Last June 13, 2011 (Monday), my friend, Clarissa, and I went jogging at Philam Park. We ran, we squatted, we stepped. Basically, it was exercise day! We were talking and bonding and having fun. Everything was light. Everything is fun when you do it with a funny friend. We started at about 5 pm and ended at 6:30 pm. We decided to go home already because they are about to close the park. We walked out of the park already. While we were walking towards the guardhouse exit, an old lady approached us.
She said, “Anak. Baka pwede namang humingi ng tulong?” (Son, may I ask for your help?)
I stared at her for a moment, out of shock. I saw that she was wearing a clothe around her hair. She looked so weak and I saw that she was already about to cry. For a moment, I looked at Clarissa (Issay or C is her nickname, so don’t be shocked if I were to call her C or Issay here), I wanted to see her reaction. Is she as surprised as me? Is she as curious? Is she as drawn to compassion as I?
I said, “Bakit po? Ano pong kailangan niyo?” (Why? What do you need?)
I said it in a very inquiring tone. I wanted to know what this poor old lady needed. I wanted to help her. I wanted her to be OK.
“Kasi kailangan ko ng makauwi sa amin. Nagpunta kasi ako sa Estrada para humingi ng tulong sa pinsan ko. Pero wala na siya doon, umuwi na raw siya sa Davao. Wala na akong pamasahe pauwi sa amin. Kanina pa ako ikot ng ikot dito.“, she said while crying.
(I need to go home already. I went to Estrada to ask for financial help from my cousin but I found out that she had already left and went to Davao permanently. I no longer have fare to go home. I was looking for someone who can help me.)
I couldn’t believe what I just heard. I was drawn to compassion, I was moved to tears. And then I looked at C, is she believing this old woman’s story? Or am I just a sucker for a sob story? And then I wondered how I can help this old lady. Who is she? Is she for real? What can I do to help?
This time C asked her, “Taga saan po ba kayo? Saan po kayo nakatira?” (Where are you from? Where do you live?)
“Sa Pampangga pa ako nauwi eh,” she answered. (I reside in Pampangga.)
While she was saying this, I was thinking, how can I get her home? How much does she need to get back at Pampangga?
So I asked her, “Magkano po ba kailangan niyo para makauwi kayo sa Pampangga?” (How much do you need to get back to Pampangga?)
She answered, “Kulang kulang 300 pesos. Eh, wala na nga akong pera. Nagpunta na ako sa Munisipyo, sarado na. Nagpunta na din ako sa opisina ng simbahan, sabi nila sarado na din daw. Wala na talaga akong pupuntahan.”
(I need, at least, 300 pesos. But I no longer have any money. I went to the Town Hall and they told me that it’s already close. I went to the church office, but they told me that it’s also close. I don’t have anywhere to go.)
I was brought to tears. Although, I did not show it to her or to C, inside I was already crying. I was thinking of giving her the 300 she needed. But I had 500 pesos in my wallet and it is not exactly change.
I told C, “Wait for me here. Just stay with her (pointing to the old lady). Just stay with her.”
“Where are you going???”, C asked.
“Just trust me. And stay with her. I’ll be right back.”, I answered her.
I ran to the nearest store and I asked them if they had change for 500 pesos, they told me that they didn’t. So I looked around, and then I saw 3 ladies coming out of the side church entrance. I eagerly approached them to ask for change. Good thing they had change for 500. They gave me two 100 bills and six 50 bills.
And then, one lady asked me, “Why do you need change?”
“There’s this old lady who’s looking for help. She needs 300 pesos to go back to Pampanga where she lives.”, I answered them quickly.
Just then C arrived at the side church entrance.
“Why are you here?” shocked, I asked her.
She answered, “I’m gonna buy food for the lady. She seemed hungry.”
“Good thinking,” I told her.
After that C left in a hurry to buy the old lady food.
One of the ladies whom I asked for changed suddenly spoke, “Be careful. A lot of syndicates use old ladies to get money. They can even fool nuns that live around here.”
“But the lady seemed genuinely in troubled,” I countered nicely.
She said, “Yes. She may seem genuine, but be careful. Don’t give her the 300 she needs. Be practical, you can give her 50 pesos perhaps. One can never be too careful, specially in these times.”
“OK. I will. Thank you for giving me the change I need.” I humbly answered.
“I’ll follow you. I wanna see the old lady.” she said.
So they (the 3 of the ladies that I asked change from) did follow us, C and I. C had already bought the food the lady needed, she bought a cupcake, 4 pieces of hopia, 1 fita biscuit and 1 zesto tetrapack drink. We walked quickly towards the lady. I gave her the 50 pesos and C gave her the food that she bought.
The 3 ladies who followed us gave her an advice to go to the DSWD or the Town Hall. She can find help there.
C asked her, “Ano pong buon pangalan niyo?” (What’s your full name?)
“Carmencita Bernabe” she answered.
She then thanked us for our time and our efforts to help her. She said that we can leave now and that we might be late for something. So we did.
As we were walking towards the guardhouse I glanced back at her, filled with compassion, I saw that what we did mattered. What we did changed something. It may not be as big as a philanthropic celebrity, it may not be as grand as donating 1 Million to a charity, but what we did MATTERED. What we did helped that old lady (Carmencita Bernabe). What we did made a difference.
I wanna leave you with this image:
What you do matters. What you do can make a difference.