The kindness of strangers
NOTES FROM THE EDITOR - Singkit (The Philippine Star) - August 19, 2018 - 12:00am

My new friend Ken put it in proper perspective. Faced with a situation that was difficult at best, he said he had set his mind to not get upset, to have patience and to make the best of what was happening.

I met Ken at the Mercury drugstore branch in Sta. Mesa that unforgettable Saturday night. I was waiting out the monster floods on R. Magsaysay Blvd. Since northbound traffic was at a standstill as no vehicles, not even trucks, could go through the floods in the Pureza area, I decided to wait it out and sought refuge at Mercury, bought Skyflakes and a bottle of water for a late dinner.

Ken came in to buy doxycycline as a precaution against leptospirosis, since he had waded in the murky water after getting off the LRT at the Pureza station. He was going to walk the rest of the way home, across Mabini (formerly Nagtahan) Bridge towards Otis-Quirino. Before he left, he said, “There’s a 24-hour KFC near the bridge, in case you get hungry.”

I thanked him for the tip but figured my Skyflakes would do, as I thought for sure after a couple of hours the floods would subside and I could get going. But an hour became two, then three, and it was closing time. Manong guard very kindly gave me a chair and suggested I just wait until traffic on the northbound lane start- ed moving; at least I was safe and dry there. He said it turned out to be a good thing he had to pull a double shift, since his alternate couldn’t report for work because his house was flooded. “Di rin naman ako makakauwi (I can’t go home anyway),” home being all the way in Navotas.

As we sat there watching the world go by, there was a constant stream of people walking, unable to catch a ride. Many of them were dripping wet, their umbrellas unable to keep them dry when the wind whipped up the rain. I wondered how long they had been walking and how far they still had to go. Thankfully the next day was a Sunday, so perhaps they didn’t have to go to work and could rest.

A man was pushing a small truck that had stalled, trying to get it started again. He wasn’t having much success, until three men walking by joined him, and to- gether they got the truck to cough out a start. A couple came by, hoping Manong guard had the key to open the drugstore; they had been wading in the flood and the man hit his knee on something and got an open wound. All I could do was tell him to bleed the cut, offer water to wash the wound and the bandaid I always have in my wallet, and told him to take doxycycline first thing the next day. Two young men stopped to ask where they could get a ride to Divisoria; one lady needed to get to Pasig; when told there would probably be no jeepneys plying the routes, they said they’d just walk.

The look of helpless resignation, of surrender to a situation they were all too familiar with, of the weather and poor infrastructure leaving them tired and wet and cold, told me I had no right to complain that I was stuck for so many hours or to bitch that the floods were hanggang baywang. It was a lesson to not just see the glass half full but to appreciate the fact that I had a glass, with water in it, and that when the floods subsided and the traffic started moving, I could get in my car and head home, tired but none the worse for wear.

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