Suarez-Orendain: Moms in the sun

Suarez-Orendain: Moms in the sun

April was astoundingly blistering hot (will May carry rain?). Upstreet, I spotted the rainbow beach umbrella of a street food seller I will name as Janelle. She was my first mom in the sun. The 36-year-old mother of two defied the sun.

“Nanago sila tungod sa init, ug wala pud klase ron tungod sa init,” she said, essentially saying classes were out due to the heat. Her loyal customers were hiding from the sun.

“Namasin lang ko,” she said. She was hopeful, standing behind the 3x2 table she used to display the snacks such as ersatz tempura and fishball, kwek-kwek (deep-fried batter-coated quail and chicken eggs), and ice cold buko water mixed with condensed milk and buko strings.

From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nelle serves her suki or repeat clients (my poor translation) from office workers to mothers too busy to prepare snacks for their children, but the majority are students. Her husband sells buko in the next barangay and supplies Nelle with her daily need for fresh coconuts. Both their incomes from selling refreshments meet their daily needs, with no spare coins for emergencies. Nelle said she relies on God’s mercy, especially during the few times some customers slithered away without paying. Like most of those who live on the outskirts of wealth, Nelle’s source of joy is having all her snacks sold out. It makes up for her having to rise daily at 1 a.m. to boil, then peel the chicken and quail eggs, mix the batter, among other tasks.

Another source of joy is her children: a girl in grade 1 and a boy in seventh grade. As long as they take their education, she said she will endure the long hours of having to stand, to the point she often gets leg cramps. She says it’s also a blessing that, like the majority of “mini-micro street vendors” (my term) in Cebu, she pays no rental for her space.

This is also the situation for Marie (not her real name) who sells fried bananas, and lunch food. The solo-parent has no dreams of reclaiming her philandering mate.

“Life is simple without him,” she said in Cebuano. She has high hopes for her daughter who will enrol in college next year. Will her income be enough for a four-year college degree? “I don’t doubt God’s provision,” Marie said in Cebuano.

Will these moms continue to endure the heat of hard work for so little? Can they continue to smile to hide what they can’t tell me?


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