- Araneta Center
Yesterday, we went to Araneta Center in Cubao, as a last-minute shopping in preparation for today’s school opening. Our group consisted of my wife, our two sons, two of their cousins and me. We badly needed companions because we can’t handle everything all by ourselves. We bought school bags, pairs of shoes, under garments and other school necessities. We spent several hours hopping from one mall to another just to find the most affordable, yet usable items. We didn’t know that two of my brother-in-laws and their kids also went in the same place separately.
- National Bookstore (the red building)
So like destiny, we headed and all unexpectedly gathered in the same place, the last destination for the day – National Bookstore (its largest branch infront of Araneta Coliseum). It was full-packed, like Holiday rush!
We were so tired. Our group was about to leave for home when my eldest brother-in-law, Andy, invited us for dinner first (it was almost 6pm then). There were 7 kids and all of them wanted to eat at a nearby Jollibee. But Andy refused. He told us there’s a place inside Farmer’s Market (yes, the Market and not the Plaza) called “Dampa” (like a large food court) where we should eat.
So off we went, ordered a variety of meals. It was like a feast, nevertheless. Being a food lover, I ate a lot and had a really full stomach. Perhaps because of their curiosity, my kids played with some large shrimps like those were toys. I helped them debone one shrimp, took some of its meat with a fork and offered them to eat it. But they didn’t want to. They just played with it. Basically, there were some leftovers. Beside me is a half-full bowl of steamed rice which we can no longer consume.
We were about to go when a young man perhaps in his late twenties, approached us, and asked if he could have our leftovers. I handed him the bowl of excess rice beside me. He took it. Suddenly, without any word, he took every leftover that’s on our table, even the chicken bones, shrimp shells, the ones toyed by my kids – literally everything! He placed them on that bowl of rice. I thought he’ll use it to feed pigs (kanin-baboy) or dogs. But to our amazement, he went to a nearby table and took a seat. He was with his wife who was holding their BABY. He gave our leftover chicken bones to his baby and the child grabbed it like it was the first bone she ever saw and munched in her entire life! The man ate without any sign of shame. His wife just stared. She didn’t eat. Well, her husband didn’t seem to offer her but still, maybe she felt uneasy. I can tell that their baby was so hungry that she was eating our leftovers. I was so shocked, and so as the rest of our family. We all saw what happened. I felt so sorry for the baby! We were heartbroken.
A face of poverty..
We didn’t speak a word for a few minutes. Then I burst into tears that I was forcing to keep inside myself. I told my wife, “Ma, do you have any money? Maybe we can give them any amount so they can buy decent food for themselves, especially for the baby.” She nodded and approached them.
With all of our belongings, we followed my wife. Everyone in Dampa (there were quite a few customers at that time) were looking, but didn’t want to involve themselves. She gave the woman an amount I won’t mention. The woman expressed her thanks. She also told us that her husband had money earlier in the day but spent it on gambling! Imagine that! My wife showed dismay and told the husband to find a decent job and buy something for his family to eat, especially for the baby.
- A child in need.
We left them with heavy burdens in our hearts. We knew that it was not enough. It was only a temporary solution. But most importantly, we were very concerned about the baby. She was too exposed in the cruelty of the world. She is a victim – just like many other babies who live in extreme poverty. How many of them exist in our society? What have we done to help them, even reach out to them?
As a moral lesson, I told the kids we were so blessed that we didn’t have to eat leftovers (“Pagpag”) and that we should never waste food. We should consume and share what God has provided us, because many families live in poverty that they will eat anything, even those they find in the garbage. Maybe, God wanted us to learn, that’s why He didn’t allow us to eat at Jollibee. He wanted to show us how serious poverty really is.
- Hapag ng pag-asa
Despite the burden, we also felt blessed. Sometimes we think that God has forsaken us. Sometimes we think that we are all alone — financially, physically and emotionally laden. We complain too much. But if we just try to understand and recognize the blessings around us, we will realize that God has in fact been good to us all the time. He never left us.
May God bless all families in the world, most especially the ones who are fighting against hunger.
Kevin Carter took this photograph -- a staving toddler trying to reach a feeding center when a vulture landed nearby. Carter later claimed that after waiting twenty minutes in the hope that the vulture would spread its wings, he took a picture and then chased off the vulture.
Note: All pictures were from various sources. I don’t take ownership of the pictures as I had no camera with me yesterday.
The Baby and the Vulture