Both father and son heard the word on the street: “Many town-mates were coming home from abroad (balikbayans) to celebrate Christmas.” Balikbayans (meaning overseas workers or ex-pats returning home on vacation or short stay) come home toting boxes packed with consumables and stuff, either for pasalubong (presents) or for their family’s use.
It was early Sunday morning. People were up, getting ready for church. Noisy tricycles plied their routes, their fares hopping in and out in a seemingly uninterrupted and continual motion. Exhaust fumes, and dark smoke from the diesel fuel tainted and poisoned the fresh smelling morning air. The cranked up booming blast and blare of early morning Karaoke performances just about killed all the serenity of the still sleepy, dew-covered, tranquil countryside. In the eclectic mix some chickens pecking for crumbs by the local carinderia scurried to avoid the pedestrian and tricycle onslaught, squawking as they skipped and flapped for cover.
The father, with son in tow, approached many of the Sunday Mass goers who waited for their ferry. He somehow knew who the Balikbayans were and he picked them out in the crowd. Perhaps it was their bling, their glam, and the way they talked.
“Hey homme – wuz up man? Wuz goin’ on there homeboy? Wuz comin’ down slayk?” said one young man to a surprised older tricycle driver. The young man’s beltless baggy pants slipped down from his waist and hung precariously around his buttocks revealing his polka-dot unisex Speedo underwear.
“Ni adda kay met gayam. Katno sangpetyo?” replied the tricycle driver flashing a toothless grin.
“Arrived last week, er… Friday night from Narita… you know, Japan. You know. Ah… then MIA. MIA customs sucks big time, man.” said the young man gesticulating with his arms, hands and fingers.
At about this time the homeless father and his son approached the two men engaged in conversation. With his head bowed down he addressed the young man whose pants were sliding down his buttocks, “Naimbag a pascua yo Apo.”
The young Balikbayan became instantly irritated at the intrusion. “Get away from me or I’ll pop a can of whoop ass on you!” he yelled at the poor homeless man. The man’s son began to cry.
“Dispensaren dakam Apo ta awan met mabalbalin mi. Di kam pay la nangan. Caasian nakam kadi,” he pleaded in a soft voice while comforting his crying son.
The tricycle driver also yelled at the homeless man, “Oy Cimin pumanaw ka ditoy ta no saan a madarumgi daguitoy bisita. Nagrugit ka, di ka la agbain,” motioning with his face for the homeless man to vacate the premises. The homeless man took his son and slowly walked away.
The young Balikbayan showed his extreme displeasure by kicking the dirt with his Air Nike shoes. “This place is the sheeets,” he said, his deep Ilocano accent giving him away.
The tricycle driver tried to assuage his Balikbayan friend. “Caca-asi met ni Cimin. Manipud pay di natay ni baketna, is-isu ti agayaywan ken diay anakda. Awan pay trabaho na met piman. Pina-pascua-am koma metten a. Uray no piso laeng.”
The young Balikbayan, now teary-eyed, scanned the direction where the homeless man and his son went. They were gone.
Off to the side of the tricycle stand by the freshly painted houses and cardboard shanties the festive Christmas decorations announced the birth of Christ. Among the many decorations, one stood out. It depicted the Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph looking for a room at the inn on that cold Christmas night long ago.
We all know what the innkeeper told Saint Joseph and Mother Mary, “There is no more room!”
Perhaps from the heart of the young Balikbayan, in response to the Christmas greeting of the homeless man and his son, the same words issued forth, “I have no room in my heart for you… I feel nothing but contempt for you and your situation.”
Sad to say our response to manifested poverty is myriad. There are some who will give from their need while some will give from their largess. Still there are those who will reconsider and then seriously try to help the poor in any way they can. Our Holy Father Pope Francis greets us Merry Christmas and this year he asks the Church to be for the poor.