THE BOY knew a lot about choosing fruits.
Before leaving Pangasinan, the husband and I stopped by a wet market to find if the fruits were better and cheaper than in Metro Manila.
More used to supermarkets, I trailed after him, the better judge of goods and the better negotiator.
For me, one banana is as good as another banana. We cruised among the front-row sellers before he judged that Parañaque-sold bananas cheaper by P3. None of the bananas he inspected had rounded ends, a sign of maturity (“guwang”).
Why is “guwang” a virtue for bananas but not “gurang” for people? I asked, eyeing with interest some packs of garlic-flavored chichacorn.
He said that if a fruit was picked when it was mature, it tasted differently from one that was picked before its time. Some prematurely picked (“linghod”) fruits never even ripen or cannot be eaten.
After haggling and settling with a vendor for three bags of chichacorn, I hurried to where the husband and a young vendor seemed to be shaking and listening to emerald green avocados.
If “guwang,” you should hear the seed rattling inside the avocado, the husband explained.
I picked up and shook one oval fruit, thinking it was like a maracas without a handle. The seed rolled inside that green leather-like case.
After weighing and bagging avocados, the young vendor picked mangoes from a basket. The husband had apparently remembered his appointments and my afternoon class because Selecting Fruits 101 was over and he was just waiting to pay.
Tall but slight in frame, the young man took to heart the husband’s instruction to select the best. He picked, discarded and bagged mangoes after looking at the point where the fruit’s stem had been.
Though I yearned to ask aloud why one listens to avocados but examines the rear end of a mango, I could only watch in silence as they closed the deal. In the ride back to Metro Manila, I asked the husband why he chose to buy from this vendor and not from the others.
The boy offered a good price, he said. He has an honest face.
I remember how, after weighing our purchases, the young man added one free fruit inside the bag. Although he did not shake or examine the butt anymore of the “pakapin,” I noticed that the fruit he gave us in good will was as smooth and plump as the ones we paid for. He did not give something that would just have been thrown away.
At this time of the year, the north of Luzon is a tapestry of emerald green rice fields stretching as interminably as the eye can roam.
Modern highways unroll past scenery of idyll so classic, they resemble stereotypes of bucolic paradise: tiny human figures bent in planting rice, carabao and farmer plowing the fields, shingles of water bearing green stubble that prefigure the fat golden promise of future yield.
I arrived too early for class. The campus bears the visible preparations made for the University of the Philippines (UP) College Admission Test (Upcat).
Conducted in UP campuses by next weekend, the Upcat is the first hurdle to be faced by thousands of high school seniors, as well as their families. The aspiration to have a UP education has as much to do with the rising cost of college education as the prestige of studying in the highest-ranked Philippine university included in the 2013 Top 300 Asian universities list of the London-based education and career network Quacquarelli Symonds.
Our society values education. College will secure your future, I tell any young person.
Yet, remembering a young man “reading” fruits through hearing and sight and a landscape so unchanged in beauty and iniquity, I wonder when, for many, the time will be ripe through education in this country.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s July 28, 2013 issue of the editorial page Sunday column, “Matamata”