I was supposed to post this in Singles What's Running in Your Mind Thread but it became too long, so I made a thread. I hope you could take time to read this:
I took the jeepney on the way to work last week, and an impoverished man boarded it. He looked frail and was carrying a big, battered travel bag. He was having a hard time climbing up and I made way so that he could seat on the spot nearest the exit.
My eye caught his bag---tattered and patched up. It was saggy and lumpy, and looked like it has gone through a cycle of rip and repair with all those stitches. I remembered similar bags stashed at home, and my own bags. It might be his only bag, holding whatever he treasures.
Then he fished out coins from his pocket and counted it with dirty hands. He doesn't strike me as a hobo since his shoes were ok. His hair was overgrown, but he seemed like someone who got a haircut. He was an old, wrinkly man with sunburned skin; on his face were years of fatigue and poverty.
We were the only passengers on that side of the jeep, and I saw all those from the corner of my eye. He handed me the coins that I was supposed to give the driver.
I quickly fished out coins from my own purse and paid for his fare. There is no way that I could take money from that man when I have more than spare change, when his bag is hardly some percent the value of the bag I was carrying. I think I heard a soft "salamat," but did not look at him. I looked outside the window, turned my back from the passengers who I felt were looking at me. To them, that poor man may be a usual presence and I am the odd one, and they may be like him who is struggling to cough up P8 per jeepney ride. But to me, he was a reminder that I am blessed with what I have---and how amazingly screwed up the corruption situation has become in this country.
They talk about millions of pesos, dollars even, siphoned from goverment taxes and public funds to personal savings. That money could have helped that man and people like him establish better living conditions. That money they spend on swanky hotels, flashy cars and exotic leather bags is from the taxes I---we---pay every month. How many times do I run into a public official in a flight, me in economy and he is first class? Too often.
How these people unbashedly take people's money and sleep soundly at night is beyond me. They even have the gall to complain about "lack of budget" in implementing projects. Then there are the classic kotong cops.
I have been working my entire adult life and I still take the jeep from time to time if I want to save since frequent cab rides are costly. With the taxes I pay, I could have had my own car years ago. Maybe I do it, too, to keep myself updated on what's "out there." (Maybe if I had managed my finances better, I could have had my own car and scrimped up for daily gas expense. But still, I pay a lot in taxes, and it would have been ok if I clearly see progress in my city.)
I got to my stop, called "para," and the man said "salamat, ha?" as I was getting off, making sure he heard me. I said, "sige ho."
Perhaps it was a hot, tiring, emotional day for me. Maybe I am being preachy, maybe that man reminded me that I am wanting too much, maybe I felt guilty.
I felt awfully sad the entire day, and I consoled myself thinking that the greedy people's souls will eventually burn in hell after they suffer from grave diseases and die in pain. It didn't make my day better.
I am hoping this country will have officials, policies and laws she deserves. I hope the people would be more disciplined, educated, concerned and hard-working. And I hope I'm still around if and when my vision happens. I don't want to be forever frustrated about the Philippines. As for now, I'll do my part---pay my taxes.