On a recent afternoon, my mom rode the jeepney on her way home from a quick trip to Puregold. She was clutching two huge plastic bags filled with an assortment of candies and chocolates, a month’s supply of sweets to be stacked with whatever’s left in our dessert cupboard.
When the jeepney made its second stop since my mom boarded the public vehicle, she noticed three little children in tattered clothes waving incessantly at the driver, as if asking for help. The man behind the wheel, a big, burly guy in his 40’s, hit the brakes and smiled at the children.
“Manong, pwede ba kaming maki-angkas hanggang dun sa pangatlong kanto? Pasensya na, wala kasi kaming pamasahe,” asked the tallest one. She was about fifteen and a little too skinny for her towering frame, the kind that other girls would aspire for, for all the wrong reasons.
The driver, still beaming, prodded at the children to hop in. He didn’t mind that they smelled of sweat, soil and sun —- something that could possibly turn away potential passengers. For their part, the children saluted at the driver and shouted, “Salamat, Manong. Maraming salamat.”
The kids sat right across my mom and in their happy banter, none of them seemed to mind the woman who was observing them with curious eyes, with earnest interest. She told me that she caught phrases like, “Doon, doon tayo kakain…”, “Malapit na, excited ako…”, “Buti na lang may barya pa…”.
Obviously, they were on their way to lunch and were extremely excited about it.
Was it going to be their first meal of the day? Where were they headed? Will their loose change be enough to feed three hungry mouths? These questions were interrupted when one of the kids prompted the driver to let them off at the third turn, as requested some kilometers ago.
On their way out, my mom signaled the kids to take a box of chocolates from one of her grocery bags. They weren’t hesitant, but you could see it in their eyes that they were grateful. And that, for my mom, was enough.
“Salamat, Ate. Salamat po talaga, may panghimagas na kami.” Then to the driver, “Manong, mabuhay ka!" So they were off.
My mom has shared this encounter three times already since it happened, and I never tire of listening about it for those kids are living examples of hope and contentment. Despite having the littlest of means and growing up without full use of their rights as children, they are, in the most basic terms, happy.
They might not be as cheery tomorrow or the next day or the next, but my mom feels that they will strive to look at life in such a positive manner, no matter how difficult it will be for them to smile with empty stomachs, bruised knees and weakened souls.
Ahh…just the perfect anecdote to tuck in my pockets of inspiration. :)