The woman cracked the egg and peeled the top of it. Within the inside, she is welcomed by the broth of balut, a boiled duck egg that is fertilized from 16 to 18 days before it's cooked.
The embryo will reach its duck like feature of body parts like beaks, eyes and feathers. A duck fetus to be exact, regarded as an exotic food and a post- sundown snack by every Filipino people.
This time the sun already set and the street is already filled by the songs of cicadas lurking from the trees and darkness.
The muddy excretion of soil under the brownish water from the irrigation caused the nature scent of air after the rain.
Few motorcycles with their one directed light sharply pass the dirt road that is slippery when wet and sandy, stony or baked hard when dry.
Houses and the irrigation of what Maharlika Street is known for are inched closer to the actual narrow road.
Neighbour crossing neighbour, house crossing house,
people crossing a few steps when buying from the sari-sari store opposite their houses or when planning to buy and eat under the colorful umbrellas of the waiting balut vendors with
their just-cooked delicacies as they say. One of them is Tiyo Tatang, Lolo Etot and Lola Emily's friend.
"Salamat Tay!" the petite woman replied after she received her change. She did also bought for home as she held the blue cellophane with balut on it after eating at the old man's place.
Tiyo Tatang has this chiseled, grubby face and fine complexion.
The old man in his sixties as given by his weather beaten aura is likely beaten by time, as it continues to pass by like transportations taking the rough street in front of his balut place.
"Tiyo still work even at this time.
" Tonyo said in silence while looking at the old man in pristine from the bench in front of their house before the initiative's man made wooden bridge to cross the irrigation.
Yellow lights on the compound separated by cemented walls flashes from the fences of their gate where visitors comfort themselves with caffeine and board games.
Relatives from far places also arrived to share their condolences and join the cortege during burial.
It's already the third night of the wake for his Lolo Etot and Lola Emily, placed on a casket with bright gold tapestry as their background and fresh dainties beside the bier.
Names of their loved ones were written on purple ribbons, reminding the family of Lolo Etot and Lola Emily's favourite ube halaya, sweet unlike the bitter situation of losing someone.
Tonyo still remember the first time he saw his lolo and lola's body in the morgue. He was engrossed of the sad portrait of two lovers facing death together.
As globular tears fell from his eyes, the sound of grief from his family, much like cry from the gypsies is what he is really stricken by-the sad melody that is always playing on his head.
Much of the surprise was the extreme weeping of Tiyo Tatang. Probably because of the pain of losing a friend, what more if that friend is already considered as family.
Tonyo stared a bit longer before being approached by the mortician.
Balut is also considered as an aphrodisiac yet ironically, Tiyo Tatang never had a child.
He'd been a third wheel between Lolo Etot and Lola Emily back in high school until the time that the couple decided to settle in North Cotabato from South,
in Maharlika street just across the house of Tiyo Tatang where he was all alone after his mother passed away.
Lola Emily if still alive would probably able to remember the soul of Tiyo drowning in felicity when he found out that his best of friends would be his neighbour.
From that day on, Tiyo Tatang had been a part of Catalina family.
He was able to witnessed the garbs of raising a family, of children playing back and forth like there's no tomorrow until time made them grow from an adorable pygmies.
He was there when the once little kids beckoned for his free food were able now to build their own family.
The time that Lolo Etot and Lola Emily as well as Tiyo were already pegged as grandparents with the existence of their grandchildren.
Lolo Etot would tell Tiyo to start building his own family but he would just hear it just like a hum in the wind. Tiyo Tatang did have past relationships.
He had girlfriends but all of them did not reach his standards.
But he did have whom he regarded as one true love as what he shared with Lolo Etot but even his friend wouldn't know who was her and what happened between them.
If Lolo Etot is still living, he would probably ask the question and Tiyo Tatang would still probably hear it just like whir in the air, left to exist as not existing.
"Sir, we already removed the moist. We already sealed it properly to prevent air moisture, and other elements from penetrating the coffin."
The mortician then went out just as they finished their work.
"Everyone would definitely not last just as they finish their mission in life, like Lolo Etot and Lola Emily."
