Starweek Magazine


SINGKIT - Notes from the editor - The Philippine Star

I don’t imagine too many people still do it, but I’ve made a New Year’s resolution. When I’m at an intersection with a stoplight and the light turns green, and the car or cars in front of me do not move, I will wait patiently and not honk or flash headlights to get them going – no matter how long it takes those idiots to get their vehicles in gear and move.

Since I take practically the same route every day to and from work (something I am told by security-conscious folks I should not do; one must vary one’s route to throw off potential kidnappers or holduppers), I know the sequence of all the stoplights along the way. So when the traffic in one direction gets a yellow light and I know my lane is next to get the green light, I shift to drive and get ready to go. But it seems that the drivers in front of me more often than not have other things on their minds, and take what seems like forever to get going.

I guess that gives an indication of my level of patience (not very high), which is why I am putting myself through this exercise. I thought it would be an easy enough resolution to keep, but – mea culpa – two weeks into the New Year I’ve already broken the resolution. But just once, so I promise to try harder to keep my hands off the car horn.

* * *

I had a rather disconcerting encounter on the road the other week. Regular traffic was back in the metropolis with work and school resuming after the holidays. I was at a stoplight on Quirino Avenue a little before noon when there was tap on my window. A boy, his head at the level of the car window, had his hand outstretched, asking for a dole-out. Since I do not give money to street beggars so as not to feed the syndicates that deploy beggars in the streets and also not to encourage mendicancy, I tapped the window to indicate I wasn’t giving.

As the boy turned to walk away, I was surprised to see that he was neat and far from poorly dressed, certainly not a street child. He had on a clean white t-shirt, blue sweat pants, a fancy pair of rubber shoes that looked quite new and a colorful, cartoon character backpack. When he turned around to knock at the window of the next car, I saw a patch on his white t-shirt, indicating it was a school uniform. At that hour, he was probably on his way to school for the afternoon session, or else on his way home after the morning session.

But what was he doing knocking on car windows with hand outstretched, begging? It didn’t look like he was hungry or in dire need (his backpack looked full, probably with school stuff). Was he begging for allowance money, or wala lang, baka sakali (just in case) he could get some extra money? I wanted to roll down the window and call him over to interview him, but the traffic began moving. As I drove on I saw him in my side mirror, playing among the plants in the center island. But until now I cannot make sense of that image of a clean and well-dressed kid begging in the street.

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