Sunday, March 6, 2011

A few hours after landing / Random encounter

It's only been a day since I got back from my 12 day break from the U.S. and the first thing I did after settling baggage and dealing with jet lag was go to Cubao. And yes, I've a lot to share on my next few posts about wandering the other side of the Pacific. But for now, i'll write this one first.

I wanted to send a few postcards and letters to a friend that morning. The only post office I knew of was in Cubao, so off I went. Someone did tell me the post office was open on a Saturday, but that they close a little earlier. When I got there at 10:00am and asked an old kuya beside the building, he said it's only open on weekdays. However, he did tell me it was open for awhile before I came. I suppose the post office personnel were just settling a few things that morning, but that they weren't really accepting mail. I guess my letters will have to wait until Monday.

I decided to go to Gateway and check out National Bookstore and Fully Booked. I was also thinking about checking the condition of my finances by going to the nearest BDO ATM, but I decided not to. As expected, the bills have piled up and I definitely need to tighten my belt. I'll probably deal with it next week when I finally get my pay check.

I got hungry at around 11:30am and decided to look for a cheap place to eat. After passing by numerous fast food chains, I ended up having lunch at a karinderia beside Bellini's in Cubao X. I had a generous serving of spicy chicken Afritada. It wasn't exactly the best Filipino food I had, but I have to admit I missed having saucy, oily dishes with a nice hot cup of rice.


*** 


After having a 50 peso lunch (in terms of cheapness, it surely beats any $7 lunch! ha!), I wanted to have some ice cream so I went to the nearby 7 Eleven. Before I even got to the entrance, a girl approached me with a warm smile and introduced herself. From there, I figured she's one of those students frequenting commercial areas for fund raising purposes. And I was right.

The girl, Cristina, told me she's a junior taking up BS Education at a private college in Taytay, Rizal. She showed her I.D. and explained that they're raising funds to support their schooling. In short, they were selling over-priced ball pens.

Because I wanted to interrogate her a little more, I invited her inside 7 Eleven and asked if she could sit and have some ice cream with me. She took the offer graciously and thought I was kind.

On a usual day, I wouldn't bother to take time to listen. I can honestly be very cold. A poor and hungry child can be asking for alms and I wouldn't even bother to look at him. I'd even think to myself: This isn't my problem anymore. We shouldn't even tolerate this. Nobody would be asking for alms if people weren't giving any.

Since I wasn't in a hurry, and probably because I have lightened up a bit after my break, I didn't mind talking to her. I told her honestly that her school shouldn't make them "work" like that to support their studies. In my point of view, what they're doing doesn't make them any different from homeless children begging passers-by for loose change. They should do it in a legitimate manner through fund raising events and other similar activities.

It's a sad reality, but she said they do it anyway even though nakaka-hiya because it's the only way she can support her studies. Public areas have even reprimanded them because they didn't have a permit to do any "fund raising". With her parents not earning enough as farmers, she's left to do this kind of work for her school. She did mention her school does organize fund raising events once a year, but I guess that isn't enough. They just had to exploit their students to work. So much for being called scholars.

I asked about her priorities in life, aside from struggling to finish school. She said, sincerely, that she wanted to become a teacher particularly at her former high school to improve education in the public school system. Cristina shared that she's honestly having a hard time in college because her teachers in high school didn't dedicate much effort to teach them basic things, like proper English, grammar, and so on.

I believe what we learn in school shouldn't be limited to academic application. It must extend to all aspects of our life. What we learn in school should still be applicable even after we graduate. It's an idealistic thought, but we must make an effort to make use of whatever education we have.

I am glad to know that young people like Cristina are really trying to maximize their education. I actually admire her for wanting to help improve the quality of public school education in our country. Though I still disapprove of the fact that she has to beg for funds to finish her studies, I honestly felt that she's doing everything she can to reach her goal.

She had to go after our short talk. We exchanged mobile numbers to keep in touch. I bought her over-priced pen and told her, sincerely, that I'm helping her because I understand her disposition. I asked her to keep me posted. I also wished her good luck, and I hope she graduates soon without any delay. I bid her good bye and we went our separate ways.


***


After that, I thought: Hindi madali mag-aral, lalo na kapag wala kang pera sa Pilipinas. While some Americans prefer not to attend college, most Filipinos desperately do everything just to have a shot at it. This is definitely something I don't get to think about everyday. I admit that I shun realities such as this because I do have a tendency to feel to much.

After a long time, I'm slowly beginning to see things outside again. It gave me the chance to think of things other than myself. I believe everything happens for a reason. After the post office fail, maybe this random encounter is actually a good experience.

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