(English trans: Alms please...)
"Te, pahingi pong pera, pang-kain lang po".
I heard these words, a faint voice from a young girl while I was about to finish my breakfast meal at a fast-food chain. It was Saturday morning, the 15th. She was asking for some money so she can buy food. I looked at her. She was sitting on a chair of the table to my front right with her right thumb to her mouth. She was wearing faded shorts, t-shirt and slippers. She looked a bit dirty. Her upper lip was a bit swollen and her left arm, the upper part, looked purplish. After several minutes, since she kept on asking me some alms, I asked her.
Me: Do you have parents?
Me: Do you have parents? Mother? Father?
Me: Then why are you here? It's early.
She: (Silence...she looked the other way.)
Me: Where do you live?
She: (She mentioned the barangay she lived which is near the fast-food chain I was in.)
Me: Were you hit? Did they beat you?
I took a pause in asking her questions and finished my last bite. I was torn between giving her alms/money and just buying her some fries so she can eat. At that time, I was struggling inside because several ideas entered my mind. What if this is an organized crime group? A syndicate? If I'd give her money, for sure she won't eat. If I buy her food, they'd beat her because she doesn't have money to hand over them. What if it's true that she does have parents but it's her parents who pushed her to ask for alms? If I give her money I'll be tolerating her parents, in a way. If I buy her food, she might not eat it but give it to her abusive parents instead. But what if this young girl just made it a habit to ask alms? That she really doesn't need to do it but she's doing it anyway because her parents don’t have extra money to give her? And that she stowed away because they beat her up for being so stubborn? Ah! What a dilemma!
I decided to finish my juice and went out to buy the stuff I need leaving her inside the store. I want to think. I want to bid my time. So I went. After several minutes, I went back to the store. I said to myself, I'd just buy her a meal whether she's for real or not. However, when I got there, I couldn't find her. I stayed for a minute thinking that she might try to ask for alms from other diners. But she's gone! Did she left? I stood by the supermarket's exit door to have a good view of the outside and the fast-food's exit door at the other end. But, I really couldn’t' find her. I decided to go home.
As I was commuting back home, I reflected on the incident. I thought I hope I did not refuse the Lord in that child. My mistake? Maybe; maybe not. But next time, maybe I'll just give some of what I eat. Maybe, I was just burned up from several past alms incidents. And I shouldn't be.
JoanRB © 2011