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Labor of love

By Jullie Y. Daza

I WAITED two years to find a mason, and that was by accident. Friends are always looking for a carpenter or mason or plumber of one kind or another, and when they’re impossible to find, that’s when you begin to wonder if they’re all in Dubai or Dublin.

Lucky me, the mason I found happens to be multiskilled. He’s a plumber, too, and what he calls a failed architect for dropping out before his junior year in college. He finished my kitchen in under a week, and because it was good, efficient work, I gave him a bonus and would’ve offered him a scholarship through one of my rich friends, except that “I’m too old to go back to school, and anyway I’ve done my duty, all three of my sons are college graduates and they have their own work.” His wife is a fulltime housewife, “it’s her job to stay home.”

Maybe he’s old-fashioned in that regard, but who can argue with Winston’s success? He lives in Cavite, takes on projects anywhere in Metro Manila, a routine that requires him to leave the house at 5 a.m. so he can reach any address before the sun is too hot. Before the sun has fully set, he’s ready to go back to Cavite. The two-way trip is a series of half a dozen rides, not counting the waiting time between rides, though he wouldn’t dream of transferring to Manila, not for all the bricks and tiles in Portugal.

I hope that by telling the story of Winston one week after he gave my kitchen a spanking new look and two days after Labor Day I may pay my dues to the workers of the world who are like him. Hardworking, enterprising, honest, knowledgeable, justly proud of their work, they don’t whine and complain about life’s injustices; instead they are cheerful, enthusiastic, and tell wonderful stories about their successes without sounding like a windbag. When I praised Winston for the quality of his work, he did not sound surprised, though it surprised me that I did – the last guy who “fixed” the kitchen sink got an obligatory thank-you from me but no smile and no tip, he was such a slowpoke whose belabored sense of beauty and order resided somewhere down at the bottom of the sink.

Someday, I kidded Winston, when my granddaughter becomes queen, “You will be her minister of labor.” He kidded back, “Not for me, ma’am, I won’t be happy being in government.”