“We huddled in a corner of the boat, cold and hungry. Since I can’t pay the fare, I climbed on board, with my 2-year old baby, while nobody was looking. My baby kept crying for food, but I restrained her and tried to put her to sleep with a song I learned from my mother when I was young. It’s really very heart-breaking hearing your child crying from hunger and can’t even do something about it. Besides, what we had at that moment, which consist of five rice balls and a few pieces of candies, I was planning to save for the uncertain days ahead as we are on our way to Cebu City. Life has been hard from where we came from, I was hoping that, though I know it still won’t be easy, at least there would be a little hope in a bigger city.
It was already dark outside and we had been traveling a few hours. Somewhere, somebody must have been cooking because I could smell the food. I think that was fried fish or an egg. Though my stomach was grumbling, I kept encouraging myself that when we reach our destination, there would be a lot of food from people who might have the heart to share. As I was singing softly to my baby, out of nowhere, this man in a uniform came upon us. He asked rudely if I have a ticket. The kind of manner he had doesn’t come strange to me. In our tattered clothes and grimy appearance, we are used to be spoken that way by most of the people we encountered. And since I don’t have a ticket and can’t think of something to say, I just kept silent and hug my daughter. But what comes next after asking me about the ticket did surprised me. He kicked my head repeatedly and shouted, ‘Damn badjao! Why don’t you and your people die quietly and stop giving us headaches!’. His words hit me like a knife in my heart. Tears rolling, all I could do at that moment was to embrace my daughter as closely as I could. Shielding her from the blows I received. In my head I kept praying to God that may He have mercy on me and that I may survive that night. Not for myself, but for my baby. Questions that I have never asked myself before that night rushed in me. What will happen to my baby if this would be my last moment with her? Who will take care of her? Then a dreadful decision came to me that very moment. I won’t let my baby suffer more than we already did. If things come to worst, I will use my last strength to jump overboard. At least we would be together and would never again suffer the pain of hunger and indignation. Though the tears were still rolling, in my heart, I felt a little tranquility of the thought that I would still be with my daughter in paradise.
After what seemed to be an eternity, the man stopped kicking me. Maybe from exhaustion or maybe he decided to get back at me later. But, for some reason, he never came back.
To this day, that incident would still sometimes haunt me before I go to sleep. But I have forgiven that man even before we disembark on that boat. He just don’t understand things, especially how it is to be hungry and have nobody to turn to. I may be a beggar, but I am proud that, no matter how difficult life is, not once have I stolen even a single centavo in my life.”
(Note: In my college days, It had been my style to initiate a conversation with people in the streets. This story is from an old lady who happen to be selling cigarettes from where I was waiting for a jeepney. I don’t know if she is still alive today, but I intend to keep her story living by sharing it to you and hope it touches your heart as it did to mine.)