LAST Jan.18, straight from the 6 a.m. mass at Redemptorist, I went for my usual hike at Ayala grounds. What met my eyes was a shocker! All the green areas were literally covered with trash of all kinds. Not a single green blade of grass could find its way out of the debris. I am not exaggerating.

All of us who were hiking greeted each other with these statements: “No wonder our ozone layer is diminishing” or “I thought we were already educated enough to throw our trash in the proper waste bins” or “My gosh! And we say we are disciplined!”

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

What broke my heart was the sight of a father and son (both scavengers) eating the leftover found in a Jollibee disposable container.

However, as I went back the following day for my usual hike, Ayala people had cleaned the grounds and the green grass could now be seen. As I passed the very same spot where I saw the father and son enjoying the leftover food, I remembered the pain I felt.

Actually, there was also a similar incident that caught my eye one early morning when I passed the gate of one of the houses near where I live.

A man was picking off the raw seeds from a slice of jackfruit that had been discarded after the fruit pods had been removed.

The slice of jackfruit, however, together with the seeds had been thrown on the ground. There he was, scavenging but at the same time eating the raw seeds.

You and I know that this hunger among the poor has existed for some time now.

We who are able to live in comfort only suffer hunger pangs when we are asked to fast prior to a blood extraction for lipid tests or whatever. The hunger pangs during the preparation prior to a colonoscopy is a bit longer, yet these are nothing compared to the everyday hunger felt by our brothers who have nothing.

So when the president of batch 69’, lawyer Danilo Ortiz, gave his remarks at their re-union—“Helping the poor is no longer an option but it is our obligation”—I understood what he meant. So did the rest of his 40 or more batch mates.

The end result of that reunion at the Country Club was a pledge of support from their batch of P30,000.00/scholar whom they would spend for at the Skills Training Center of Sacred Heart School-Jesuits in Canduman.

After six months of training, these scholars will be able to find jobs. What a beautiful gesture and what an inspiring example for us to follow.

No matter what the pessimists say, we will not go under in 2010, not while there are men and women whose hearts are open to the plight of our poor.

I believe, though, that the desire to help cannot remain an intention. To those who can afford sending children to the public elementary school, they would need P1,000 per child now. This amount will cover books, uniforms and projects. Believe me, poor parents can only think of food, not education.

Surely, my dear friends who play golf, we can give up one day of playing golf to sponsor a child’s education in public school. (Guys, you normally spend P1,500 to P1,800 per game.) Just one game and a child gets to enter grade one and gets to learn how to read and write. It’s something to think about!

What about the poor in spirit? The obligation to help is greater. Did you ever wonder why we have two ears and just one mouth? We have been given the tools to listen more.

The poor in spirit doesn’t need anyone to tell him what to do.

He just needs to unburden himself. We can always make time to be with him, to soothe, by our presence. Pleasant, understanding, kind company does wonders.

Senior citizens, who have time on their hands, get extra lonely.

It does not take five minutes to pick up the phone and say, “Hi, I remembered you. Just wanted to tell you that there’s a good program on TV tonight. Call me tomorrow and we can talk about it.“ That isn’t very hard to do, is it?