Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Story of Two Fathers

The scene: Quiapo market. Again. We were leaving in a jeepney one early morning and as we waited for passengers to board, I saw a young girl (maybe 9) crying by a merchant stand. She buried her head in shame and wasn't about to be consoled. Then a man in his 40s (I assume her father) came and yelled at her harshly. No one paid any mind on this busy street corner. She didn't respond. He slapped her in the face. More crying. I don't know what was going on (obviously) and she may have well deserved punishment for some wrong doing. But it sure was uncomfortable and whatever she had done - he was clearly handling the wrong way.

The jeepney was taking unusually long to load. I watched as he left and she continued her sobbing. He returned a few minutes later with a stiff broom and yelled some more. Then he swatted her legs. This wouldn't fly in America. He wasn't really hurting her, but if he was, I think I would have had to get up and stop him. But that's the sort of thing you do when you're looking for a serious fight and well, the jeepney drove off just a little later anyhow. Whatever the story behind this incident, this was the story of an irrational father and a little girl who will have to pay for this poor upbringing when she gets older. It's not going to be easy.

Same area, different day, different father. I waited outside a busy shop one evening while my wife picked out some new kitchenware for our restaurant. Manila might be the busiest place I've ever been, but Filipinos are never in a hurry. I was exhausted so I stayed outside while she shopped. I sat down on the concrete steps to watch a little boy and his sister (just toddlers) playing a wonderful game of... circular thing that we hold. It was made of variously colored straws they had pieced together. Clearly there was no object to the game but to enjoy this circle they had constructed. Every time it broke as they tried to pick it up, the little girl would burst into laughter and big brother would fix it. Dad was there. He understood the game. He played along a little with them in between straightening his wares. I could see the love on his face. I thought to myself as I observed, "this is a good man."

Only a few moments later, he noticed me and offered a small plastic stool to this white stranger "you sit here my friend." I was exhausted from walking all day and that stool was well appreciated. For a brief second I nearly refused in customary politeness but I rethought my decision A) I really would like that stool B) it would honor him to accept this gift C) and I really would like that stool. So I accepted and I'm still not sure why this small act of kindness meant so much to me. So that is my simple story, a story of two fathers. I couldn't help but notice the contrast between them. One irrational, angry and hurtful; the other treated a stranger better than the first treated his daughter.

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