A chance to sell

In the afternoon, Ate Rose usually slouched on Yakal’s front steps, her eyelids struggling to stay open. Her hands fluttered every now and then, frustrating flies that followed her tray of food. She was laziest in the afternoon.
But this afternoon was different. Ate Rose was wide awake. She paced Yakal’s front yard with her karyoka’s, lumpias, banana cues and kamote cues nestled on a tray on her head. She looked happier than usual.
“Maaga kayong natapos ngayon, ate, ah (You finished early today, ate),” a dormer greeted her.
“Hindi, pupunta akong oval; maraming customer doon (Not yet, I’m going to the oval; there are more customers there),” Ate Rose beamed back; folds and lines bordered her lips and forehead.
Thousands of students and alumni flocked to the University of the Philippines’ Academic Oval that afternoon. There were jokes, laughter, endless chatting and exclamations in the air. It was a festival. Classmates and friends trotted towards UP Pep Squad. Teachers and alumni dived towards Ryan Cayabyab, jostling one another for a coveted camera shot. Umbrellas mushroomed around Oblation, the owners braving the 4 p.m. heat to watch hundreds on parade. Large speakers boomed a song, looping it endlessly.
“Isang daang taon na tayo,
Dangal ka ng Pilipino
Sentro na ng pagbabago.
UP ang galing mo.”
The crowd swallowed Ate Rose. She paused to look at UP Baguio’s delegates, but she quickly tore the gaze when a student asked for karyoka. The afternoon was a busy one for her. She was oblivious of UP Manila’s street dancers in black spandex, waving and swaying lazily. She did not hear UP Los Baños’ centennial hymn, her ears keen only to the words, “Ate, magkano ‘to? (Ate, how much is this?)” She did not see the sky divers in aerial acrobatics because she busied her eyes with the coins on her palm.
The afternoon sun turned to orange, then murky scarlet in a smoggy skyline. Quezon hall burst into glitters, the words, “UP @ 100” tearing through the growing darkness. The crowd did not diminish, but Ate Rose’s tray now contained only a few banana cue rejects. She was happy with her day’s sale. She sat under an acacia tree near Quezon hall, coins reflecting a waterfall of Christmas lights cascading from the tree.
Ate Rose forced her way out of the raging crowd, satisfied. Behind her, torches burned one by one, marking year after year of UP history. The laughter, shouts and chatters continued. The crowed jittered as the night grew deeper, then, a boom. Bright scarlet lights outshined the night stars. Green flames and balls of blue danced in the sky. Up and down, flames came to life and died. Balls of fire hovered in the air like snowflakes. The shouts were silenced. Only the alternating booms and flashes were heard and seen. It was breathtaking.
The day was over. Thousands were satisfied with the fireworks. Ate Rose was also satisfied, but not because of the lights, the parade, the skydive or the fireworks. She was satisfied with her day’s earnings. It was just another event, a chance to sell.
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