I like walking down the Mission District because there’s so many houses that have sampaguita flowers growing in their yard. I have no idea what this flower is called in English, and I don’t really care. It’s just not the same, you know, if you call it a different name from the one that I’ve known all my life. It’s like saying cumquat instead of kalamansi. Yuck.
The scent of the flowers always brings me back to the same place: Sunday morning outside of Christ the King Parish in Quezon City. The scent of sampaguita floods my nose as a dozen or so vendors pass by me, white garlands strewn about their arms, thrusting it in my face as an attempt to entice me into giving up my coins in return for a lei.
Coz’ that’s what good Christians do, right?
It’s almost an abomination to enter the church without some sort of floral offering to the saints and statues that adorn the building. Am I really ready to doom the rest of my life at the tender age of 6? Lola’s gripping my hand hella hard because she doesn’t want to lose me in the crowd, and my frilly Sunday dress is itchy. She presses a big coin into my palm, and points to a little girl not that much younger than myself, with so many sampaguita garlands hanging on her little body that I was sure she smelled permanently of the sharp flowery scent.
Pabili ng isa / I’d like to buy one
Bakit isa lang? / Why only one?
Okey sige, dalawa na nga. / Ok fine, I’ll get two
Ang ganda ng damit mo / Your dress is nice
Salamat. / Thank you
I look back at her as I walk away, and glace at her big dirty shirt (probably a hand me down) and striped shorts. She’s not wearing tsinelas and her hair, pulled back in what must have earlier been a neat ponytail, is now straggly and unkempt. I wonder how long she’s been up selling sampaguitas?
I go inside the church and run straight for the statue of Mother Mary. I wait patiently for my turn. I light a small candle, hang one strand flowers on her hands and kneel on the pew. I clasp my hands tightly and pray.
Mama Mary, sana meron palagi akong magandang maisusuot. / Mother Mary, I hope I’ll always have something nice to wear.
I stand up, and hang my second sampaguita garland around my neck.
I love the way sampaguitas smell. And every time I walk around the Mission District, I pick a flower from someone’s yard and put it in my hair.
this post was written as a creative writing piece for babae’s pinay stories project.