LIKE the “kabo (dipper),” the “bangkito (stool)” is a ubiquitous prop for the Pinoy’s art of making do.
It is cobbled from “retazo” wood, leftover pieces from a bigger construction project. In a country more intimate with dearth than surfeit, we learn to not just not throw away but also to put everything to use.
Pail and dipper are necessities where faucets drip water by appointment and spew air the rest of the time. In the countryside, where meals are communal affairs, the “bangko (bench),” with its long plank of wood balanced on legs at each end, enables folks to squeeze in for meals by batches.
The “bangkito (foot stool)” is an adaptation, a diminution of the bangko in size but not in resourcefulness. Before coronavirus disease (Covid-19) demanded physical distancing, public utility jeepneys squeezed in commuters on the bangkitos conductors pulled out from under the seats and positioned on the aisles.
Bangkitos also seat the vendors and patrons of “pungko-pungko (sidewalk-squatting meals sold by the plastic bags)” and other street hawkers of candies, cigarettes, lighters, newspapers, magazines, SIM cards and face shields.
Papang taught my sister and I how to shine our school shoes like the boys in Colon, straddling a bangkito he painted in bubblegum pink (left over from another job). Is it because our center of gravity is close to the ground that the bangkito is a seat of repose?
On a visit to Paete, I did not notice the bangkito in the corner of a large showroom of monumental, lushly detailed wood carvings. When the husband asked my opinion, I had to look twice at the reclining figure, so absolute in its stillness.
Barely two feet, the sleeping boy emerges from a stump of wood. His shirt bares the uncircumcised penis, plump cheeks and round legs ending in dingy soles.
Pillowed on his right arm, his head radiates ripples of wood. The unknown carver indulged the deep sleeper with a sea for a pillow. Only the splayed legs supporting each end of the stump reminds the viewer of a humble crib, a bangkito.
Every January, when the “novenario” begins for the Sto. Niño, the sleeping boy is not at the center or anywhere near the family altar. This time, a spray bottle of surface cleanser keeps it company, a reminder of the universal, perpetual fight against the virus.
On the bangkito, the young-old face, slightly bruised around the eyelids, sleeps on. When construction workers take a nap, they cover their faces with a shirt to keep out the sun or the gazes that catch them with their guards down.
The boy bares his face, as an animal lies in its lair with exposed belly, the world with its appetites held in abeyance sa bangkito.