Since yesterday, Auntie Nanic's nine-year old, Dave, has been living with us. When Manong bakes, Dave watches. His school term starts on October, and he has a few more days for vacation before he goes home.
"Ikaw ang assistant ko, Dave," Manong tells him. (You will be my assistant, Dave.)
Dave smiles, bearing his white teeth, the way children do. We hardly hear his voice. If not for his quiet running—from his room to the kitchen, where his mother spends her days; or the outdoors, where he meets kids from the neighborhood—we would not notice him.
As the first batch of cookies cools on the kitchen counter, Manong says, "Namit man?" (Is it any good?)
Dave nods and grabs another.
"Tagpila baligya ta sini?" Manong asks. (How much do we sell these for?) Ideal for dessert or afternoon coffee breaks, cookies can sell easily for a hundred pesos in coffee shops.
Dave, who grew up in a barrio not far from Surallah town, hesitates, then says, "Tag-tatlo baynte." (Three for 20 pesos).
Manong has found his food critic and business manager.