Because we lived below a bar that had a billiard table in it, Chel and I spent our nights shooting pool and making friends. Our mornings would consist of pancakes and debates with our new friends. In our group there was a Muslim (Rafa), a Buddhist (Dave) and a Christian (Chel). I was content to sit back and listen to their stories and beliefs. I had nothing to share, I had nothing to stand for.
Work kept me busy though. Chel and I decided to move to an apartment in Benguet to be closer to the school I taught in. It was probably for the better too since I had been going to class reeking of beer and cigarettes. (You can only really live below a bar for so long).
The apartment we found had a view of the city, a little bit of the mountains and the sea. It was perfect. Work was delightful; the Korean kids I had under my care were surprisingly sharp yet sweet and questioning. They all wondered why I was in Baguio. I had no answer, I did not know either. So I did what I did best: I buried myself in work and hoped that the answer would pop along somewhere, somehow.
Truth was, it was beginning to feel a little like Manila all over again. I shuffled aimlessly from our Benguet apartment to the school and back to the apartment. I stayed up late to make lesson plans and grade papers and woke up early to make more lesson plans and grade more papers. I couldn’t help thinking that if I was alone, I could have easily gone back to my old pattern of hard drinking and doing drugs with near strangers. But I wasn’t alone.
Chel was there.
Chel was a mystery to me. She took care of all the things for our new apartment: the stove, the pots, the utensils, the plates, the mirror, everything. She would not let me pay for anything. It was as if she was just happy to be there to make life comfortable for me. I knew better than to question her actions. I just felt really lucky to be reaping the benefits of her actions that seemed mad at the time.
Chel was relentless though. When I got back from work, she would have a delicious pot of home-cooked meals ready for me. She made me pasta, soups, noodles, chicken, vegetables, fresh hot and delicious. She fixed my coffee and served me tea. She was cheerful and worry-free, childlike and full of stories. She had an endless well of energy and did housework with a song. Every time I sat down to eat a meal prepared by her, I was in awe of this unexplainable kindness and humility before me.
I could not understand how anyone could just provide somebody else with such time, compassion and love… wholeheartedly and without complain. She treated me almost like her daughter.
Where did she come from?
Why was she doing this?
What have I done to deserve this?
Am I worthy of all this love?
I tried to hide it yet her actions; a higher spirit, was already hard at work; slowly chipping at this heart that had almost already hardened into stone.
“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion.”
Psalms 103: 20 – 21