The President’s newsboy #28StoriesofGiving

Michael Rebuyas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The streets are loud with traffic as people go about their daily commute. The endless parade of cars, wheels and smoke moves in the moment when the lights shift from green to yellow and back to red.

Then he makes his move.

Pepito Rayos stands by the sidewalk on the corner of Nagtahan and Guanzon Streets, an area of Manila like a crossroads of political power. Now pushing 70, his daily routine is quite unlike that of others his age: he jumps into the gridlock when vehicles stop, his left hand clutching a bundle of the day’s newspapers and a tray of candies and cigarettes, while his right calls the attention of drivers and commuters.

He wears an unmistakable smile that betrays his years.

One of his regular clients is the resident of nearby Bahay Pangarap, the country’s Chief Executive, who is said to never let a day pass without rummaging through the country’s top papers, notably The STAR.

Has he ever met or spoken to the President?

“No,” he shakes his head, but he would love the chance to do so and meet his favorite client.

“Sa lahat ng naging Presidente, si PNoy ang idol ko. Lahat ng sinasabi niya makatotohanan (Of all the Presidents we have had, PNoy is my idol. Everything he says is truthful),” Rayos said.

A veritable man of the street, Rayos ekes out a living, risking life and limb hawking newspapers, even in his advanced age.

“Ako, nagtatrabaho na lang ako para sa sarili ko (I only work to support myself now),” he said, adding that he chooses to do so in order not to burden his children, whom he wants to live their own lives.

Until a few years ago, he recalls, he had his own business and was doing well. They weren’t rich, but the earnings were enough to raise a family.

“Yung kapatid ko ang nagbebenta talaga ng diyaryo dito, mula pa noong panahon ni Marcos (My brother was the one who originally sold newspapers here, starting during Marcos’ time),” he recounts.

When his brother died, Mang Pepito took over the trade. By then, his business had gone sour, and his family was being hounded by creditors.

Every day he would wait for the day’s supply of broadsheets and tabloids, which he would then peddle to drivers and commuters riding past him.

He has no regrets.

“Dito ko napag-aral ang tatlong anak ko (I sent my three kids through school by doing this),” he muses.

Tatang, as his suki buyers would call him, has four children and is a grandfather to five.

His children are all grown now. One works for Meralco, two are already married, and one is currently studying.

“Scholar yung bunso ko. Medicine ang course (My youngest is a scholar. He is taking up medicine),” he says, his face beaming with pride.

If there’s one thing that can be said of him, it is that Tatang is a proud and grateful man. He does not accept anything from his children, he says, save for the rice his eldest insists on giving him.

The street is pelted with big drops of rain as he scrambles to cover his wares with a sheet of plastic. Some have already been soaked.

He realizes that he is getting too old for the job. He walks with a slight lag in his steps. He takes long pauses when he talks.

It’s become hard for him, he admits. Sometimes, he also gets mugged and robbed of his daily wage.

“Dati ninakaw yung paninda ko, pati yung kita ko. Mga P800 (I got robbed once. Someone stole the rest of my day’s supply of newspapers. The thief also took my day’s earnings of about P800),” he recalls.

He didn’t bother going after the thief, saying, “Naku, hindi na. Siguro mas kailangan niya (No, I didn’t bother going after the thief. Maybe he needs it more).”

The rain stops as abruptly as it started.

It’s nearing 1 in the afternoon and once again, the streets reel with the sound of traffic.

Pepito Rayos stands by the sidewalks, clutching a tray of candies and cigarettes for his afternoon shift.

The same scene plays out for him every day the way a film from a scratched videodisc does. But he does not mind. He has lived his life and he has done all he could for his family, and for that, his pride is boundless.

His work offers him no respite, he admits, but this is his life now, and though some parts could be better, he is for the most part content.

Just like other people, he too had dreams for himself, but adds that his dreams for his family always trumped his own. Life is hard, but then again, he says, for all its trials, life is also good.

Not your typical everyman, Mang Pepito stands out in the crowd. He wears an unmistakable smile as one who has helped himself through life’s vicissitudes, unwilling to be a burden to his family, to society, or to the government.

Indeed, he considers himself blessed.

If he ever gets the chance to meet President Aquino, what will he tell the Chief Executive?

“Ang mahihiling ko lang sa kanya ay ipagpatuloy niya ang nasimulan niya para sa bansa, lalung lalo na sa korupsyon (I will ask to simply continue what he has started, especially in fighting corruption),” Rayos concludes.

Wise words from a man who has made an honest living off the streets of Manila.

For comments and suggestions to #28storiesofgiving, email contactus@philstar.com.ph follow @philippinestar on Twitter or visit The Philippine Star’s page on Facebook.


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