Of Barya and Sukli

by Esther Suson

The first detail that strikes the eye is his hair. Shaved on both sides of his head, long thick glossy strands combed up and over the center. He wore a gray-blue pinstriped polo with sleeves rolled up to the elbows. A number of thin black bracelets of differing styles were on his right wrist; a silver watch and ring were on his left hand. He was wearing black slacks. His bag was tiny, a sort of mustard-dun color, with a gray shoulder-strap. His face was small and thin, with small, neat ears set close to his head. His eyebrows were only slightly arched, and his eyes were the normal almond-shape of most South East Asians. His skin was the golden-tan of someone naturally brown who does not spend too much time in the sun. His cheeks were hollow, clearly defining small round cheekbones and a small, neat mouth that curved almost full. It was a face perfect for micro-expressions, and despite being mostly expressionless, there was one brief moment wherein his face lit with humor, simply by virtue of his lips curving in the slightest of smiles.

The jeep conductor had no change to give the passengers, and he continuously asked inquiring passengers to wait, please, they’d get their change later. He was out of barya – small change – which is pretty harsh on a jeepney. The young man I just described looked up and asked the conductor if he needed barya. The conductor responded yes, laughing, which is when the young man returned that look of humor. He dug into his tiny bag for his coin purse and counted out twenty pesos, retrieving the bill he had given earlier. The conductor promptly used those coins to give sukli – change – to the passengers.

This is, like the blog about the jeep conductor, more of a shout-out than anything else. To the young man who saw a need, and chose to do what he could to fill it.

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