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The Street Corner

And before I totally forget about this anecdote told once upon a time by my good friend Willy, I thought I would write it down for posterity…

Willy and I used to work together in this tiny cramped office underneath the bleachers on the eastern side of the SENTRUM. Although the office was small, our responsibilities were immense. We were in charge of external affairs for the whole institution.

We were planning and organizing big events such as fund-raising concerts and the annual school fair. We were also hosting dignitaries in two lecture series that were not only for our students but were also opened to the public.

We worked hard but also knew how to have fun. Whenever there were lulls within the course of a work day, these we used to freshen up by joking with each other or telling each other silly anecdotes. There were a few jokers in the office; but Willy told some of the most outrageous stories.

Take this story that had me laughing so hard that my side hurt and tears came to my eyes. The story was set when Willy still worked in a school located in Barangay Bangkal in Makati. There were many small jeepneys – eight- or ten-seater ones that were common off the main roads – that plied the Bangkal routes. These Willy took to get to and from work.

One lazy afternoon, Willy was the only passenger of one such jeepney on his way to school. He sat just behind the driver. Before long, another passenger – a young woman – got on somewhere along the route. She dug into her purse for a few coins and handed these to Willy.

“General Tinio,” the young woman said as she handed Willy the coins, indicating where she would be getting off.

You have to understand, General Tinio Street – or so Willy said – ran perpendicular to the road that was the jeepney’s route. In other words, the young woman would be getting off at a street corner.

And so Willy, just trying to be helpful, handed the coins over to the driver and muttered, “Mamâ, bayad ng aleh.” He could have left it there; but he didn’t. He had to add, “Kanto Tinio raw…”

This was the part of the story when – the first time I heard it from Willy – I just spontaneously burst out laughing so hard I could have died on the spot from sheer lack of breath. That Willy was telling the story poker-faced, if anything, made the story seem even funnier.

To this day, I still have not made up my mind if I believe the story or not. Willy, however, swore – and continues to do so – that it really happened. Apparently – or at least, this was how he would like all of us who were within hearing distance to think – he only realized how his allegedly harmless statement must have sounded when he saw the young woman eyeing him with a look that could kill.

“Parang gusto akong sampalin…” Willy summed up the look. Fortunately, the jeepney had come to General Tinio Street and the young woman had to get off.

I feel I must state here that I do not gladly buy tall tales. While I laughed so hard I could have died from doing so, I also assumed that Willy told us the story just to draw laughs from all of us inside the office. I myself once lived near the Bangkal area when I was in college; and I neither saw nor heard of a street named General Tinio.

Many months later, while Willy and I were riding in a school van along Bangkal on our way to Taft Avenue, I suddenly recalled Willy’s story. Just to see if there was any truth whatsoever to his story that had me laughing so hard, I told him to point out General Tinio Street to me.

I doubted that there was such a street. Willy, however, said that he would.

We just drove along and the chatter shifted to other matters. However, without warning, Willy asked the driver to slow down until we were at a street corner. He pointed at the street sign of the perpendicular side road.

It said General Tinio.

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