Thoughts of Tonyo while staring towards the place of his sister Tentay who continues to cherish the faces of her Lolo and Lola who are just like sleeping.
His sister also loves their grandparents very much with the fact that they were raised for almost two years by them when their father got admitted in Davao because of brain tumour.
Their mother whom the third child of their grandparents joined their father on taking the somber days of their lives, making them sturdy of what more the life has to give.
They did felt the pungent side of life but they were guided by Lolo Etot and Lola Emily and was definitely been prayed by Tiyo Tatang.
Like his prayers when Tentay got bitten by dog while eating the balut. Lolo Etot took Tentay on a treat. She was able to eat three baluts and even got another one to bring home.
Just as she crossed the road passed the gate while being enchanted by the moon from the night sky, sipping on to the delicacy,
she was unaware of the sprawling canine on the ground and stepped it that made the dog react with its animal instinct, biting her.
The puppies then thought Tentay's body lying on the ground as an object of pleasure, salivating her body in a playful manner. Her parents did spend bucks for her vaccination.
She wasn't able to play outside on a short period of time just like the childish rage of Tonyo towards his Lolo and Tiyo Tatang for giving Tentay the balut which caused the accident.
The two old men did felt blaming their selves, mugged by their conscience but was reminded then that the whole thing was just an accident.
On a short period of time the feelings were gone and on a short period of time, they already reach their destination, at least for Lolo Etot and Lola Emily while Tiyo remains on the alley.
"Tiyo prepare already. The burial will start at exactly 1:00 PM." Tonyo said to his Tiyo, reminding him of the last part of the funeral service, Friday, perhaps the last day of his friends.
Tiyo Tatang stands still with his lanky physique, replying a dull nod. He could sense his impervious eyes as the man stammered when trying to talk.
His sobs then thud, like the sound of a heavy object falling from the ground.
Heavy as his feeling at the moment; heavy as the staff of the funeral home held the two caskets out from the house to their funeral service.
The cemetery is five kilometres away from Maharlika Street.
The cars and services started to line as they take part the taking of two good souls to heaven.
It was played along with a song crafted to give tribute to the unconditional love of parents towards their children, Awit ng anak sa magulang.
Amidst the heat of sunlight and the warm July, everything starts to run fast until it becomes almost invisible in the naked eye.
The clink and clank of the turbine, the weary heads of toy dogs near the windshield,
the croon of people close to heart as they sob; together held one another to make a harmonious delivery of the beloved Lolo Etot and Lola Emily who both suffered from illnesses,
one to Pneumonia while the other had complications with his kidney. They arrived on the open white painted gate of the cemetery.
Landscapes were designed with artistry along with its healthy green grasses planted on a hectare of land for the dead where graves from different families is being taken care of by
their built mausoleums and the caretaker of the cemetery . At the edge of the plain where the sun would likely set, a tent of white and purple colors was waiting.
Plastic chairs were arranged on the green carpet except for the six feet dug area where the bodies would end.
Four metal bars where placed on the sides of the rectangle shaped hole as part of the machinery that the staffs would use to bury Lolo Etot and Lola Emily on a smooth as fluid manner.
The people lined to have their final glance, first were the families while the other relatives were next. Tiyo Tatang had his final look just as the grandchildren bid their final goodbyes.
The face of sadness is painted in his dingy image. Their symbiotic relationship is already broken if presented it to an analogy of a bird's egg.
Cracked, and there is already no such thing to protect the new born inside it.
Just as the coffins were slowly being buried by the men, Tonyo noticed the disappearance of Tiyo Tatang from his seat. He then saw him walk with long decisive steps in an unspecified direction.
But one thing is for sure, he left just as his friends were buried. Just as the sun set, beautiful and calming.
"Lo penge pong suka!"
The little boy asked for vinegar to Tiyo Tatang the night after the burial. He then adds a little salt and drained it to the soup before proceeding.
He peels off most of the shell and eats the balut in two to three bites to avoid seeing the embryo.
He is afraid of the feeling of chewing on a duckling, but he can't stop eating balut for it is his favourite snack; and the balut vendor already lost two good friends.
He was just afraid to lose something, like to continue his life alone like an enclosed one on a shell.