A Good Morning

Yesterday morning I attended Mass at 5:45 at a beautiful
church about a mile from my hotel. I walked there, as it is not that far and
the weather is quite decently cool in the twilight before the sun comes up. The
church was not only beautiful, but quite huge as well. The congregation seemed
little disposed to sitting close to each other, but instead were scattered
fairly evenly throughout the whole church, with only a slightly higher concentration
near the pulpit. There might have been a hundred and fifty people or so, but in
the vast hall that seemed like a tiny number, barely a handful. There is always
room for more in the Kingdom.
That same church has to hold six Masses every Sunday to accommodate
all the worshippers. I have seen the 5:00 PM English Mass filled to
overflowing, every stone bench and plastic chair in the courtyard likewise
filled, and only room to stand, with a crowd waiting outside the gate for the
Tagalog Mass to start.
This particular morning there was a young fellow in a white
cassock behind me. It was the same cassock as the priest wore, but he looked
too young to be a priest. Then again, you never can tell with Filipinos, and he
was praying the Divine Office from a very shiny and new looking breviary. So I
asked him, “Are you a priest?”
His face lit up in such a smile. He replied, “No, not yet. I
am just a brother,” but he was tickled pink to be asked. There was something
childlike about his excitement. It was obvious, shining from his face, that he
wanted with all his heart to be a priest and that he will, God willing,
continue on attending Mass and praying his Office and studying and working
until he receives that great gift.
Leaving from the church I started to walk home. The sun was
already excruciatingly bright (I had not brought sunglasses) and the
temperature was in the upper 80’s, on its way up. I stopped at a bakery shop
where a little beggar girl with a baby appealed to me for some coins. I bought
two bibingkas from the shop, thereby providing free entertainment for the two
girls watching the register. They thought I was quite funny for some reason. I
ate one of the bibingka, and gave the other one with a few pesos worth of coins
to the beggar. She looked like she could use it. I usually avoid giving coins
to the children, because most of them are handled by professional beggars who
take all of the profits and the kids get the scraps, but in this case I saw a
woman across the street that had been talking to the girl, and I took her to be
the girl’s mother. Not because women cannot be pimps or exploiters, but because
she was not dressed any better than the little girl. At any rate she got the
coins and the bibingka, and a few prayers.
I did not give any coins to the three little boys who hailed
me at the next stop because they were obviously hale and hearty and well fed,
and were just curious to see a big bald white guy on their street and thought
they might get some free pocket change.
I hailed one of the little motorbike side-car taxis and
caught a ride back to the hotel, because it was getting hotter and sunnier out.
The taxi driver asked where I was from and practiced his English, which, while
not good, was way better than my Tagalog. When I got there I asked him how much
I owed him, and I could see him hesitate. The real rate is 8 pesos for anywhere
in the city, but I was white, and he knew I could afford more. He didn’t know
whether or not I knew what the rate should be. Perhaps he wanted to make up a
higher number and couldn’t think of one, or perhaps he was just too honest. At
any rate I just asked, with my most “innocents abroad” white guy look, if 20
pesos would be okay. His eyes lit up and he thanked me profusely and wished me
a happy New Year.
The guys like to laugh at me for doing stuff like that. They
pride themselves on knowing the going rates and not letting the locals get over
on them. I, on the other hand, get fleeced pretty regularly. I hate bargaining
and I am not good at it. It just seems like a waste of time to me.
20 pesos is less than 50 cents. I don’t even carry loose
change in America. I toss that kind of money into a jar for years and never
miss it, and then eventually I give the jar away rather than go through the
bother of counting and banking it. Here I can give some driver 50 cents and a
friendly smile and conversation and totally make his day. That seems worth it
to me.

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