We did not know his name when we stepped into his tricycle. All I know was we’re late, and the other tricycle boy forfeited his chance for some reason I didn’t know. I greeted him in the same fashion, “Tatay, sa [some place name here] po.” He replied merrily. Heart at ease, we trudged on, three wheels, and all, but around the bend, when there was a giant pool of muddy water waiting for our feet to get soaked in, it began.
“Baka mabasa ang mga paa ninyo. Taas niyo lang.”
That, we did, and that became the start of a long conversation that would only end when we got to our destination. Tatay, as I’d call uncles, for some reason that it sounds more familiar, was a jolly-looking man, a bit short and healthy, with fair skin and a face that seemed only know how to smile. He knew our mom, and he knew us, me and my brother, and constantly called me, “Bunso,” to which point I’m nudging my brother with my elbow, semi-laughing, because here we go again.
I AM THE BABY.
“Bunso, kayo ng kuya mo, mabubuting bata,” he said, non verbatim, in the sense that some of the kids are “garapal” which is opposite my brother, whom he called “mahinhin.” He lived in the same subdivision, knew our neighbors, and said our mom was his daughter’s ninang in their wedding. I picked up everything he said, even though the muffled sounds of the motor and the rest of the road’s noise made it harder for me to do so. What I knew about him: he had 9 siblings, one of which was in Las Vegas, he regretted to share he only finished high school, to which obvious downcast tone in his voice I tried to assuage by saying, “Bakit ‘lang’ po?” “I finished a 2-year vocational course, electronics engineering,” he continued, also non verbatim, “Kaya lang hindi ko naituloy kasi wala akong gamit.” That’s the part where my heart sank a bit.
But if one thinks he’d be venting out all of his life’s mishaps during the ride, nope, he didn’t. All he did was tell his story. And how he saw us. From small kids, to now, big adults, and by this time, I was able to correct him. “Tatay, hindi po ako yung bunso,” and my brother was able to second it, which our merry host acknowledged, and said, “Ang tangkad niya kasi eh!”
Forgiveable mistake, sir. You’re not the only one.
“Iba kayo. Nakikita ko, iba kayo. Walang barkada. Bahay, church. Pati mama niyo. Hindi kayo yung klase na lumalabas para makipagtismisan. Ikaw ba, ato, magpapastor ka ba?” he asked of my brother. My brother said no, of course. “Akala ko eh pastor ka na. Napaka-hinhin mo eh. Edukado.”
“Ngayong malalaki na kayo, sana yung mapangasawa niyo, mga mabubuting tao rin. Huwag lang pogi,” he quipped. “Dapat yung mabuting tao. Yung kaya kang buhayin. Sana ganun yung makita ninyo.”
The man, the tricycle driver, blessed us. He spoke as if he extended his hand and placed it over our heads. And throughout our ride, my heart was just bursting to the brim, and I was at the edge of my seat so I could bless him as well. But I didn’t get to do that. I just kept murmuring, “Sana po. Sana po.” In that moment, I just bowed my head and my heart, and just humbly accepted it, every gracious word he threw our way, just soaked in the glorious, small miracles God thrown our way.
“Pag pipili kayo ng mapapangasawa, tatandaan niyo ito: compatibility,” he added last. We were at Bayan now, just before we crossed the bridge. “Ayun. Panalangin lang. Bibigay din ng Diyos ‘yan.” He parked his tricycle right where we need to be, and we just said goodbye to him, thanked him, and fervently mentioned him to God the rest of the day.
It wasn’t until noon that I learned of his name. Mang Benny. And I’m writing it here, etching this memory in these digital pages, a reminder that not all people are luminaries, prominent or rich. Sometimes, they’re just stories. Stories they retell by themselves; humble, quiet ones without medals or fame to brag, but gentle years touched by God’s hand, making His faithfulness shine through those unseen struggles.
To me, Mang Benny is a story worth telling.
And here I am, your storyteller.