Friday, June 14, 2024

Single, Ready to Mingle (and Xerox!)

By Kristia Niña G. Daymiel | May 7, 2024

It was a hot Wednesday morning, and contrary to its typical scene, the university was draped with fewer people. The buildings were painted with sunbeams, Langheim Road was tessellated by the shadowing branches of acacia trees, and faint was the sound of bustling students walking to and fro.

But in a dim-lit corner of Ausejo Hall (AH), two photocopier machines whir while a man rests quietly on a folding chair. Manning the machines is Charles Beraño Torres. As much as he finds solitude in his few square-meter spaces, Kuya Charles is always ready to rub elbows with people who drop by.

“Ang mga estudyante diri ganahan mag standby kay dili kuno ko kanang striktuhon… chill ra kuno diri. Usahay malingaw sila nako kay joker kuno ko,” he said in an unhurried, flattered voice.

(The students like staying here because they said I am not strict, it is also chill here. Sometimes, they are entertained because they find me to be a joker.)

Being fronted by a swarm of students has been an everyday occurrence for Kuya Charles. But aside from the photocopiers, it has always been his comical demeanor that made him unfailingly inviting and approachable.

At the age of 41, he has also developed a sound relationship with himself as an unmarried man. He even jokes about how being a bachelor works so much to his advantage.

“Lahi ra man ning ulitawo ka kay dili ra man ka obligado gyud nga mu [work],” gagged Kuya Charles with a humorous tone.

(It’s different when you’re a bachelor, you are not obligated to [work].)

Living with his parents, sister, and niece, he enjoys bringing food for them to share now and then. Although he is not tasked with certain obligations at home, making breakfast or dinner for the family is one way Kuya Charles expresses his affection.

“Dili gud kanang luto gyud, mutabang rag luto. Kung dili sila ka mata ug sayo, ako muy mag luto,” he said.

(Not that I cook, I just help cook. If they don’t wake up early, I cook.)

He is not much of a chef, nor an amateur he would say, but he believes he makes food good enough to eat.

“Ingon’s mama nga maayo daw kuno ko mu luto,” he chuckled.

(Mom said I cook well.)

Perhaps, Kuya Charles takes charge of a pan and ladle as well as he does with photocopier machines. But he switches between the two skills with ease.

Every day, Kuya Charles wakes up just right after the sun does. At five in the morning, he makes his bed and goes straight to the TV to catch up on a show or two, just in time to start preparing for the day. When the clock strikes seven, he takes a shower and does the rest of his morning routine. He eats breakfast, brushes his teeth, and puts on his signature getup — a pair of baggy shorts, a shirt, and ballcap. If he is not in a rush, Kuya Charles leaves the house with his niece, dropping her at school on his way to work.

Kuya Charles usually arrives at AH around eight in the morning. More often than not, he enters the building while the hallways are still calm, with only the loud clanking sound of the metal doors being rolled up indicating the onset of his day at work. After opening the barrier, he sweeps the floor, wipes the machines, and tidies up the rest of the space before even more students arrive. Once the wires of the photocopiers are plugged, Charles Beraño Torres begins his day as Silliman University’s Kuya Charles.

With papers to photocopy and people to attend to, the hardworking Kuya Charles still describes his job as “chill” and “simple” despite staying under a ramp the whole day.

“Kana muy problema run, kay sugod sa una, wala ko batia ug kakapoy. Simple ra ang trabaho pud ba, maka lingaw pud mga tawo,” he claimed.

(That’s the problem because, since then, I haven’t felt any exhaustion. The work is simple, and people are fun to be with.)

Throughout his nine-hour shift, Kuya Charles only frees himself from scanning when both hands on the clock point at 12. With an hour to fuel himself, he usually goes to a nearby karenderia. After lunch, he returns to his station and repeats the same course of work until 5 p.m. Just in time for rush hour, Kuya Charles does his morning drill in reverse — shut the machines down, unplug the wires, close the barrier, and call it a day.

Once home, Kuya Charles shifts back to his solitude and tucks himself into the living room with a good TV show before the rest of the evening goes by. Winding down, however, looks different for him every day. At times, he makes dinner as an avenue to de-stress, but if there isn’t anything he must do, he chats with some friends in the neighborhood for a good while before he proceeds to say good night.

Although accustomed to his life as a bachelor, Kuya Charles finds delight in the company of other people — so as keeping his doors open for love, asserting he is “single, ready to mingle.”

With the faces he comes across, Kuya Charles lives for moments shared with people; until his day comes to a close.

When the skies turn dark and the crickets sing their lullabies, Kuya Charles unfolds a kind of downtime anew, akin to sitting by a ramp minus the people — he savors in a rest that is filled only with himself and a TV screen, back in his solitude.

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