• Countless vehicles packed the bridge connecting Quirino Avenue and Lacson Avenue. The orange of sundown bathed the whole of the bridge. At the sidewalk of the bridge lurks a girl dressed in dirty rags. Her big hair that covers almost half her face resembles a bird’s nest. She walks back and forth on this sidewalk all day, humming, sometimes singing:

    At sa kaniyang yumi at ganda, Dayuhan ay nahalina
    Bayan ko binihag ka, Nasadlak sa dusa

    Under the end of the bridge to Quirino Avenue were heaps of scrap wood and steel roofing fastened together to make what appeared to be houses. Outside one of the houses was a woman in her late 30s. She had shoulder-length hair that had thick streak of white hair for a woman of her age. Her eyes had deep eyes with prominent eye bags. She was skinny, rather, bony and short. She was wearing a blue and red floral-patterned daster and a pair of imitation flip-flops. On one hand she was carrying an old plastic bag, and on the other, clenched, a grayish handkerchief.


    “Who is it?” asked a woman inside the house.

    “It’s Teresita, Constancia” said the woman outside the house. “Can I come in?”

    The old woman inside the house opened the door and smiled at her. “Come in. Come in. Have a seat. Sorry my house is messy. I just got home, you see.”

    “That’s okay, Aling Constancia. Actually, I should be the one apologizing for disturbing you everyday” she said.

    “Hay, child, I’m lucky someone still visits a lonely old woman like me” she said. “So, how are the children doing?”

    “They’re all doing pretty well…How are you?”

    “Gladly, still alive” she replied. “It’s so hard to find a decent source of income nowadays.”

    “I know.”

    “There aren’t that much people who buy candles in church anymore. I’m lucky enough to be able to eat three times a day.”

    “Same here. My eldest, Kara, is off to college now and I have no idea how to pay off her schooling.”

    “Really? That’s good for her. How time flies…I remember all the sleepless nights worrying how to pay for my sons’ tuition.”

    “I almost got crazy while looking for a job the past few weeks,” she said with a chuckle.

    “Ay, I went through that too, and I tell you, It’s not easy to send your child if you’re jobless and barely finished high school. But thank God, my husband managed to gain enough pay to let my sons graduate college.”

    “I know aling constancia…That’s why I’ve been job hunting like crazy since my son graduated high school last month.”

    “They were about Kara’s age when the military-”

    They stayed quiet for a while.

    “I’m sorry.”

    “Oh you don’t have to…I’m over it. It’s been more than 30 years since that happened,” she said with a smile. “By the way, how do you plan to pay for your children’s tuition?”

    “I’ve inquired everywhere, but like you said, it’s really difficult for a mere highschool graduate to find a decent job nowadays.”

    “I heard you found a new job. Well, how's it going?” she asked.

    “Not good I'm afraid. I just started last week but I do not know for sure if I can last that long in that factory. I need this job but I just find it hard to deal with my new boss” she sighed.

    “Why? What’s wrong? Were you treated badly there?”

    “No. It’s not just with me. He treats everyone there badlyWe are all over worked there. That man is mean. He does not have a heart for his employees.”

    “Why? What exactly does he do to the employees there?”

    “He enslaves all of his employees. He won't let anyone take a leave even with a valid reason. It’s like he cuts our pay for everything we do.”

    “Surely he has his own reasons.”

    “I don’t know. He just seems impossible to work with and-”

    A commotion going on outside the house disturbed their conversation. The sound of angry people shouting and tables turning caught their attention.


    “What’s going on?” Constancia asked. “Who is it?”

    They heard a loud low voice shouting, but couldn’t make out what he’s saying.

    “Wait there Theresa, I'll find out what's happening.”

    “Theresa! Theresa!” shouted the man outside.

    “Mr Moreno?” asked a shocked Theresa.

    “Theresa, who’s he? Do you know him?” asked Constancia.

    “He’s my boss…but I don’t know why he followed me all the way here.”


    “I am Theresa’s supervisor. Theresa, you have something that belongs to me,” said the man.

    Constancia eventually opens the door to let the man in the house. “Good evening sir. What is it we can do for you?”

    “What's the matter? I don't understand. Mr Moreno, what are you doing here?” asked Theresa in confusion.

    “You have something that belongs to me... How dare you! You’re newly hired! And you do such things?” he shouted.

    “I didn’t do anything wrong. What are you talking about?”

    “Dont play dumb…I have my eyes around the factory…Now give it!” he demanded.

    “Excuse me sir, there is no need to be shouting. Please calm down,” requested Constancia.

    “I did not take anything from you… Why are you making such an accusation? I did not take anything.”

    “You’ve already lost a month's worth of salary… Do you want to lose your job too?”

    “I really don't understand why you're doing this. I never stole from you. Be reasonable. Please!” she cried. “I’ve been working really hard. I can't afford to lose my job. Please don't fire me.”

    “With all due respect, sir, calm down. There isn't any need for that is there? Please tell us CALMLY what is going on,” reasoned Constancia.

    “I am losing a roll of my finest cloths that I have just ordered from Singapore. According to my sources, that roll of cloth I’m missing just so happens to be with you!” accused Mr Moreno.

    “What's this theresa? Is this true? Do you have the cloth?”

    “Of course not… I don't know what he is talking about. I wouldn’t take that roll of cloth of his. I know better than to steal and lose my job,” sobbed Theresa.

    He gets Theresa’s bag and inspects it. All were shocked when Mr. Moreno found the roll of cloth.

    “Then what is THIS??!! This is my cloth! if you did not take it, then explain to me how it got in your bag???” he commanded. “Those teary eyes don’t work on me so suck it up.”

    “I don't know. I did not put it there. I swear to God I did not take it. I don’t know how it got there!” she started crying.

    “Sir, there must have been a misunderstanding. Right, Theresa?”

    “I did not take it. I did not take it!” defended Theresa. “You know me Aling Constancia… I’m no thief.”

    “Lies! Lies! Lies! I am sick and tired of hearing your lies Theresa! If you had just given it back when I asked for it, then maybe you could have still kept your job!” declared Mr Moreno.

    “Sir! She says she did not take it. There must have been a mix-up.”

    “How could there have been a mix up when it is very clear! I found what I was missing in HER bag! It needs no more explanation!”

    “I know her too well; we've been friends for a long time. Even if she's in a tight situation, she would never resort to stealing,” reasoned Constancia.

    “I did not do it… Please believe me. I don’t want to lose my job. I need this job,” begged Theresa.

    “Say what you want… I don’t care. Now, as a compensation for my wasted time and your lies.. you now owe me money,” he asserted. “If you don’t want to end up both jobless and in jail, you better pay up Theresa!”

    “But I don't have anything… you already took my first month's pay!”

    “With all due respect sir, she says she did not steal it. Why don't you believe her?” cut in Constancia.

    “I only believe what i see… and according to what i have seen today, she is a thief! a thief who owes me money...!!!”

    “Please sir! If it is only money that you want… if I just had some, would that restore my dignity as an honest person?? I swear, I am not a thief!!!”

    “Well… if you don’t have money, there are other ways to pay,” he said slyly.

    A confused look fell on the women’s faces. He headed to the door and went out the house. “You have a daughter going to college this year, right?” he asked with a smirk.

    Still she lurks the sidewalks of Nagtahan Bridge, humming, sometime singing:

    Ibon man may laying lumipad, Kulungin mo at umiiyak
    Bayan pa kayang sakdal dilag, ang ‘di magnasang makaalpas