It was a gloomy Wednesday afternoon and everyone's
rushing to get home from work. The queue for jeepneys off to Cubao had started
to fill with people. I managed to ride the fifth or sixth jeep. It took me
around 20 minutes to ride one but that's ok. I read a book as soon as the jeep
took off. By the time I had the chance to see where we were, we're still
caught in a traffic jam halfway along Boni Serrano. We took a right turn and a batang grasa rode in our jeep.
Young boys like this one are usual fares in the
streets of Cubao. They're dressed with torn shirts and baggy shorts; their
hairs, either cropped unevenly or colored with brown and blonde highlights.
Their faces show their innocence but are often marred by the grime and grease
of the streets they prowl. Some can even be caught sniffing rugby in a plastic
bag. When they ride jeepneys, they bring with them white envelopes or ampaws, during Christmastime, asking for
alms. The scrawny letters that adorn the envelopes tell us that whatever amount
we give will be a guarantee that they'll get by the next day.
Of course, I do not buy it. So, for the longest time,
I often choose to ignore batang grasas
because I know the money will just be used to fill the pockets of syndicated
groups of child traffickers.
I tried giving the extra food that I have stashed in
my knapsack. I felt it was better than coins, that way, I know they'll sleep
better at night because their tummies are not grumbling. Instead of thank yous,
I either receive glares or worse, rejection. Sometimes, they'd get the food and
still ask for money. This happened most of the time so I went back to ignoring
them. And every time I do that, that small voice telling me to do
something to help them still, is usually shut off.
Tonight, I tried not to ignore by giving my lunch to
that young boy. Before I did, there was a mental debate—I can eat the food at
home for dinner or I might look a bit pretentious when I help the poor kid or
the kid might reject and ask for money, I'd feel slighted and annoyed. But the
prevailing feeling of guilt won over the hollowness that started to fill my
Ok, so I nicked the sandwich and gave away the rice
and veggies in the paper bag. Several pairs of eyes stared when I gave the
young boy my lunch and I chose to ignore. Kid accepted it and never said thank
you. It still felt good. At least he did not shove it in my face to ask for
twenty bucks, instead. I resumed reading until I reached Cubao.
While on the train ride going home, I remembered my
sandwich last night was also enjoyed by another batang grasa (I really hoped he enjoyed that one). It wasn't to pat
myself at the back. What I remembered more clearly was the feigned
ignorance by the other passengers. I saw myself in them. There's nothing really
bad, because if we do not feel like giving money or we don't have spare food,
there's nothing we can do anyway. But it is alarming. Maybe we can keep extra
munchies on our bags and give it to these kids instead of money. If they reject
or ask for more, we can always politely say no. It will take time before they get the real help they'll be needing, or sadder still, they won't be able to get it. So, a little help from us may just be something they need.
It was a good lesson to learn last night.
Labels: 2014, blessings, experiences, jeep, kids, lessons learned, public commute