Lola Sabel on one All Saintsâ€™ Day complained about the state of present cemeteries of Maliwalu. Too many dead bodies in so limited space.So there developed a custom to gather old bones in one tomb, stuff these in a bag, lay the bag aside in the tombâ€™s corner, to give way for a newly interred coffin and corpse. Sometimes, bags of old bones became so crowded that a long list of names were chiseled on one tombstone.
That could well describe the present day dormitories in Maliwalu. Too many students in too scarce boarding houses. Too many dead bones. If Honore de Balzac were to describe a boarding house in Maliwalu in the 80â€™s the way he described Madame Vauquerâ€™s boarding house in the Rue-Sainte-Genevieve, he would probably proceed this way: Across the Putic River, a river rumored to possess Yamashita treasure though in reality is dilute with pollutants, there stands a dormitory -old, dilapidated and ugly -designed to suit the needs of 1942 Japanese invaders; stood the â€™43 bombings of Maliwalu; now considered an old ghost made of wood; trembling in every typhoon gust; managed by someone who rents it from unknown someone who rents it still from yet another unknown someone; the truth is, by way of scrutinizing the long list of those â€˜who rentâ€™ the same structure, it wonâ€™t be surprising to discover that it is a government property named to a particular coronel as a favor for the coronelâ€™s loyalty to the First Family; this coronel in turn leased it to a relative for a profit who leased it to yet another for a similar profit, etceteraâ€¦This business enterprise known in Maliwalu as â€˜tenancy for profitâ€™ was the only feasible business in the 80â€™s. The effect was of course predictable. The poor students had to shoulder all these profits.
Of course the rent went along the nature of the boarding house as de Balzac would be led to describe: In every room there are eight to ten tenants. And since the room possesses only one drawer, it will be subdivided into the same number of compartments. If each compartment turns out to be too small for â€˜otherâ€™ personal belongings, carton boxes will be allowed; these boxes will be placed beside the beds. Each tenant is demanded to adhere to the Tenth Commandment. No utensils are allowed. No plates. No glasses. No spoons and forks. All personal necessities will be attended to in the kitchen which is nothing short of a small cubicle with one faucet, one toilet, one lavatory, which, if limitations permit, is converted into a shower room. Eating will have to be done outside. Why outside is because there is only one dining table for three.
Please understand, dear readers and listeners, that this kind of lodging was already the cheapest in Maliwalu during Sonnyâ€™s college years.
Sonny in the 80â€™s wasnâ€™t THAT poor. His parents were immigrants in the US. Which meant he could afford a college dormitory. His grandmother, Lola Sabel, agreed on a five hundred a month dormitory room (minus food), which three others would share with him.
Sonnyâ€™s dormitory was definitely better than the one across Putic River. With merely four student-tenants, there was definitely more comfort â€“ more space, more privacy, and less exposure to unwanted conflicts. A lodging house similar to the one across Putic River was more perilous and risky. Familiarity breeds contempt and contempt among ten was far worse than four people in a tiny room.
In the eighties, news tabloids in Maliwalu feasted on the gore and the grotesquery of student boarding houses. There were student-tenants who stabbed and hacked one another. The worst was this: One student-tenant got so fumed one night that he poured gasoline around the house. Being weak and made of wood, the blaze went rapidly and unhampered. The streets were so narrow not a single firetruck managed through; even if they did, there was no water. Panic spread as death struck with glaring swiftness and ferocity. The crowdedness of the house led to pandemonium, everybody wanting to get out faster than the others. The one who reached the exit was pulled back by the one trailing from behind until both got stuck. These were the dangers Lola Sabel considered in agreeing to pay more for Sonnyâ€™s dormitory.