Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Hand of God

This will be a series of vignettes where I try to articulate my daily experiences with my Lord and Saviour. Yes, I am Catholic, and I'm proud of it. I know I am not perfect, I know no Catholic is perfect (a Pope is only infallible when he designates dogma and writes encyclicals, and many saints are known for being tempted and even for succumbing to temptations), but it is my earnest belief that working towards being an excellent Catholic is enough. I also believe that there are no coincidences, that events happen for a purpose that I may not yet understand or witness until the far future. But usually, that purpose, to me anyway, is to show me how lucky I am that I am still able to enjoy my life as it is right now.

I took a jeepney on the way home after taking the Light Rail Transit, and grilled the driver into submitting to my demands to bring me to Reposo Street, a part of which is immediately outside my village. But then he brought me down at a stop along Sen Gil Puyat Avenue (Buendia) that was MUCH farther from the stop that faced Reposo Street. I was fuming at the driver for having the gall to say he'd pass through Reposo; the next time I ride a jeepney I should check if its driver means it will pass THROUGH or BY my destination.

So there I was dragging my feet, plodding with a plastic full of cloth, blinking only momentarily when an old man went towards me. As I squinted I realized he too was dragging his feet, but then he had his hand on his stomach.

At the exact moment we passed by one another, we both fell under a dim streetlight. But it became clear to me that his face, with cheeks that told of fallen teeth and fallen tears, was twisted.

I stopped to ask if he needed help. He replied that he didn't, but he was just so tired and wanted to rest.

So we stayed near the railings that kept the sidewalk from the street. I asked him if he was alright, clever girl that I was. I never even asked his name.

His answer stunned me. He told me in a halting, raspy voice, that he was dying of a gastro-intestinal haemorrhage, and so much blood poured out of his anus. Even then he tried to ask for financial help just so he could arrange a decent funeral for himself from numerous government officials, who all sent him away saying "Please follow it up some other time." Now he was trying to make his way back to his residence in a faraway area of Cavite, but he showed me that he had no money in his pocket.

For people not in the know, it costs approximately PhP110.00 to get to Rosario, a town in Cavite, from Makati, our current location - that's one jeepney ride to the bus stop (around PhP12.00) and one bus ride to Cavite (at least PhP90.00). It's a steep amount even for me, what more for an dying old man with no stable source of income? And he lived so far from the capital, near Batangas!

I kept him company while persisting with my questions and attempts for small talk. I asked him why he of all people did it; didn't he have children who should by now be taking care of him? He said that nearly all of them couldn't make it, they were all living in the Visayas (I never bothered to ask the exact province), and even the money they sent wasn't enough to ensure that he could at least live the rest of his days as comfortably as possible, where he was cut off from them save for one who also was occupied with work.

But at this point I was still a bit sceptical - I can be such a sucker for sob stories like this, I am a true bleeding heart. So I only gave him PhP30.00 in coins. I asked him if it was enough. He thanked me graciously and then limped towards the jeepney stop I was dropped off earlier.

Then I realized how dire his situation was, so I quickly ran back to him. Good thing there were no jeepneys yet to bring him to the nearest bus stop, but then again he still wasn't quite there yet. I decided to give him the clean PhP100.00 bill stuck into my wallet, plus PhP10.00 in coins. He smiled widely, showing me an earnest, toothless grin, and told me repeatedly, "Maraming salamat po! Kahabagan nawa kayo nang Diyos at pagpalain kayo." ("Thank you very much! I pray that the Lord has mercy on you and blesses you.")

I stayed by him until I found a jeepney that would take him to his desired bus stop and ran to it, yelling for the driver to halt. I assisted him as he climbed painfully into the jeepney, telling the driver not to suddenly start driving while the poor man was only halfway up the steps I checked my wristwatch for the time; I was sure that my mother, who didn't know of my sudden decision to go to Divisoria beforehand, would be waiting at home, furious at me. Then I remembered that I didn't give him the PhP20.00 I had in coins.

I wonder why I didn't give that old man my extra money. I supposed the PhP110.00 was enough. Or maybe part of me still didn't want to believe his story, or I just hoped I could hop on another jeepney from the same stop that I knew would pass by my village.

But as it turned out I would have no use for the PhP20.00. After ten minutes of waiting, I ended up walking (and even running) the rest of the way home.

Addendum: There's a very inspiring video here courtesy of Click The City. Clipcast link posted for its relevance (and because the actual video won't embed here for some reason, sigh...).

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