17 July 2012

Women Whose Smoking Was Hardcore

Those of my generation – and probably many who are a bit younger – would have known a woman or two in the old days who smoked their cigarettes in the most peculiar way. Probably a wise old lavandera with a dark wrinkled face who kept the cigarette in her mouth while she washed the clothes in the batyâ.

Those were foul-smelling filter-less cigarettes that those women smoked. Ladicha, Magkaibigan and La Campana are some brands that I can still recall. I don’t even know if they still manufacture those.

At any rate, what was so hardcore about the way those women smoked was that – and to the younger generations, in no way am I fibbing – the lit end of the cigarette was actually inside the mouth. Go figure that one out!

Because I was curious about how she did it, one of our lavanderas when I was still a kid let me try one stick that she had just lit. The cigarette lasted half a second inside my mouth before I had to pull it out. Boy was it hot!

But the lavandera – as well as others who smoked the same way – could even carry on conversations with the cigarette held between her lips while she washed the clothes.

Admittedly, because she could not properly open her mouth, the words she gargled always sounded funny and seemed to have an awful lot of k's.

“Kukoy ika’y kumalok ng kubik at iyong ibuhok ka bakyâ ak ng ako’y makapak-anlaw ng kamik.”

In normal Tagalog: “Tutoy ika’y sumalok ng tubig at ng ako’y makapag-anlaw ng damit.” Funnily enough, I would always understand even the gargled version.

Frankly, it never occurred to me to ask the lavandera why she smoked the way she did. As a kid, to me it was just one of those things that one accepted as another person’s way of doing something.

Maybe the smoke tasted better direct from the flame, who knows? All I can say is that those who smoked that way must have had mouths and tongues made of leather.

Perhaps it’s just me; but I don’t seem to recall having seen men who smoked the same way. Maybe there were; I just never saw one.

I had seen men smoke those foul-smelling brown cigarettes before; but always conventionally with the lit end outside the mouth.

It was also more common in the old days to see men smoke pipes; and these seem to have completely gone out of fashion. If I see men smoking pipes at all these days, they’re of the sort probably just waiting to say hello to the Creator.

There were also those who loved a cigar or what is called in Tagalog the tabako. Those have gone out of fashion as well.

Somebody once gifted my Dad with a box of cigar that he never touched. So, I helped myself to one. Curiosity, they do say, killed the cat.

I damn near coughed my lungs out of my body with the first puff and quickly put out the cigar’s flame. Kayâ baga!

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