I think the reason I love Rowena Placencia so much is because even in the middle of a frantic city she will notice two old ladies. And, while I am still comprehending where we are, she is bent a full foot down to their thinning but still very black hair and next we are all four hand-in-hand, crossing an insanely busy Iloilo street.
UP! Goes Ro’s hand as an imposing jeepney tries to bully his way past our two ancient lolas. The same fate awaits a fancy pants SUV. And, even though I can’t see the driver through the blackened windscreen, I know he would not have dared further into Ro’s no-go-zone.
Rowena and the ladies speak wildly as we cross the traffic: farther than my rudimentary Hiligaynon can understand. On the other side, as we turn and face the noisy road, the smaller of the two lolas loses my hand and tries to wander back into the frenzy of cars, delivery vans and big trucks.
Every single jeepney is alerted and acknowledged to two old ladies who need a ride home. Their eyes look expectantly ready to halt curbside and finally Rowena allows one to stop.
Lola and her sister step onto the stairs and Ro, quite suddenly darts to the top. Above them her hand protects heads so tiny, yet strangely a little tall for the entrance. Climbing down, smiling some words I will never hear above the city, two grandmothers disappear forever into the traffic and my friend resumes her easy step beside me.
PS: ‘Lola’ is a Filipino word for grandmother ..