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When the lights went out

Nora Soriño

ILIGAN City — Kuya, a kid in high school was into his laptap. Daddy, Mommy and two “ate,” both in college,  were stooped over their respective cell phones; “Baby,” a 9-year-old grade school kid was attentive over Minecraft, a video game, in her tablet.  Auntie was watching TV, together with a favorite neighbor who came over also to watch their favorite teleserye.

To each his own, in other words. Engrossed in their own virtual world.

And then: “Brownout! Ohh.”  Mommy exclaimed amid the shrieks of the others. (By “brownout,” what the mother really meant was “blackout” — there is a difference.)

Their own worlds had suddenly collapsed.

“Jojo Borja is angry again!” Daddy exclaimed half in jest.

Uriel “Jojo” Borja, to note, is one of the owners of the Iligan Light and Power Inc.. He is synonymous with Ilpi even if he’s no longer as powerful as the other owners like  cousin, Ralph Casino and the others. But Jojo’s name sticks with the consumers so if anything is the matter with the power supply here, it is his name that is taken in vain by the consumers.

Poor, poor, Jojo. From time to time, he says that he is siding with the consumers. In the process of explaining, Casino and the others are bashed. It does not help that they look Espanol, especially Jojo who is a cross between Marlon Brando and Steven Segal.

Back to the sudden blackout. Naturally, everybody was brought to the real world and even in the darkness, the faces could be seen registering disappointment. Candles, flashlights,  matches were brought in and the group soon were sitting in the chairs of the dining table as the candle lights flickered. Much like the knights of the round table  portrayed in some grade school  books of yesteryears.

Only that the table was rectangular.

Before long, they were telling stories. Auntie told a story in a TV show she had seen in which five people got stuck in an elevator. Because of a sudden blackout. Instead of panicking, they decided to tell their own life story. They did. When they had finished with their stories, power came just as suddenly to their delight.

When they had come out of the elevator, it was found out that there were really only four of them, inside the elevator, not five.

“Halaaaa!” Mommy exclaimed in mock fear which the two college kids objected as both their fears were real even as Baby hugged tightly her mom, also in real fear. “Let’s play a game,” the older sister said. “Continue my song by beginning with some of the  words uttered in a song.” Without warning, she broke into a song, “Xanadu.” And the other  sister continued, “a dear, a female dear/ ray a drop of golden sun, me a name I call myself…” And then kuya boomed: “All by myself…”

They all had a good time as Baby, with her contribution taken from “Frozen” joined in with the auntie, mom, dad and the neighbor joining in the singing, too. Let’s admit it, in this age of karaoke/videoke, every Pinoy is a singer.

And then there was light again. As suddenly as it had gone out. The crowd all left the table and went on to what they were doing  before, which was fiddling with their own gadgets.

Auntie burst out: “Wait. I have to tell you further on Jojo Borja… Once in a presscon, he said to all the mediamen as he pulled out some capsules inside some boxes: “These are my medicines. Without these, without these… ahh, but I know some of you here will die ahead of me!”

Auntie looked around but nobody was listening. She then half-wished that the blackout had lasted longer.

I told this story to Lino, another media practitioner. When I asked him for comments, he said, “I’m afraid somewhat of the dark, too. But when I see the bill from Iligan Light, I become very, very afraid!”

Suddenly, I laughed and, suddenly, stopped laughing too. Because, really, what he said was no laughing matter.


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