by Jhay-ar A. Book
SHE sleeps late along sidewalks and wakes up early; she runs after people but runs away from policemen. This is how Luz Canoy lives her life as a candle vendor. Her life is one among ordinary lives that remain unnoticed. But her story and her peers’ sure are worth a novel.
Luz is a 50-year-old mother of seven. Her husband works as a farmer in Pinamujan town, south of Cebu. With seven children, she admits it isn’t easy bringing food to the table with only her and her husband working.
With P200 on regular days, she says it is enough for her family to eat twice a day. But on peak seasons, like the Sinulog festival, she says she gets around P400 to P500, only if you work harder.
Working hard, for Luz, means convincing people to buy her candles among other dozens of candle vendors thronging devotees.
A soft-spoken Luz takes her post at the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño during first and last Fridays of the month. This has been her life since the last 10 years. It takes for her enough strength and courage for the day’s work but Luz never complains. In fact, she admits she is content with such a life. She even shares they sometimes get nabbed for peddling beyond their assigned areas.
“Managan ra mi, kun’ di manago (We just run away or hide),” she jokingly says. If not at the Basilica, Luz helps her husband till their farm.
Candle vendors performing a dance accompanied by a song in native language, known as Sinulog, when lighting a candle, is a common sight at the Basilica with the Sinulog festival celebration this January.
Sinulog, says Luz, is a tradition that has long been practiced among Catholics, a form of prayer praising and thanking the Almighty.
Unsure of income, Luz always keeps her fingers crossed, hoping she could have enough for food a day.
“Panganduy unta nako nga makalampos akong anak sa pagskwela pero ako ra man sad ang nangita. (My dream is for my children to graduate from school but I am the only one in the family earning),” she says.
Like Luz, Clemencia Panugaling, a candle vendor for six years, is hopeful about life.
At 58, she’s done no ordinary jobs for her family of six. Before taking the streets of Basilica, Clemencia started working as a street sweeper in a Cebu port to be able to live a day with her husband without a job.
In her six years as a candle vendor, Clemencia says, “Mao gyapon. Usahay makakaon, usahay di. Pwerte jud pagkapaita. (Nothing has changed. Sometimes, it brings food; at times, not. It’s really hard).”
Clemencia positions herself at the back of the Basilica, near the Magellan’s Cross, selling candles at P10 each the whole day. She admits she hardly even gets P200 a day like other candle vendors.
Clemencia says it takes a lot of convincing to get people from buying candles.
“Ang uban mangyam-id; ang uban dili maningug (Some smirked while others do not even talk),” she says.
Clemecia shares she’s had enough of hardships but this doesn’t stop her from achieving her goals in life — to start her own business at her home in Carcar City, south of Cebu.
“Wa ta kahibaw dunggon tang Mama Mary (Mama Mary might hear my prayers, we can’t tell.),” she says.
True, Luz and Clemencia’s life stories are no fairy tale. There are no magic. But theirs is a story inspiring enough for us to light a candle, with them on our own prayers.