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Batang Quiapo

Making a Difference by Hermie ClimacoBy Hermie Climaco
“Mommy, I thought youre working! Why were you in Quiapo? Youre supposed to be working, not shopping . . . My daughter, Angel May, then twelve-year old, complained to me over the phone. She called at the office while I was out. A co-worker told her I had gone to Quiapo. My daughter was used to thinking that when mommy shops she shops with mommy too. And so, she nagged me when she finally reached me in the office after returning, together with my close friend Maila Ordanez, from a luncheon-shopping spree at SM Quiapo.

When I just started my job, Maila briefed me about my duties and responsibilities as a presidential staff assistant (PSA) mostly drafting of travel authorities of government officials and staff traveling abroad. She also showed me the different eateries, or carenderias, where I can go for lunch. There was the MESLA (Malacanang Employees Savings and Loan Association) canteen, and the MECOOP (Malacanang Employee Cooperative) canteen. There was also an eatery outside Malacanang that was favorite to many employees. It was there that we headed to when we tire of having lunch at MESLA or MECOOP.

Maila didnt only briefed me about my duties and responsibilities, and the eateries, but she also showed me where to go and how to get where when in urgent need to buy something. Quiapo. It was one jeepney ride from San Miguel Street. I had to exit at the second gate from the main administration building where I can catch the jeep fronting Malacanangs New Executive Building. The so called Borloloy Building.

I couldnt remember Mailas exact explanation why NEB was called Borloloy
Building. Ive been there a few times but I was more focused on my purpose of going there than pay attention to its interiors, or exteriors, showing why its being called a Borloloy Building.

And so, being close friends, Maila and I used to go together to shopping-trips to Quiapo during lunch break. Tara, Herms. Sama tayo sa Quiapo. (Lets go, Herms. Lets go to Quiapo.) As we walked towards the second gate, she would give me more briefings about many things: the people, the different offices, the different presidents, and most of all, her (as well as everyone elses) normal routine of marketing and shopping at Quiapo. Alam mo kasi, Herms, batang Quiapo ako. (As you know, Herms, I am a Quiapo girl.) Ngayon, ikaw na rin! (And now, you are, too!).

Still another thing that Maila briefed me about was the tiangge that comes every Thursday during the feast day of St. Jude Church located just next to our office building, the Mabini Hall. Malacanang employees couldnt allow this St. Jude day, a tiangge day, pass by without visiting the church and dropping by the tiangge to buy their favorite kakanin (Filipino dishes): bibingka, cassava cake, puto, palitaw, suman, kutsinta etc. Maila and I and some other work-buddies oftentimes get down the Mabini Hall together to do those things. But in addition to attending the Mass and to buying kakanin and fruits, we would also sometimes buy those imported clothes, which we try on ourselves over our Filipiniana office uniform right in front the stalls of the vendors selling them.

I didnt realize that one day, I would find myself walking along 17th, 18th, and 19th Streets in Washington, DC. As I strode along these streets I couldnt help remembering those days with my friends, especially with my best friend, Director Maila Ordanez. This is entirely a new and different place now. There is no Jollibbee. No Red Ribbon. No Goldilocks. No malls like SM (Shoe Mart). No tiangge. And no Quiapo.

Yet, I couldnt help always whispering a prayer of thanksgiving and praises to God for bringing me and my family to this equally beautiful city that is Washington, DC.

My daughter Angel May recently turned 18. She doesnt check on me anymore. It is I, or her dad, who now constantly check on her. She doesnt care if I shop without her, or if I go around Washington, DC without her. Her friends had now taken my place.

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