Friday, August 24, 2012

mga bulak (flowers)

It’s a bright sunny morning, and the market is bustling with activity.  I dodge a jeepney, sidestep a dolly loaded with blocks of ice, and nearly crash into a man carting a gigantic mound of pineapples up the street in a rough wooden wagon, like a vehicle out of our medieval history book.  As I approach the flower section of the market, one of the venders spots me.  They know us well, us tourist-looking types, with our white skin and our extra money to spend on the luxury of flowers.  

  Flowers, Mu’m!’  one calls.  Soon it’s a whole chorus.  ‘Roses Mu’m!’ ‘Flowers Mu’m!’ There must be ten of them, all at the same corner, sitting around in beat-up plastic chairs talking and laughing and hawking their mountains of fresh flowers.  

‘How much?’ I ask the first vendor.  ‘150 Mu’m!’  Whew.  I don’t think so.  That’s $3.50 for a dozen short-stem roses.  Too expensive.  I shake my head and move to the next vendor.  ‘How much?’ I ask.  She’s smart.  ‘120 only, Mu’m!  I smile and shake my head, ‘Wala.’  By now they know that I’ve played this game before.  They can still make a bundle off of me, but maybe not as much as they originally thought.  I move on to the next vender with a lift of the chin, ‘How much?   This time the whole corner erupts into laughter.  They are playing with me now.  100 Mu’m!’ He’s selling the same identical roses as every other vender, and they are all watching me.  

I decide to try one more time, the next vender in the line, but her price is higher again.   So I move back to the lowest bidder, bartering for two dozen roses and a bundle of baby’s breath for 200 pesos, a birthday gift for $4.50.  He agrees with a grin, tying up the flowers in old newspaper and handing them to me with a nod.  Salmaat po, Kuya!’  I say as I walk away; ‘Thank you, sir!’.  Balik balik!’ they all call as I go.  Come back sometime!”  

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