For the likes of me who toil the midnight oil, literally, rest (a.k.a. sleep) is sacred. Call it blasphemy all you want but I care a rat’s ass about it. These days, I would stay in my bed until my back blisters and my behind feels really sore. And honestly? I feel fine. I only have few regrets in becoming a self proclaimed weekend bum; I miss writing. Yet most of the time I still feel that I am blameless. If you stare at a 24 inch LCD monitor, 8 hours a day , 5 days a week for a job, you wouldn’t want to see a screen glow for the next two days. But, Today is an exemption.
I started my Sunday (my Sunday clock starts at 9:00 am) with the usual trip to nanay Carmen’s turo-turo. A nilagang baka breakfast (Nanay Carmen’s especialty) every Sunday has become part of my routine. upon entering the carinderia, I waved at Nanay Carmen and give her the cutest school boy smile I could muster. She waved back at me but I noticed that the smile is not like what it used to be. Nanay Carmen is at her early 60’s. But despite the age, she still keeps a lively disposition in life. She loves to joke around, and calls me anak (like she does with almost everyone she likes).
It’s almost 3 years now that I frequent Nanay’s turo-turo. during those days when I was thinking that Manila is to congested for me and it’s nights are to gloomy, Nanay is one of those few people who showed me otherwise. Part of the few people is Tuying, a 7 years old son of a drunkard. I met Tuying one rainy September afternoon of 2005. It was must be a Sunday then because I’m at nanay’s place. I was at the middle of my steamy nilaga when a boy approached my as he did with everyone else in the place. he stood in front of my table and said “Kuya penge ng pera,” the tone is courteous. It must be a day after payday then that I felt generous. Most of the time, I would just say “wala akong pera, sorry”. That time I reached inside my pocket and gave him a five peso coin. After the boy left Nanay approached and sat at the available chair beside me. She told me the boy’s story. I learned that the boy is using the money for “baon” in school, that nanay let him eat the turo-turo everyday, That the boy’s mother is gone and his good for nothing father, as nanay would call him, is going. I don’t know but I feel impressed with the kid. With a life like that, ordinary kids should have given up schooling a long time, but not Tuying. He would go to school even if it means he have to beg his way to it. That was the beginning. I usually join the boy on his table when I come to the place and find him eating there as well (if he is not out begging for some money anywhere else). He talks a lot, but he also takes time to listen. A good sign of intelligence. He loves to joke around. He told me a lot of corny joke that you could only expect from a kid. The jokes eased the loneliness in me somehow. He is street smart, with the kind of life he has, he needed to be.
Today, In the middle of consuming my steamy nilaga, as I’ve done a hundred times before, I can’t help but to glanced at every table. Nanay approached my table and sat beside me, like she did a hundred times. She put her gentle hand over my arms and said “kailangan mo na ulit masanay kumain mag-isa tuwing linggo”, I looked at her face puzzled, she have this pained look painted on her usually smiling eyes. She told me that Tuying passed away last thursday, I was in shock. Other datails about Tuying’s passing escaped my understanding. I did not ask any question. All I understood is that he came to Nanay’s place after school with a fever. That Nanay took him to the hospital, That Nanay was there with him during those critical times and his turo-turo was closed. That some of the medicine that Tuying needed is so expensive and the Government hospital doesn’t have it available. It happened so fast, Tuying left this world a little after 4:00 AM last Thursday.
The nilagang baka all of the sudden tastes so bland. but what left bad taste to the mouth is that fact that a hundred of Tuyings are lying in government hospitals right now. With no medicines for them in the hospital pharmacy and with no money to buy it with outside. They will go back to search for answer in the only place in the hospital where service is for free, the chapel. Yet even that place won’t provide answers, it provides only hope. And hope is not something you could always hold on to. In Tuying’s case, Nanay could only do so much.
It is depressing to think that while our senate continuously talk about corruption in public television, we still can’t do anything about it. Hundreds of Tuyings are dying everyday because the money that should go to the coffers of the hospitals to buy equipment and medicines went to the pockets of officials who is worthy of public execution. We all know that a crime of corruption has been committed but what other things have we done so far aside from senate inquiry in aid of legislation? None! Our call for change has fallen on deaf ears. Senator’s who have expressed their willingness to run for the Presidency on 2010 is cautious in a making a stand on this issue. Is it to early to Sirs? What hope does the weak and underprivileged of this country have when the good people they believe in has lost their courage to fight for the right cause.
What do we have left? what do we have left but ourselves. Let this be an appeal, a call to arms. A call to arm ourselves with enough tenacity to keep fighting for justice when it seem lost. A call to arm ourselves with enough vigilance to keep us grounded from what is right and wrong. A call to arm ourselves with enough prayer to keep us guided. and a call to arm ourselves with enough hope that our heart will stand his ground. A time might come when our patriotism will waiver and our courage will fail, but it it will not be in this time. Not in our generation. A call to arm ourselves with enough fortitude to respond just in case history summon us to come together again.
Wake up from this deep slumber, I will…