During the basketball season when I was young, Lola Ging would ritually invoke divine intervention on behalf of the Crispa Redmanizers. This was a lengthy process which required the assemblage of certain arcane paraphernalia: her hand-high stack of well-thumbed Spanish novena pamphlets; the current favored rosary out of her vast international collection; and two identical used butter cookie tins, one of which was improbably always brim-full with ivory-colored watermelon seeds for mid-game mastication, and the other of which was used as a receptacle for discarded seed shells. She was a masterful multi-tasker, and could watch TV in rapt concentration without once stumbling in her muttered devotions or reaching by mistake into the wrong cookie tin.
On those PBA game nights, she would ensconce herself on the living room sofa in front of the television, while I read or did homework or otherwise occupied myself at her feet. I was in grade school then, which meant that my homework did not require the same soul-devouring intensity that my high school-aged brothers were obliged to focus on their own assignments, under the watchful eyes of our suspicious parents.
Instead, I was left in the ostensible care of Lola Ging—but even she could only divide her attention so many ways among so many tasks. More often than not, I found myself with ample time and opportunity to take otherwise-unconscionable liberties, such as eating powdered milk straight out of the Klim can, with a spoon and the untrammeled glee of having successfully achieved the forbidden. (In our house, it was generally agreed that cookies came in “tins”, whereas all powdered substances, from milk to Tang, were in “cans”. Don’t ask me why.)
I was always careful to be very quiet when thus flagrantly flouting the laws of our land, though the reality was that I could probably have gotten away with a great deal more. Lola’s eyes would be glued to the televised hardcourt; her ears, presumably, were heeding the sonorous tones of the announcer while simultaneously engaged in spirited dialogue with God. As far as I could tell, their conversations were conducted in a polyglot admixture of English, Ibanag, a smattering of her faulty Tagalog, and robust Spanish cursing. “Diablo, Diablo, Diablo!” Lola would cry out suddenly, startling me; and for years I remained convinced that this Spanish word for “devil” literally meant “Look, Lord, the ball has been stolen!” since that was generally what was occurring onscreen at these times.
Lola maintained that her intermediary intercession was invariably efficacious, despite the fact that the Redmanizers seemed to lose nearly as often as they won. She explained this to me once (after I had applied my brilliant strategy of standing on two phone books to replace the incriminating can of Klim on its just-out-of-reach shelf). “They win because of the power of prayer,” Lola said pedantically—she had once been a Spanish teacher at an all-girls school, and retained a certain style of elocution. “But sometimes they lose, because they are stupid.”
“If they’re so stupid,” I asked pertly, in my most smart-alecky manner, “then how come Crispa is still your favorite?”
Lola looked at me as if my pre-teen I.Q. had precipitously plummeted down to the calumnied Redmanizer levels. “They are my team,” she said simply.
(to be continued next Tuesday)
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