BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Monday, July 27, 2009

Mang Rudy

I am savoring my last sip of ice cold Tanduay Ice when Mang Rudy arrives. He is wearing his usual striped t-shirt, ragged jeans and his good 'ol classic guitar. Tightly holding his wife's arms, Mang Rudy navigates his way through the tables.

It is almost 12 midnight but Mang Rudy and wife Amy are just about to start their day.

Mang Rudy makes a living by making people laugh or cry. In dark corners of bars filled with old rags, corrupt politicians, media practitioners, lonely husbands and depressed mistresses, Mang Rudy belts out songs that pierce straight to the soul. He does this for a few pesos. On good nights, he gets up to P500 or more.

He hasn't changed at all. He still looks the same, exudes the same energy and has the same amount of love for his work.

He joins our table and asks who is around. Mang Rudy has been blind since birth. The Oakley shades conceal the pain of not seeing the world around him.

He sings "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone."

I utter a greeting. I haven't seen Mang Rudy in years. What happens next surprises me.

Mang Rudy stops his singing and glances my way. "Iris!!!" He seemed so genuinely happy to hear my voice. He recognizes it without anyone telling him.

"Ang tagal mong nawala. Halos tatlong taon!" Mang Rudy says.

I am jolted out of my Tanduay-induced stuppor. I was shock to find out that Mang Rudy noticed how long I was "gone."

Yes Mang Rudy noticed that I've been gone from this particular world where real friends talk until the wee hours of the morning -- no hang-ups, no pretensions, no walking on egg shells but just real stuff on life and the kind of journalism that stands witness to it.

Mang Rudy sings a song for me. My soul falls into a good slumber.