“Kuya, unsa na, candy? (Kuya, is that candy?)”
Jan-jan was looking at the small box I was carrying. We were both waiting for a ride home at a street corner not far from our church. Judging by the blue t-shirt he was wearing (although he wore it outside in), I could tell that he is one of the kids in the student center supported by our church. I answered “Yes”, although we both know that it’s not.
“Dili, uy” (It can’t be), Jan-jan added. I managed to fake a smile to show him that he was obviously right and having guessed that one right, we can go on with our lives now.
“Tilaw ko beh” (Can I have one of those?). I was lying when I told him that the box was not mine. While half of my heart wanted to give the entire box to the young boy, the other half wished that the ride I was waiting for would come soon.
Jan-jan was carrying a paint can filled with of crushed softdrink cans on one hand while an apple was on the other. I asked him where he got the apple. He told me that a stranger dropped it on accident. He probably picked it up along the streets while looking for the softdrink cans.
I asked him where he lived. “Lorega,” he answered. “Layo na?” (Is that far?). I don’t know why I even asked the last two questions when I already knew the answers at the back of my head. I thought to myself that by continuing this small talk, I could ease the heavy pang of guilt that’s already chewing inside me.
“Pero, mamukong ra man ko kuy.” (But I won’t bother paying the fare). I smiled again. A vacant jeepney stopped in front of us. He climbed up and waved goodbye. While I could have rode on that jeepney (since it will also pass by where I live), I decided to stay and wait for the next ride.
The jeepney was still waiting for more passengers to board. I could still have the chance to give him the box. But I also know that a long term solution would be more practical in the long run. The apple or the glazed doughnuts could only feed him for that evening. As to what his dinner might be for the many evenings there after, I do not have a definite answer.
All these thoughts and so many more were playing on my mind. At the last minute, I could only give to the konduktor (the one that collects the fares) the Php 6.00 that Jan-Jan will need when he arrives at his destination. This is for the kid, I told the guy.
I was unusually quiet on the way home. While others would give an entire loaf of bread or a jogging snack, I stubbornly held on to the doughnuts I could have bought anytime I want.
I wonder what the running senators would have done if they were on my place. The pageantry and circus that usually characterize Philippine elections have failed to raise leaders that effectively address the basic needs of Jan-jan and the many children in Lorega.