Day 2 of my aunt tita’s wake finds mr. neighborhood grave digger busily haggling with my aunts and uncles on prices of certain services you dear reader wouldn’t even think you’d be finding yourself interested in, say, in two weeks time. Hehehe.
Waiting for her body’s arrival last Friday fresh (!) from the funeral service which the family contracted, I let my thoughts wander off to very grave matters to pass the time. Her recent death, among others I know of, made me think of my own mortality. Events like this make excellent platforms for contemplating on the meaning of life and how we should live each moment that pass us by. With this realization came another. All of us cannot be brad pitts with perfectly chiseled features no matter how hard we strut our stuff in the catwalk. Corollary to this, is the acceptance that we must learn to find our place in the sun—or the klieg lights, if we strive to be in the movie industry—so as not to aspire for lead parts if our talents dictate that we be relegated to just playing bits. Hehehe.
You could say i was dreamily contemplating a carefully structured plan for showbiz domination when a rather loud but incoherent voice burst my bubble. It came from a lanky man wearing a black t-shirt, with rather gaunt features; pretty much sporting the marilyn manson look. he was already in the heat of the argument, defending his stance from the crowd assembled before him. The thing in question, after much fine-tuning, eventually became clear : how much is the family going to pay him, to smash open my uncle’s burial vault so she could be joined with his remains in loving eternity (how sweet, really). His asking price is Php 700.00, to which an aunt reacted, hoping to settle at much lower price. His voice in the vernacular, now getting louder, then replied “the price I’m asking for is only fair; it’s no easy task, smashing a vault open—you get all the dead gas goodies wafting through your system, and that is no laughing matter”. Watching mr. grave digger in an animated conversation was like looking at a corpse druggie come to life. From where I am, It looked like he just inhaled or downed something and proceeded to go about his order of business for the day. He milled about, looking every inch like the expert, and proceeded to knock on her wooden casket, like a jeweler biting gold to ascertain the karats. He then continued “it’s my asking price, take it or leave it. It’s a high-risk job compared to regular grave digging; now priced at Php 1000.00 per grave”.
I was having a grand time, making a mental note of the various prices; I never thought dying can be a good hunting ground for the enterprising. Later in the afternoon, one of my grandmothers from the web of interrelations / intermarriages characteristic of a barrio life came to visit, with another story in tow that brought the running talk on the price of funeral services. Sparing you of the juicy little details, I gathered that a basic service—coffin, embalming, lights and carriage to the church and later on to the cemetery—costs about Php16,000.00. now that’s a bit too pricey in a rural setting, isn’t it? No wonder she was fury incarnate just talking about it; recounting how they (their family also had a recent death) had to haggle for much reasonable price offerings from a competitor in the business.
“wow”, I thought to myself. If they just knew of the economy prices in metro manila (I use to live right next to a funeral home, hehehe) they’ll surely do a triple cartwheel. If memory serves me right the promo goes “6,000.00 sa matanda; 4,000.00 sa bata”. Well, that’s a bargain, isn’t it?