Look beyond a person…to discover more about him

Look beyond a person

…to discover more about him

Apolinario Villalobos

The title of this share, actually, is a derivative of the saying, “do not judge a book by its cover”. A not so pretty or handsome face for instance does not necessarily mean that the person has a mean attitude. Also, we should not judge the financial status of a person by looking at his or her face. This is in line with the impression that the more exquisiteness it is, the better chance that he or she is from a well-off family, because “rich people are beautiful people”. This also goes with the way some people dress up.

One Saturday, I befriended a guy who sold “buraot” items or junks on a sidewalk in Divisoria. Every time I saw him on Saturdays, he was wearing the same tattered dark brown shirt and oversized basketball shorts. I just presumed that they perhaps, consisted his Saturday get up. Sometimes his two children would be with him. One time, I endeavored to befriend him, and broke the ice by buying many of his cheap items. I was thankful that he entertained my queries, until he accepted my offer to buy snacks for the three of them. I pretended to be engrossed in our conversation so that I could patiently wait until it was time for them to pack up their wares at ten that morning. With apprehension, I asked if he would allow me to see where they live, to which the guy acceded. We walked our way to a shanty of discarded tarpaulins and plywood boards by the bank of a river. His wife was out, collecting junks from garbage dumps.

Inside the shack, I saw a framed photo of three boys between a man and a woman, obviously, a family portrait. When asked, he told me that the smallest boy was he, and those with him were his parents and brothers. I found out that he came from a well-to-do family in Mandaluyong, with the name even sounding familiar. Without waiting for my questions, he volunteered that he left their home to elope with his girlfriend, the daughter of their laundrywoman. He had to do it after learning that she was two months pregnant with their baby. His parents did not approve of their relationship ever since. Rather than give them reason to fire the mother of the girl, the two opted to just go away.

The guy was 22 years old and his wife, 25. Their elder child was 4 years old and the younger, 3. He added that his wife had already undergone the so-called clinical family planning operation, or ligation. He was in his second year college when they eloped. His wife finished high school and was working as a sales girl in a mall. Her contract was not renewed, forcing her to work in a sidewalk carinderia as an all- around assistant. They had bright plans for their kids, even showed me four mineral water bottles heavy with coins, and a purse full of folded bills. They planned to enroll their elder child in the barangay/DSW-sponsored prep school three blocks away from their shanty.

When I learned that both kids were not yet baptized, I asked if it’s okay to have them undergo such rite in Sta. Cruz church or Binondo church, expenses on me, including lunch afterwards. When he agreed, I told him to look for two sponsors, a male and a female, to which he excitedly suggested his friends who were also selling junks in Divisoria. He told me that he and his wife still had decent clothes for such occasion. From the shanty, I went to the Binondo church, the nearest to where they lived, to inquire about scheduled baptisms and make the necessary arrangements. When everything was in order, I went back to my friend and told him to alert his wife and their two friends for the set schedule on the following Sunday. Eventually, the two kids became Christians. We shared a simple lunch in a sidewalk carinderia afterwards.

For the undiscerning, the unkempt appearance of others who eke a living from the refuse in dumps, can be revolting, and they are perceived as a hopeless lot. The story that I have shared shows that it is unfair to make hasty judgments based on the external appearance of a person. Behind the unkempt appearance could be a fervent desire fuelled by perseverance to live decently. The guy whose story I have shared, showed that in this world, anything is possible, and that a happy life does not always depend on money. In other words, behind unkempt appearances could be dreams!

The family I met was a picture of happiness, living on discarded vegetables and overnight-old sometimes burnt rice asked from carinderias, and drizzled with coffee or broth of vegetables and instant noodles to make it palatable. Despite their hand-to-mouth existence, he and his wife still had the courage to make plans for their two kids. They have been painstakingly setting aside a portion from what meager earnings that they derive from the junks they sell for their future. And, for all those, they do not even harbor a bit of hatred towards anybody, much more, the guy’s parents.

The guy told me that he still loves his parents, and he plans to bring his family to them on December 20, his birthday, to seek their blessing, especially, for the kids, but has no plans of living with them again. For him, it is important that his parents will know that he and his family are doing well.

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