SHE lives in the highly urbanized City of Negros Occidental, which is also known as the Cleanest and Greenest City in the Hall of Fame of the Philippines. Money Sense Magazine says, "The Best City To Live In" and Follow Me Travel Magazine puts it as the city where the taste for style and good life are evident by the presence of premiere subdivisions, malls, leisure and amusement establishments.

Passers-by call her Vilma (as other women are also known as Nora, Hilda, Claudine or Judy Ann). So, I call her Vilma also. Her favorite place is San Sebastian Cathedral. It's her place of employment. No, she's not an employee of San Sebastian Parish Office nor a choir member. She's just there at the side of the cathedral as beggar or shall we say vendor of assorted religious items...candles, rosary beads, novena pamphlets, scapulars, etc. She is also paid by some devotees to say novena for the souls in purgatory, novena for fertility, novena for someone to pass the board exam, or novena to win in a lottery.

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How did we know each other? Well, the Cathedral is a place of worship. Faithful go to the church to visit the Blessed Sacrament or to attend the mass which I also do but not that religiously. Flashback! It was a sultry afternoon. I was standing near the left side chapel of the cathedral. "Waiting for someone?" I turned my back. I saw a woman sitting against the wall in Tessa Prieto Valdez-like attire. (Try reading Preview Magazine.) But, not really! Tattered. Got plenty of holes and edges need sewing.

"Yes, I am waiting for my girlfriend. I expect her to arrive soon," was my immediate reply. She coughed scornfully. "True. This Cathedral has become a meeting place of lovers, of husbands waiting for their queridas, of matronas having illicit affairs with their drivers, of snatchers to compare their income. Of course, many of them are kneeling on the pews pretending to be praying. Ay, ambot lang."

She only stopped talking when a pregnant woman arrived to buy candles. "Vilma, give me three pink candles. I want to have a baby girl. I got five boys already!" Vilma wrapped the candles in newspaper and after receiving the money from preggy, she gave her blessing. "So your name is Vilma?", I asked. "He-he-he. It's not my real name. It's my screen name only. Customers love to call me that name. They said I resemble Vilma Santos. I don't believe them!"

Our conversation was put to an end when my GF arrived. (Of course, the girl I was dating before is now my wife.) That's how I knew Vilma. Every time I would have the opportunity to be at the Cathedral, I observed her. She is also generous. She loves the company of cats (pusang simbahan). She got that feline devotion. One noon, I observed her from a short distance. She was mumbling while feeding monay and hopia to more than ten cats surrounding her.

I was intrigued, so I came closer. Vilma was scolding one of her she-cats. The white she-cat was pregnant. "You are pregnant again. You are an irresponsible mother! Last time, you got four kittens. You just left them at the sacristy. The knight of the altar threw them out because they just scattered their dirt on the floor. The priest stepped on them and almost stumbled. Shameful!" The disgraced feline seemed to understand and was apologetic as she rubbed her body against Vilma's feet. So, Vilma is also a cat woman. Her cats are listening attentively to her sermon.

Vilma amuses me. She is there not just as beggar and vendor. I learn many things from her - passion and compassion. She is good at emotional prediction. She forecasts the emotions of people (and cats) that she met. People going to the Cathedral must have seen her and other Vilmas around. I just don't know how many churchgoers have encountered these Vilmas. Is their fragile self-esteem touched also? Or, for them, Vilma is just a twit. I am not trying to sound like a mega motivator but I want others to review their pleasure-pain principle. Nga-a budlay gid haw?

Many in our society despise characters like Vilma. She's a nerd! They don't want to entertain Vilma in their thought bubbles. Please, don't be hemophiliac. I am not pricking your conscience. I don't want your ego to bleed. I am just telling you my personal experiences so that they may become part of your vicarious experiences.

I visited San Sebastian Cathedral several times in recent weeks. I did not see Vilma anymore. Is she sick or simply retired? Her colleagues in business said, "We have not seen her also." I don't want to entertain this thought that she might be dead. Hope not! If she is dead, may her soul rest in peace! "And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books." - Revelation 20:12