Today I met my sister’s favorite tailor for the second time. I only have a vague recollection of my first meeting with him several years ago. But I often hear about him from my sister who’s so impressed with his work. She’s been a regular client since her high school days. Over the years, she’s managed to bring more of her friends to Manong tailor’s place with most of them becoming loyal customers as well.
Apart from the workmanship itself, there’s one other thing that I often hear about Manong from my sister. And that’s how cheap it is to have any work done by him. She says that’s the reason why she, my other sister, and all her friends who avail of Manong’s low-cost tailoring make it up to him by paying more than the quoted price. She adds that even if they do that, the total cost is still cheaper than you’d expect given the turnout.
Since last week, I’ve been telling my sister that I need to have some work done by Manong. I couldn’t remember how to get there so I kept pestering her to go with me. We finally had the time earlier. I wasn’t prepared though for what I saw despite my sister telling me about Manong’s more recent misfortunes. His wife died in her sleep last year. He moved out of the house he was living in because his son used it to open an Internet shop business. He lives near the old house, in a very small room with a flimsy door and even flimsier patches of plywood that serve as a ceiling. He sleeps on a narrow work table inside an even smaller room that also serves as his shop. More than half of the room is taken up by a mountain of clothes and cloths that I assume were all works in progress. In a small corner sits an old, battered but still working sewing machine.
My heart went out to Manong when I saw his living and work conditions. I felt like what I’m paying for the tailoring job he’ll do for me would never be enough. As we were leaving the place, my initial thoughts swirled around being grateful for the life I have. I thought that I have absolutely no business complaining for whatever it is that I don’t have or feel that I should have but can’t get. I even thought that I’m lucky to live the life I have. But then I realized, Manong’s lucky as well. Perhaps even luckier than many of us. Because he lives the life as he knows it in such a way that has inspired so many of us who know him. And I couldn’t help but think once again that poverty, especially that one that can’t seem to be alleviated because of the incessant plunder and corruption in this country, is such an evil thing. But there are people who continue on despite it.