The Valedictorian and the Vendor

This story is inspired by the Valedictory address of Omid Siahmard of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) class 2021. The street vendors outside the PGH gate made him study harder. He bought 6 squid balls for 30 pesos every morning from Aling Marissa.

Omid, mabuhay ka, at lahat kayong magiging frontliners na ilaw sa kadiliman ng pandemic. (More power to you, Omid, and all you who will become frontliners offering light in our pandemic darkness.)

eastwind journals, September 15, 2021 (archives tr152)

By Bernie V. Lopez,

Rudy went out to the PGH Taft Avenue gate to buy his regular snack. There was about a dozen street vendors scattered all around. He approached Aling Marissa, a 54-year-old widow.

RUDY. Kumusta na po yung inyong anim na anak. (How are your six children?)

MARISSA. Ayun. Gutom pa rin lagi. O, eto na yung sayo – anim na squid balls, 30 pesos lahat. (Always hungry. Here’s your regular order – 6 squid balls for 30 pesos.)

RUDY. Aling Marissa, alam niyo bang ang squid balls niyo ang pinaka-masarap sa buong Ermita? (Do you know that your squid balls are the best in the entire Ermita area?)

MARISSA. Sipsip. (Flattery will get you nowhere.)

RUDY. Walang biro, tuwing kakain ako ng squid balls niyo, ang saya-saya ko.

ESTER. (Marissa’s 5-year-old daughter). Kasi mahal mo nanay ko. Mahal ka rin namin. (Because you love my mom. We also love you.)

MARISSA. Hoy, bata, lakad na. (Hey, kid, go.)

Ester was the lookout on duty on that day. She disappeared but suddenly came back, screaming “Pulis, pulis.” There was total panic. Vendors scampered, packing their wares. Fresh vegetables lying on a plastic sheet on the ground were instantly wrapped and hauled away. Second-hand cellphones for sale were dumped into a plastic bag. The vendors had packed their goods in minutes hundreds of times. When the police arrived, they caught a few, and confiscated their wares. Rudy tried to obstruct the police but they push him aside.

MARISSA. Para na ninyong awa, mamang pulis. Kahit na yung kariton ko na, lang paki-soli na lang po. (Have mercy, Mr. Policeman. Just give me back my pushcart.)

POLICE. Tubusin niyo sa presinto. Nagababara na dito. Hindi makadaan ang mga tao. (Get it back at the police precinct. It is congested here. People can no longer pass through.)

ESTER. Mommy, kinuha nung pulis yung sampaguita ko. (They took my Sampaguita flowers.)

MARISSA. Pati ba yung bulaklak ng bata, kukumpiskahin mo? Ang lupit mo. (Will you also confiscate the child’s flowers? You are so cruel.)

POLICE. Kasama yan. (That’s included.)

Weeping, Marissa hugged Ester. Ester freed herself from her mommy’s grasp, and ran towards the pushcart being hauled away, grabbing the Sampaguita flowers, and a handful of cooked squid balls. She stuck out her tongue at the policeman, and disappeared instantly into the crowd.

MARISSA. (Whispering to herself.) Ang galing talaga ng anak ko. (I am so proud of my daughter.) 

POLICE. Anong sabi mo? (What did you say?)

MARISSA. Wala. Sabi ko ang lupit niyo sa mahihirap, tapos kinakaltasan niyo ang mayayaman. (Nothing. I said you are cruel to the poor, and ask for bribes from the rich.)

RUDY. (When the policemen left.) Aling Marissa, yung driver ng police car ay yung milyonaryong may ari ng shopping mall. Sa tingin ko akala niya nawawalan siya ng mga kostumer dahil sa mga vendors. (The driver of the police car is the millionaire owner of the mall. I think he thinks he is losing customers because of street vendors.)

MARISSA. Bakit sila ganoon? Tingi lang kita namin at milyon ang kita nila. (Why are they like that?  We earn so little compared to their millions.)

The next day, all the vendors were back. The police came regularly. It was a ritual to prove they were doing their duty. The vendors had kids as the lookout team. Marissa was selling fruits on a plastic sheet on the ground. No more pushcart. That meant less food for her six kids, and the burden of carrying back home her heavy leftover fruits. On her birthday, Rudy bought a giant second-hand backpack with rollers. Marissa was in tears.

After five years at PGH, Rudy disappeared. One day, he suddenly resurrected.

RUDY. Aling Marissa. Miss ko na po kayo at ang squid ball niyo. Eto po si Rose, girlfriend ko. (Marissa, I miss your squid balls. Meet my girlfriend Rose.)

MARISSA. Wala nang squid balls dahil wala nang kariton. Benta ko prutas na lang. (No more squid balls because no more push cart, just fruits.)

RUDY. Doktor na po kaming dalawa sa Manila Doctors’ sa UN Avenue. Pag may sakit kayo, hanapin niyo po kami. Libre po lahat para sa inyo. (We are both doctors now at Manila Doctors’ on UN Avenue. If you get sick, come over. No charge for you.)

ESTER. (Giving a rose to Rose.) Rose para kay Rose, haha.

One day, mother and daughter appeared at Manila Doctor’s. Aling Marissa had a mild stroke. Rudy and Rose paid for their medicines and room. The expensive MRI was donated by the hospital upon Rudy’s request. Rose beckoned to Ester.

ESTER. Alam ko nang sasabihin mo. May utang kaming isang libong squid balls. (I know what you will say. We owe you a thousand squid balls.)

ROSE. Paano mo nalaman? (How did you know?)

ESTER. Doc, rosaries na binebenta ko ngayon. Eto ang 20. Bigyan mo lahat ng frontliners, proteksyon sa covid. Pa-bless mo na lang sa pare ng PGH. (Doc, I sell rosaries now. Here is 20. Give it to the frontliners for protection from Covid. The PGH priest can bless them.)

Listen to Omid’s valedictory address –

Order a paperback or an e-book. For paperbacks, if you are a Philippine resident, save on shipping cost by ordering by email at For e-books, if you have an IPAD, download the app ‘kindle’. For non-IPADS, buy a kindle device (check guidelines.) –

FOR THOSE WHO NEED HEALING, spiritual or physical (depression, anxiety, loneliness, terminal cancer, covid, diabetes, etc.) – say a healing prayer with –

1) Father Fernando

2) Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM – (download free e-book ‘Healing Stories of Sr. Raquel’ at

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