I had always wanted to take a picnic in the UP sunken garden. The wide expanse of the grassy field and the majestic narra trees surrounding it, have their aesthetic appeal to my gustatory senses. This is a wish that thanks to my busy UP schedule, I wasn’t able to really fulfill. And so during my recent UP visit, wherein I had time in my hands, I opted to eat my lunch at one of the benches facing the sunken garden.
I was enjoying my bolognese pasta and chicken, the breeze softly blowing, when all of a sudden two pitiful impoverished kids went near me. They were insisting that I give them my food! Can’t they see that I am not yet finished? Sometimes, I swear that the beggars of the UP community have a certain attitude already – demanding that you hand over your unfinished food because they are hungry and poor to buy any for themselves. Not that I disagree with that but whatever happened to basic courtesy? And what irked me more was that their mother was just in the vicinity. I came to the rash conclusion that she instigated her kids to come near me, disturb my peaceful lunch, and beg their way to my pocket!
I scurried the kids away. I am not normally heartless to the less fortunate citizens of this country but at that point, I had no intentions of being compassionate. Having successfully ignored and driven the kids away, another kid, a much younger one and more pitiful looking came to me. He was the younger brother of the two and I think the mother, seeing that the two older kids didn’t succeed thought she can appeal to the compassionate nature of my heart by sending her youngest kid. And it was harder to get that kid off. So I simply ignored him. Since the youngest had no intentions of leaving me, the two older kids went back and resumed their begging. So now I had three kids, begging in front of me, while I was finishing my lunch. It was even worse than eating at the window table of a restaurant and having street kids stare at you from outside! To get rid of them, I hissed that I was almost mad and they wouldn’t like to see me get mad. That got them to stop and scurry away. No doubt, they, and the people who could witness us, thought of me as a very heartless bitch.
But what can I do? I was really mad that the mother won’t try to device of some other way to feed her kids than have them begging for food from hapless students like me. (I am an official student since I’ve just enrolled.) I am also angry that there are poor people in this country – though I do not really know who to blame for that. And I am equally angry that no one is now allowed to enjoy one’s lunch or eat in the public spaces of UP without being pestered by these beggars. Not that I am being coñotic and mata pobre but then doesn’t anyone have the right to at least eat in peace while enjoying some scenery?
I know I really came out as harsh, evil and whatever that day. I finished the last morsel of my lunch in peace – the beggars long gone after giving up all hope of touching my compassionate cord. I fumed for a while over the incredulity of the situation, then rationalized the matter over and tucked it away in my mind to be pondered on for another point in time.
I have been doing charity work for the longest time I can remember – maybe it is not much but it is what I can do. I wonder now how long will charity work be needed in the country? How many more Filipinos would need to rely on charity for their survival? Will there never come a time when charity will be a somehow obsolete thing because everyone has learned to survive on their own means and resources? And because the government has learned that instead of providing charity to alleviate the dire situation of most citizens of this country, they’ve provided rewarding jobs and opportunities that would really build a nation up?
Must the Philippines always rely on charity? What if charity grows tired and jaded? What would our country do?