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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia SUNDAY, AND people rushed to their weekly drudgeries. People were alive on Sundays. And on Sundays some people, but not too many, were holy, and Miguel was one of them.

"Do not look," I insisted in a whispered voice, pulling his sleeve. "Just do not look. Just walk straight and think there are no, well, ahh, these---ahh, just think there is just us in this street."

"What?" Miguel asked, pulling his sleeve back, passing his open palm through it to smoothen the wrinkles created by my pulling.

"I just ironed them this morning," he complained, bitterly shaking his head. "What do you want me not to look at?"

"The beggars," I murmured. "Do not look at them. Do not look into their eyes. Their eyes, I mean, all eyes are---ahh, what do I want to tell you? Just don't look at them."

The beggars are like dilapidated walls surrounding the filthy marketplaces and churches. And on Sundays their number doubled, tripled, quadrupled. I mean, they are just countless. Gazillion. We were in a population of mendicants.

"Do not look at them," I repeated, but this time I saw Miguel looking at them, delving into their faces, feeling their frustrations and hopelessness.

"Let us help them," Miguel said. "We must do something. Look at them. Maybe we can do something for them in our own little way."

"What will you do? Even God and His Celestial Principalities cannot do anything for them, how much more a famished rat like you?" I said, my eyes burst big like they were rolling out of their sockets.

"What can you do?" I reiterated, this time my voice was full of suppressed yet burning fury. "We have just got a five-peso coin here, and we need it for the offertory. Do you want the churchgoers to say something about us? That we cannot even give a coin for the Church? That we cannot even have a meager coin for Our Lord?"

No sooner than I had finished my thorny mini-sermon that I glimpsed Miguel approaching one of the beggars. I just could not believe my eyes. He dropped the five-peso coin into the beggar's empty tin can.

The clink of the coin dropping in the can was like an explosion that shattered the sky. All beggars turned towards where the sound had emanated and their eyes were full of sorrows, agonies, and failed hopes.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 1:02 PM 3/24/09 | More of this author on eK!