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After my transaction at the city hall, I decided to drop by the 16th-century built Sto Nino Basilica nearby. It's a historical landmark attracting different people - devouts, pretending-to-be-devouts, travelers, observers, and "business people" of all sorts. At the entrance, I opened my bag for the guards' inspection. Yes, the church welcomes everyone except bombers.

The first time I entered the said church, a vendor shouted, "Pagbantay sa mga mangunguot dira (Be careful of pickpockets!)." Then I was appalled at the thought that sinning inside His house is now commonplace. But after seven months of living in Cebu, I'm already immune to warnings like that. Cebu is a beautiful rose. With its thorns.

Magellan's Cross

I went in only to get out. There was a mass going on, and it was too crowded for me. 

I ended up approaching Manang, one of the ladies clad in a long red skirt, bright yellow blouse, and rubber slippers. I bought a Php 10 candle from her, not knowing what to do with it. While I was still unable to make up my mind, another customer bought a candle, and they entered the chapel of Magellan's Cross right away. There she said a memorized prayer for him and his loved ones. I noticed her spittle; I thought she was sincere, maybe. I decided I'd let her say the same prayer for me.

While waiting for Manang and the other customer to finish, a dirty child approached and asked me to buy her sampaguita (Arabian jasmine) bracelet.

"Where's your mother?" I asked. That's a question I usually ask when I get to talk with street children.

"Selling water," she answered pitifully.

"Could you wait until the prayer is finished?" I requested.

I thought she would leave, but she stood and waited a step away from me, her left hand on her waist and the other holding the flower bracelet. She seemed pathetic yet bossy to look at. I thought something wasn't right. Something wasn't right.

After the prayer, she begged again. The candle vendors around us were already listening.

"I really need money for food."

"Can I buy you bread at that bakery instead?"

The vendors around us answered for her, as she didn't know the right words to say. They discouraged me from buying one, for she wasn't starving; she just wanted money. Before I could react, a police officer entered the scene, and all the sampaguita children instantly ran away, as if they were flies being shooed off. They knew they were not allowed to loiter around the church.

I walked to the jeepney stop with a silent confession, "Father, forgive me for having not gone to church for a long time. And for being not guilty of such sin."

Written on Nov 14, 2010 when I was still in Cebu, fixed grammar errors today.


  1. Tabor said...

    I remember the begging children when I was visiting the Philippines. They were so thin nd so dirty and it broke my heart that this time of their life was not filled with play. Your post sounds almost like a chapter from Charles Dickens. Nice writing.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:31 PM



    Sometimes it is difficult to turn a blind eye to the condition of these children. I know that giving in to the pity I feel for them would not help them in any way and just encourage their mendicancy.

    When I decide not to give, I know I am not helping them too...

    Situations like these make me feel helpless - because there is nothing much that I can do to truly help them.

    And so I think the win-win solution is to give food.

    And then I remember that I am sponsoring a child to school... Perhaps after all I am making a difference... Hopefully...


    Humility in prayer is a start Kikit... I am sure He misses you... :)

    November 17, 2010 at 11:03 PM


    liza said...

    That short confession of yours claire is a realization for me. thank you for reminding me. i should have been sorry too for not being guilty. the last time i went to church was during my daughter'c christening, 2 months ago.

    November 27, 2010 at 10:16 PM


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