Leave the office early. That was the advice given by Dave, my boss’s friend, over the telephone.
Typhoon Pepeng is indeed coming. Whether it would make landfall in Metro Manila has become a major concern as the effects of Ondoy is hardly far from over. Parts of Marikina, Malabon and Rizal remain submerged in flood.
My boss and her driver arrived from delivering the office’s donations to the relief center. I told them about Dave’s call and hurriedly made a rundown of the day’s accomplishments, pending works and the activities for Monday. Mang Romy, the driver, was excused early as he would meet his family in Monumento for their regular shopping of the coming week’s needs.
By 5:30 p.m., we were ready to go and I would hitch a ride with my boss. We dropped by a nearby hardware store for batteries and a fluorescent bulb to replace my boss’s busted light fixture.
The rain was already starting and traffic was getting heavy. People were crowding the streets trying to get a ride. Everybody were in a rush to go home.
When we were brought to a stop along Buendia, my boss and I saw a man carrying a small girl over his back. Rainwater was flowing over the plastic sheets that covered their bodies. The child’s back was hunched with what seemed to be a bagful of belongings. The man was pulling a trolley, presumably with his own stuff tightly tucked.
As the man walked pass the car, he used his walking stick to drag a plastic cup, strewn along the center island plant boxes, towards him. He picked it up, turned it upside down, and shook it to remove the water contents. He then put it into a large plastic bag by his side; the plastic bag contained other plastic items. There was also a damaged plastic tray for kitchen utensils which the child may be sitting on as they strode their way.
My boss and I exchanged glances. Evidently, she was greatly affected by the sight. She took something from her purse, rolled down the window by her side, and called for the man.
The man looked back and my boss waved at him. The man went near the car, and my boss gave him some money. He smiled and said thank you.
The man was already a meter away when my boss asked if i had any spare change. I dug into my pockets and handed to her what i have. She then sounded the car horn to get the man’s attention. When the man approached us, she handed to him all that i gave her. The man thanked us, and he lowered his head to get a better view at us. The child at his back tried to smile. I could only muster a half-smile at her.
The traffic lights turned green and we moved past the two. We made a left turn at N. Garcia St. towards Jupiter St.
My boss said she pitied the man and his child. She admired the father for not begging but was working as much as he could to fend for his daughter. I added that the father carried his child so that they would not be separated from each other. Wherever they went, they were together. The rains could neither stop nor keep them apart. The father did not mind his own exhaustion as he carried his daughter’s already-tired frail body.
My boss was upset; she wanted to help them more, perhaps treat them to a meal even. We took a right turn at Makati Avenue and parked at the Petron gas station. We waited for the man and the child to pass by.
Minutes passed, and my boss saw them from afar. We crossed the street to meet them. The man was surprised and in disbelief to see us again. My boss gave them from what we gathered from our wallets.
The man told us they were from Marikina, near the marketplace and their shanty has been flooded. Picking plastic cups and other items to be sold at the junkshop is a regular fare, their means of living.
My boss told them to go home already as it was already getting late and the typhoon is coming. The man’s head was bowed down and could not look directly at us. The girl nodded her head at us, her cheeks were pale and her innocent face only showed gratefulness. The child’s gaze may have passed through the deepest recesses of our soul. The father thanked and bade us goodbye.
There was silence when we went back to the car and headed home. The image of the father and child was still vivid in our minds.