Tuesday, July 05, 2011

three handfuls of rice

"manong, pasabay! (big brother, let us hitch a ride!)"

they pleaded to the driver as the jeepney as i was riding in stopped in front of them. the driver looked them over. there's only me and another male passenger inside. there were three of them. they were not as filthy-looking and as foul-smelling as the other street children who regularly roam the streets. the driver nodded to them and they gleefully hopped inside the vehicle. 

"let's let them ride," explained the driver, "i know them. they will not cause trouble."  the other male passenger and i did not say anything. the driver knew that we assented.

 the three children seated themselves at the farthest end of the jeepney near the door. two boys and a girl. if i guessed right they could be about 9 - 10 years old. seeing that we're not doing any protesting, they engaged in light banter inside the vehicle.  what i noticed immediately was that each of them was holding a small plastic bag with something white inside. the plastic bag was knotted at the upper end to close it or seal it.  after some minutes had passed, the three had presumably gotten tired of teasing each other. all three became quiet and retreated inside their own private worlds. the two boys were looking outside the jeepney in opposite directions trying to enjoy the scenery as we passed one street corner after another. the little girl was fiddling with the plastic bag in her hand. then, in an instant, she cupped it with both hands and brought it to her mouth. she pried open the plastic bag with her yellowed teeth and started gnawing at the white stuff inside. she was eating it!
 
one of the boys noticed her and tapped her arm.
 "you won't have anything to eat later." he cautioned her.
"i'm starved." she replied and she kept on eating.

she ate it all. then she threw the mangled plastic bag outside the jeepney. the wind caught it and blew it away towards the rear of the vehicle. i looked at her. she still had that hungry look in her eyes. i knew she was not satisfied. i caught her eyeing longingly the plastic bag nestled in the lap of the boy nearest her. i realized what the white stuff was. rice! it was just a handful, probably about five heaping scoops of a regular spoon inside the plastic bag. probably, a kind street vendor gave them some. or, they might have bought them with the few pesos they might have begged for. i could only venture wild guesses.

the male passenger got surprised when one of the boys knelt down on the vehicle's flooring and started pawing the empty space underneath the seats. he let his right hand glide over the portion of the flooring underneath the seats. he seemed to be feeling for something. he did this almost the entire length of the seat. then he went over to the opposite seat where i was and did the same. the other boy and the girl were just observing him. suddenly, he  flashed a wide grin on his face and pulled out his hand from underneath the seat. he triumphantly held up his right hand towards his companions. 

pressed between his thumb and forefinger were two 5-peso coins. he was able to fish these from underneath the seats. coins probably dropped by unwary passengers. he tried to finish the entire length of the seat but those were the only ones he was able to find.

the jeepney stopped at a place where lots of passengers were waiting for a ride. the driver asked the children to get off. they reluctantly did. and they thanked him. they might still be a long way off from their destination wherever that may be.

as the jeepney started on i looked back at the three. one of the boys was already gnawing at his own handful of rice. the girl was looking at him pleadingly. the one who found the coins just sat on the sidewalk.

i told myself -- the street is their home. the street has its own wisdom to impart to them. they will learn its ways. if they are able to endure, they will become street-wise, or, street-smart.

i've read a lot of stories about wealthy people. exceptional individuals who started from scratch and became rich and even famous.
  
many of them were street-smart.

6 comments:

Mahon said...

Dear sito, your post are always very pleasant to read and your subjects always very relevant ! Thank for this good sharing :))

Bye**

sito saguid said...

thanks for visiting, my friend.

margie said...

sito, keep on sharing your wonderful stories.. don't stop.

bing said...

bet you are in Pinas...!

sito saguid said...

dear bing, thanks for the visit again.

sito saguid said...

margie, for as long as there are things that need to be written about, i shall keep on telling about them. it's good to know there are some folks out there who might get something from this mind's ramblings.