Thursday, August 30, 2007

Maria Cristina Neighbors - The Gerozagas

The Gerozagas

It was seven thirty in the morning and Mang Kiko walked about the veranda which was almost filled up with wooden racks used in drying up the silk screened posters of the night before. He touched the black print of one and felt for any sign of moistness. He then touched it once more this time with more pressure to see if it smudged. Contented with his inspection he began to take the posters from their drying racks and piled them neatly on top of each other.

In a few minutes the kids in the neighborhood will come knocking and bring their colored posters done the day before and collect their measly fifty to eighty centavos worth of coloring job which Mang Kiko paid. Once paid they would get a few more posters to color for the day.

Mang Kiko was into the silk screening of posters used as learning aids in classrooms. He would silk screen the line drawings of Philippine flowers, insects, local fruits, animals and sometimes maps of the various Philippine islands. Once the black and white drawings have been rendered the figures were colored by a water based paint. The finished products were delivered to schools and school supply stores.

On the side of the veranda was a small clearing reserved for the mahjong table. It was a moveable location that depended on the wind direction of the day and at the time of day. His house was beside the estero and wind that wafted coming from the open sewer can sometimes be so bad smelling, enough to suspend play for a few minutes to transfer to another location in the veranda. It was a question of staying beside the estero where most of the time it was breezy and the stench bearable or go to the farther end of the veranda and go through rearranging some of the drying racks to give space for the mahjong table.

There won’t be any need to move the mahjong table he thought as he surveyed the estero surface. It rained the night before and the debris and the flotsam that usually dotted the surface of the estero were not there. The estero was flowing strongly and it promised to be a fine day, a day with out much stench and without the sordid sight of accumulated garbage.

Mrs. Godinez will soon be there for the mahjong. She was very prompt as she timed her leaving her sari sari store five minutes after Mr. Godinez had left for work. After a few minutes from the time her husband had made the turn towards Espana she would proceed to the Gerozagas to secure a seat for herself in the quorum. Her husband was against her playing and the last time he caught her a scandalous confrontation that spilled out in the street happened. From then on Mrs. Godinez would post an early warning boy towards late afternoon to alert her should Mr. Godinez be home from work early. She would compensate the boy with a bottle of softdrinks and a "mamon" for his trouble.

The house of the Gerozagas was one of the two houses at the end of Maria Cristina. The other one is the Roman residence. Both houses are by the estero which marked the end of the eskinita.

Before the Gerozagas, two other families used to occupy the house. The first one were the Concepcions and before the Gerozagas, the Ahorros. I have not ascertained which family owned the house because it was possible that one or two of them were just renting it.

Mang Kiko was the head of the family. I have a vague memory of Mrs. Gerozaga. All I can remember was that she was always at the mahjong table in the veranda of their house playing with a regular group of housewives and sometimes with some of the younger guys in the neighborhood. Pete, my brother, would play with them at times. We used to invest part of our weekly allowance on Pete who excelled in the game and invariably won whenever he played with this group.

The oldest of Mang Kiko’s children was Nena who was married to Fred Fernando, a young lawyer and the son of the owner of a botica in Trabajo St. The two other children were Mario and Julia.

Mang Kiko provided employment to most of the kids in Maria Cristina. He would pay us on a piece meal basis for every poster that we have colored. For the more adept, carving the silk screen was a higher paid chore. The prices he paid depended on the complexity of the drawings and the number of colors to be used. The prices would range from twenty centavos for the simplest poster up to fifty centavos for the more intricate designs such as flowers and the Philippine map.

Almost every kid in the neighborhood would have painted one of the posters of Mang Kiko. It kept us out of mischief and helped augment the meager allowance we had for school. You could say that it was a blatant and opportunistic use of child labor but on the other hand for kids with nothing much to do during weekends it was a veritable source of money for a movie in the Mercury theater and cool treats in the Sison ice drop factory farther down Trabajo St. It might even have helped some of the kids in the neighborhood to develop an appreciation of colors in the art of painting as well as hone their technical skills in drawing. There is no way of confirming this. I haven’t heard of anyone coming from Maria Cristina who made a name for himself in the art world. But then one never knows.

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