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The Forgotten Sack
 
By Elson T. Elizaga
 

President Gloria Arroyo’s 20,000-dollar dinner in Le Cirque, New York reminds me of an encounter with a distressed woman years ago.

My friend Ann Gorra and I had just sent off her mother to Cagayan de Oro Airport, from where she would board a plane to Manila and then to Switzerland. On our way back to the city, and after passing by the plush Pryce Hotel, we saw a barefooted scrawny woman ahead of us, running down the road as if avoiding an argument with a pack of demons. 

At first I wanted to simply overtake her, thinking she was probably insane. But when we passed by her we saw the worried look on her human face, so I stepped on the brakes, slid down the glass window and asked: “Unsa man, ‘nang?” (What's the matter?)

“Akong sako, nabya-an sa jeep,” she said. (I left my sack in the jeep.)

“Asa man?” (Where?)

“Didto sa terminal.” (In the terminal.)

So I gave her a lift and, following her directions, proceeded to a terminal at a fuel station in Carmen. She was probably in her late 40s. Her skin appeared to have been darkened by prolonged exposure to the sun. Her hair was disheveled and her clothes were faded and soiled as if three generations of ancestors had used it before her. 

She was unusually quite and her silence seemed to give her an aura of dignity. When I asked “Unsa man diay sulod adtong sako? (What is inside that sack, anyway?)”, she did not say anything. 

But when we reached the terminal, she became excited, pointing to a parked antiquated jeep almost filled with passengers. “Na-a ra! (There it is!)” she said, and got out of the car and went straight ahead, pushing her way through the crowd, and we followed her out of curiosity. 


She went toward the front seat of that jeep. A man with a bluish bag was sitting there, smoking, so she asked him to move a bit, and then she looked under the seat and pulled out a huge, ancient sack which I thought was empty because it was limp and rolled up. She held the sack to her chest and it uncoiled like a mat, its bottom reaching the ground with a light thud, dust blowing, and then she reached inside the sack with her right hand, deep down as if she was groping for gold hidden in the black bowels of the earth. But when her hand returned to the sunlight, it was holding nothing but a can of sardines. 

And her face glowed with relief, and my mind was in complete turmoil at seeing this ridiculous spectacle, because I did not know whether to laugh or weep.



Arroyo dined lavishly in US before attending Cory's wake

MARK D. MERUEÑAS, GMANews.TV 08/08/2009 | 06:30 PM

While the nation was mourning the death of Corazon Aquino, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and other Philippine officials were seen dining at an upscale French restaurant in New York with their bill reportedly reaching $20,000 (P960,000).

Malacañang confirmed the dinner took place but claimed it was a private dinner paid for by the nephew of Imelda Marcos, Rep. Martin Romualdez, the youngest son of Imelda Marcos's younger brother Benjamin.

A tabloid wrote about the lavish dinner Mrs. Arroyo and her entourage reportedly enjoyed at a posh New York restaurant while visiting US President Barack Obama last week. The US tabloid New York Post first reported last August 7 that Mrs. Arroyo and her “large entourage" were seen “the other night… enjoying the good life" at the Le Cirque restaurant. [More in GMANews]

 
Published online August 25, 2009. Copyright © Elson T. Elizaga.