The vendor famous for his singing, is a middle-aged man. His belly is round under his shirt, and his open toed shoes reveal a working man's feet. His eyes are tired but his smile is warm and welcoming.
The man’s name is Jaime Poliquit Modina, also known as ‘Borj’.
On a normal day, he’d be in his bike wandering the streets of VSU, singing every students childhood songs.
They would crowd him to talk and gossip, but mostly for his delicacies packed with ‘1000 vitamins’, carefully placed into a large bin that’s tightly tied to his bicycle.
“Maghuwat na nako kasagaran estudyante usahay sa ecopark para sa akong mga baligya.”
[Students who love to spend most of their time at the ecopark would sometimes wait for me at the same time and place they would usually sit.]
The first dream
Jaime was born to a family of 15 in Barangay Pangasugan, a few meters away from VSU.
As the youngest, Jaime was tasked to take care of his parents when his siblings finally moved out of the comfort of their own home to start their own. Jaime loved his parents, but he didn’t want that. “That’s boring”, Jaime said. There were worlds bigger than the 180-square meter land in Baybay and he wanted to explore them.
“Pirmi ko bilinan sa akong mga maguwang nga igsuon nga kung maminyo na sila, ako na daw ang magbantay nila nanay ug tatay kay ako man kuno ang manghud. Gihigugma nako sila, pero laay man na nga trabaho. Ganahan ko mogawas, maka-meet og lain nga tawo unya lain pud nga lugar, dili kay diri lang ko sa usa ka lugar.”
[My older siblings always told me that my task as the youngest in the family is to take care of my parents when most of them would have their own families. I love my parents, but that task for me is boring. I want to go out and meet new people, discover places and instead of being stuck in one place.]
So he packed his bags, walked out the confines of Baybay on his own and travelled to Southern Leyte to the world that needed exploring.
He took a chance for a vocational course in Hilongos before proceeding to take up a bachelor’s degree in automotive in Southern Leyte State University.
Feeling as though there was nothing for him there, he travelled back to Baybay, to the same place he wanted out. He decided, this is home and there can be no other place like it.
So he worked, started off as a construction worker in VSU, working hunched back from 8AM to 5PM, his only consolation was a view of that one pretty girl every end of the day.
Her name was Anabelle Esperanza, a native of Ciabu, a few kilometers off of Baybay City.
She worked as a maid for one of VSU’s officials.
Everyday, she’d devote her time to cleaning tiles and walls, checking out at 5PM to meet her boyfriend.
Jaime and Anabelle dated for a year, before Jaime took one look at her and decided that she is the one.
They got married, bore them four children: Reymart, Albert, Jimwell and Sophie.
Four children in their care; the world didn’t look the same after.
Food is life
Every day, Jaime and Anabelle would wake up at 5AM to cook the ingredients that was prepared the night before.
“Magsugod mi sayo sa buntag, usa magmata amo anak. Mahuman mi sa ika-duhang luto kada alas tres sa hapon. Magbaligya ko mga alas-kwatro sa hapon hangtod alas-9 sa gabie.”
[We start in the morning before our children prepare for school and end at 6 in the evening. I do the first round of selling at 3 in the afternoon while my wife cooks the second batch of lidgid.]
The couple divides the work, Jaime sells the products while Anabelle heads the cooking.
It takes more or less than 6 hours to complete a lidgid or any other delicacy. The couple would be in their kitchen, huddled over steaming pots and lids.
By 4PM, Jaime would be in his bike roaming the university and the nearby barangays.
“Mu-uli ko mahuman nako ibaligya ang una nga batch. Una nga mopahuway ako asawa kay magbaligya paman ko hangtod ig ka 9 sa gabii.”
[I go home as soon as I sell everything from the first batch. Usually, my wife rests earlier than I do because I would have to sell my products until 9 in the evening.]
Before deciding to become a full-time vendor, Borj ventured into all sort of small business enterprise just so he could raise his family.
He sold bread, partnered with a local bakery, and before that, balut (duck egg with embryo). He found both jobs tiresome, always working late at night just so he could sell everything. That didn’t sit too well for him. Jaime was a family man, he started his day with his family, he wanted to end it with them, so he quit.
He settled on selling kakanin (ethnic Filipino delicacy), inspired by the homemade recipe of Anabelle’s parents. They improvised the recipe and learning everything, from the first to the last, while attending to their children’s need.
Their first try wasn’t successful, so were the several other. The kakanin would either be half-cooked, overcooked, and sometimes over sweetened.
A customer once complained about eating a spoiled kakanin. Troubled by it, Jaime paid for the medication. Agitating a customer’s health should not be the making of a vendor, Jaime thought.
With the full cooperation of his wife, he learnt and mastered the art of making lidgid, this time by heart.
“Mahadlok man ko nga naay nagkasakit sa ako gibaligya. Naguilty ko maong ako ang nibayad sa iya pagpa-ospital. Customer man gud nako sila, sila ang magbuhi sa ako trabaho so sila ako usa nga priority.”
[It made me anxious to know that someone got ill because of what I sold. I felt bad for it so I decided to shoulder her needs as a compensation. They are customers, they keep my business going so they are also one of my priorities.]
He has since improved his cooking. He added peanuts and coconut milk to the formula. He also ventured into other possible goods like rice cake and other vegetable viands.
“Magtabangay mi sa ako asawa. Siya magtrabaho, ako mag-package unya mamaligya. Ang ako ibaligya naka-depende kung unsa nga ingredient ako nakuha. Kung kulang ko og dahon sa saging para sa lidgid, maghimo ako asawa ug jackfruit nga utan.”
[My wife and I would help each other in making the goods. She does the cooking while I do the packing and selling. The goods I sell depend on the ingredients I get on the day before I get to sell them, like when I get insufficient banana leaves for a cassava lidgid, my wife would shift to cooking jackfruit viand instead.]
This is the trade that sustained Jaime and his family for many years, and would probably do the same for his own children too, but Jaime says he does not want to force his children into this business. Their life should be their own.
“Wa naman koy lain gipangandoy sa kinabuhi, basta lang makakaon tulo sa usa ka adlaw ug kompleto ang pamilya okay na-ko ana.”
[I don’t have anything more to wish for, as long as we can eat three times a day with my family. That’s more than enough.]
The words of a man whose dreams once lie outside the border of the place he calls home.
Editor's Note: This was featured in the 2018-2019 magazine. We corrected the subject's last name from Medina to Modina. We apologize for this error.