Luab: A scavenger and 2 kilos of rice-A A +A
Saturday, August 17, 2013
MY first love affair with scavengers first started after I came back to Cebu after graduation. Berchmans College of Cebu, home of Jesuits in Cebu, was still around and Fr. Raymund Gough S.J at Ateneo in Manila introduced our Upsca (or University of the Philippines Catholic Action) alumni group to Fr. Jose V. Cruz S.J, head of Berchmans College.
Fresh from the ideals installed in us by Fr. John P. Delaney, our batch of Upscans grouped together and we asked Fr. Cruz to be our mentor. It was in one of his talks with us that we all were visibly shaken by the grimace on his face and the tone of his voice when he said: “Every time I see a scavenger picking at the refuse we throw away, every part of me does cringe in pain because no man should be made to live like that while others are so comfortable.”
After that statement, a few of us—Joe Caminade, the Arong brothers, Romy Gonzalez, Emma Kintanar, the Vergara sisters, Vicky Peredo, etc.—would pack bundles of two kilos of rice and a few canned goods. Then we would all get into a jeep and just give away our bundles. (We would stop near a garbage dump; surprise whoever was there picking at the garbage and say, “Pasalamati ang Ginoo.”)
After that first experience we were never the same again. Our Upsca alumni group kept doing our project from time to time until we broke up as a group. Fr. Cruz was reassigned, Berchmans College left Cebu (i.e. it closed), some of us got married and others left due to job relocations. In the early 60s scavengers were still few and we were not yet callous to their plight.
Today we are no longer easily touched, not even when we see a scavenger’s child sucking on a half-eaten mango that she found in a plastic bag in a garbage pile. Over the years, silly as it may sound, or useless as it may sound, I still want to help the scavengers.
Lately I’ve become more innovative. I try to involve my friends this way. Every (time I celebrate my) birthday I request my very close friends, people who drive cars, to give away two kilos of rice and to give it to the first scavenger they meet along the way before coming to greet me.
My friends are wonderful men and women who are generous people, whose apostolic generosity run from sacks of rice for orphanages, to pews for chapels in San Remegio, Cebu; from supporting scholars, to giving monetary help, medical help, etc. They, of course, first asked me why they had to do it personally instead of giving me a large donation to buy sacks of rice. I gave a very graphic description of the joy, the unbelief that light up a scavenger’s face when the unexpected falls into hands.
Once anyone experiences this moment of sheer happiness exhibited by an individual over so little (how much is two kilos of rice really for many of us?), the person will realize that it does not take much to make someone happy.
Please note that the word I use is “happy.” Two kilos of rice cannot alleviate the plight of scavengers. We have other big-time groups to handle employment, education, shelter and survival needs. Our government leaders have promised to help the poor. But giving momentary joy is something we all can do. People earn by scavenging to get money for food. Imagine finding unexpected food at least for the day.
Again, why scavengers? Because today, when thievery robbery and begging have also become (sad to say) a way of earning a living, the scavenger will toil from sunrise to sunset under the heat of the scorching sun or under the pouring rain because he still does cling to his self-worth in spite of thousands who look down on him or dismiss his existence as a brother Filipino.
I usually approach male friends who allow their wives to take care of their apostolic lives. I also only approach very close female friends who will not laugh at me or think I’m crazy.
Most of us do crazy or wonderful things depending on what experiences, good or bad, come our way. Many of us have learned to “pay it forward.”
One big thing, however, that I am grateful for is the trust and understanding that came my way when I said, “No gifts please; just give your two kilos of rice to a scavenger.”
Marginalized areas are full of people who drink, gamble and do drugs. Most of them sleep late and just wait for barato, datung and bigay.
Scavengers, however, wake up early because most of them believe that what they are doing is a way of getting honest earning.
The next time you see a scavenger, look at him closely. His shoulders may be drooping, lines of fatigue may mark his face because he has toiled.
Contrast that picture please to the picture of people involved in pork barrel, fertilizer and customs shenanigans! Whose picture do
you think would be more pleasing to God?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 18, 2013.