(The author of this contributed article is an editor and designer of an overseas publication.)
This morning, in between fetching and dropping off frontliners to and from their hospital duties, I saw him shuffling on Mindanao Avenue near Trinoma. I had a few minutes to spare before my next pick-up, so I slowed down and asked him where he was going.
I told him to hop in and l’d take him as close to his destination as I could, in the pocket of time that I had.
Turns out he does elevator maintenance work for Okada, but on a no-work, no-pay basis. The lockdown caught him at his lodgings on Coastal Road: out of work, dwindling money, and no way to get home to his two kids in Novaliches (wife was stranded in Butuan). Last night he was on video call with his kids aged 12 and 10. They were crying: “Uwi ka na, Tay...”
So he decided to walk that night, with nothing but his frayed backpack and the last P200 in his pocket. He managed to get to EDSA a little past midnight, but his legs had given up and he slept outside Megamall. Half an hour later, he was walking again, managed to hitch a ride up to Quezon Avenue on a hospital van, and by 6 a.m., he was turning into the street where our paths crossed.
He said I could drop him off anywhere, “kasi malayo pa po yung sa amin, Bagumbong pa po. Lampas pa po ng bayan ng Novaliches. Kahit sa susunod na stop light na lang po.”
I didn’t have the heart to do that. Drove him all the way to his barangay, over his protestations.
“Paano po yan, wala na kayong trabaho?”
“May calamity fund daw po, pero ewan ko kung paano kukunin; pagkakasyahin ko na lang po muna itong pera ko sa aming mag-anak.”
I didn’t ask the question we both knew were on or minds: how long will that P200 last?
About 20 minutes later, he asked to be dropped off at a Puregold branch on Susano Road. “Okay na po dito, malapit na po bahay namin.” And then, softly: “Magkano po?”
“Naku, wala pong bayad!” Then on impulse I took the last P1000 bill in my wallet, while silently kicking myself that I didn’t have more. “Eto po, pandagdag. Sorry yan lang po pera ko sa wallet.”
He stared at me above the scruffy N95 mask that he must’ve been wearing for days. “Sir, sobra-sobra na po ‘to.”
I could see the tears welling up. I panicked. In a voice that I hoped was loud enough to barrel through the lump in my throat, I joked: “Sir, baka magkaiyakan pa tayo! Para sa mga anak n'yo yan!”
I hurriedly made a u-turn, waved goodbye at him, and left him standing there at the corner, looking about ready to collapse from exhaustion or his emotions.
I pressed the accelerator and didn’t dare look back. Wala akong tissue sa kotse, e.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.