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Off the beaten path: Living life in a blur, alone but not lonely

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MATAB-ANG VILLAGE, Talisay City, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Qintina Orence thinks her life was like a blur.

Or the past 85 summers she has spent.

She spent most of those here, a village in this northern Negros city where sugarcanes still grow tall and proud, where water buffalos wallow in the mud beside huts with magnificent vistas worth millions of pesos to have in the nearby urban center of Bacolod City.

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Just outside her house, if one stands under the shade of a mango tree with gnarled roots and a bark bearing the twisted scars of cane knives stuck into it by resting tapaseros (canecutters), one can see verdant rows stretching out into the horizon.

Quintina Orence

Where the horizon meets the foot of the Mandalagan mountain range is a breathtaking sight at sunrise or the stillness of clear blue skies above the ridges or, sometimes, plump cottony clouds, in this hacienda (plantation) called Granada.

She sat on the second step of a bamboo stair that leads to her room from a kitchen with a dirt floor. To the right of the kitchen if you face the wood stove hearth is an earthen jar, a big one, where water from an open well is stored.

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She said she lives alone but she has Blackmi, Brownie, Dianne, and Inda, and White Brown.

All are dogs. All have stories.

White Brown is dead. Cooked by a nephew into a stew, with potatoes and tomato sauce.

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Inda was named after her grandmother, a bitch named Indang.

quintina cries

Dianne, which was sleeping under the bamboo floor of her bedroom, was pregnant.

Brownie went for a walk during our interview and Blackmi was cooling off under the mango tree.

Outside, her niece, Erica and her husband were waiting while she talked to DNX.

They check on her often, in between visits of Arnel, another nephew.

She turns 86 this October but does not seek any special dish.

Quintina Orence cried last night, the night before we arrived.

She cried because she had no viand.

“All I wanted was a little sugar but I had none and I wanted to drink Milo but there was none,” she said.

People who have grown close to her, some not even related by blood, call her “nanay,” mother in Hiligaynon or “lola,” grandmother.

She is neither of the two, however.

She remained single.

She can still cook, she says, though what she can still are blurs and outlines of the world she moves around.

She had been blind for a long time, more than 50 years, she tells us, a result of a sugarcane leaf’s midrib piercing her eye.

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Her life’s narrative is mostly about tragedies – from World War II during which his father nearly got killed (“by a bayonet to the neck”) to the death of her mother who was bedridden for more than five years (“I clean her everytime she soils her bed”), to losing her sight (“that damn doctor said he will cure me but I got blind instead”) and the stewing of her dog, Brown White (“I got angry with my nephew”).

She never complained about the Social Amelioration Program though she was not included.

She is disqualified on paper, she being a pensioner who receives P3,900 a month though she had not received it for two months already due to quarantines put in place.

“People from the bank have not come here,” she says.

Fortunately, relatives and even people who don’t know her have come to help Qintina.

One of them is B Marie Diesto who regularly brings foodstuff to Qintina and other things she might need.

In between sobs, B Marie could not hide her frustration over what she believes is the lack of concern for Qintina who has not received a single food pack from the barangay despite the fact, she claims, that the village chief lives near Qintina.

To see a portion of the interview with Qintina and B Marie, follow link to video below and watch out for more on the story of Qintina in this week’s Julius Mariveles: On Assignment.

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Julius D. Mariveles
Julius D. Mariveles
An amateur cook who has a mean version of humba, the author has recently tried to make mole negra, the Mexican sauce he learned by watching shows of master chef Rick Bayless. A journalist since 19, he has worked in the newsrooms of radio, local papers, and Manila-based news organizations. A stroke survivor, he now serves as executive editor of DNX.
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