Day #9: Tourist
Uncle Tinio always made it seem like a game, and Rizal Park always seemed like the right place for it. And they were always at Rizal Park. When Carmen came to live with Uncle Tinio and Auntie Fe, they went almost every afternoon, sitting on a different grassy area each time.
“People-watching” was Uncle Tinio’s answer, whenever she asked what they were doing.
“Look,” Uncle Tinio said one day, puckering his lips as was his way, towards the direction of a woman squinting up at the statue of Jose Rizal, a floppy hat on her head and a backpack on her shoulders. “What do you see?”
“She has a camera!”
“And what else?” Uncle Tinio, he never pointed out their possessions. Instead, he steered Carmen’s attention to how the woman was standing, stiff and straight. “See how hard she’s scrutinizing Jose Rizal?”
Carmen looked at her uncle, feeling the warm afternoon breeze ruffle her hair. “She’s wants a picture with him.”
“Indeed she does,” Uncle Tinio laughed. “She wants a picture of the things she’s discovered, like that important statue.”
“Uh-oh,” Carmen said. “She’s looking around, she—she looked at me!”
“Why do you think she looked at you?”
“Because she’s all alone,” Carmen replied. She stole a quick glance at the woman again, then paused at another thought. “Where’s her husband?”
“No husband.” Uncle Tinio, he always sounded so sure. “You’re right, Carmen. I think she’s all alone.”
“Isn’t it sad for her?”
Uncle Tinio shrugged. “Maybe.”
“But why is she looking and looking?” Carmen was at that stage where she felt such satisfaction in repeating words. “What kind of tourist it that?”
“Anak, what an absurd question!” Auntie Fe frowned, speaking up for the first time that afternoon.
She remembers asking these as a child, not caring if they sounded strange. But Uncle Tinio always answers her questions, even when they were absurd, even when they were obvious.
“That tourist,” her uncle replied, smiling, “is someone determined to feast her senses on what this corner of Manila has to offer.”
“And so, my dear Carmen,” Uncle Tinio smiled again. “That is the tourist we want to make friends with.”