s story. Then the boy spoke.

“Will you be my teacher, Uncle Oh?” Pannon asked.

“Worried about school?”

“Yes,” he replied, his almond eyes searching my face. “Oct. 5.”

I thought for a second. “Most probably, your aunts Krystalle and Ellen will take turns as your home-teachers on their day off or after their long workday. Cousin Dona and I can pitch in also.”

“Uncle, will home-teachers get paid so they can buy food?”

I wrinkled my nose. “Nah! In effect, we’d be like teacher aides, but we’re not trained or hirelings, so we don’t get anything.”

“But, Uncle, you’ll be my teacher. You should get at least baon (i.e. lunch money) as I used to, so you can buy food.”

“That’s not going to happen. But I’m sure Krys, Ells, Dona and I will be daubed The New Generic-teacher Heroes. So it’s OK, Pan,” I lied.

Just then, Krystalle stopped by my desk. “Do you want to be a lab rat in the name of science, Uncs?”

“Ah, Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. You know, in 1957 Russia beat the US in the space race with Sputnik I. Sputnik V could be taunting—never mind. I don’t know if I want to be in the Phase 3 clinical trials. I have trust issues.”

My Aunt Tita Blitte taunted me. “Is that a food topic?”

I replied, “Auntie, everything is food-related.”

Uncle Gustave said, “Really? OK, Philhealth.”

“Food-related. You get ill. You use part of your food budget to buy paracetamol. If you become more ill, you get hospitalized. You pray Philhealth will foot your bill. You can use the money you save to buy food.”

“Face shields,” my nephew Polonggoy said.

“It’s food. At P65 per piece, you can buy vegetables for three square meals.”

“But face shields are a must.”

“Let me be your economic adviser, Mr. P. Start saving P10 per day for seven days. At the end of the week, before your scheduled return to work, you have the cash to buy the face shield with P5 to spare.

Maybe start a savings program for face shields and masks with the P5 as seed money. With daily use, you’ll wear out your protective gear, and will need replacements.”

Polonggoy laughed. “You’re the Lee Iacocca of personal protective equipment, Uncle.”

“You’re right, Obz, everything is food-related,” my aunt said. “This is the normal new-normal. And we’re creating new terms. Let’s tighten our PPE belt.”


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