The Blank Wall

Ang Anak ni Janice

By Harmony Valdoz, Literary Editor |

“Magandang umaga po maam sir, may ilalapit ho sana ako sa inyo. Namatay po ang tatay ko dahil sa sakit na Tuberculosis. Isa po syang magwawalis lamang. Malaki po ang babayaran namin sa punerarya. Sana makapag-abot po kayo ng kahit kaunting barya. Ito lang po ang naisipan kong paraan, maam sir,” says a man standing on the bus with a death certificate in hand; waving it in the air for everyone to see. His well thought out speech gives an idea that he’s done this too many times before. The words flow easily – memorized and scripted. He never pauses for a moment to catch his breath or allow a surge of emotion for a dead father. Curiously, as I caught a glimpse on the “death certificate”, his father apparently goes by the name “Janice”.

Like a puppet show master, he takes off his cap to collect the money his performance deserved. When he passed by my seat, I did not even look at him. Kung Fu Panda was on the TV screen; I paid for it and I wanted to get my money’s worth. It is hard-earned cash and I’m not about to give it away to some bum with a phony story. Judgmental? Well, common sense told me not to trust a well-clothed, able-bodied beggar with a dead father named Janice.

After he got off with the so-called abuloy, the bus driver confirmed my suspicion. That guy has been living off pity-money for quite some time now. Everyday for six months, even, a passenger added. They did not have the mind to warn other passengers beforehand and keep them from tossing in their bills, though.

It’s not like it’s the first time I’ve encountered such. I’ve seen a pair of brothers beg for money in the name of their deceased mother not too long ago. Their first story says their mother died of heart attack. I saw them again the next day, this time saying that their mother succumbed to cancer. They did not even bother to be accurate, confident that there will always be first-time passengers who are yet to learn. So many people do this nowadays, in different forms and with varied stories. It has become a business of selling misery.

I have to laud those who did not have to desecrate their parents’ graves or, heaven forbid, if they are actually still alive!

This is just another face of poverty. There are a lot of bus rides left to take before I graduate; and maybe some more when I land a job. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen the last of those non-passengers who hop on buses for a living; from peddlers who do honest business to Badjao kids who’ll hit you if you don’t give them money. Maybe there will always be those people who apply their intrinsic knowledge in science, on creatures called parasites.

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