THE TYCOON AND THE BEGGAR * inspired by a true story

Inspired by a true story
By Bernie V. Lopez
I met Delfin the Tycoon in an art shop in Ermita. Comparing art notes, we instantly became friends and went to a coffee shop, where he told me the story of his life.
He stood 4 feet 4 inches, but was ironically known as the Golden Giant because he had made his pile from his tiny gold mine in a remote island off Palawan in the Philippines. He eventually catalyzed a gold rush never before seen in Palawan history. He later on moved to a small palace in Manila close to an office he rented, at the heart of the crowded Malate district.
Wealth had changed Delfin from being humble, kind and hard-working to being arrogant, vicious and greedy. He cheated even the poor of small amounts in spite of being so rich. It was an obsession to impose his arrogance on the world, vengeance against his former poverty. They say it is hard for a tycoon to go to heaven.
He walked every day 5 blocks, cut across a pedestrian overpass, to his lofty office across. On his first day to go to office, he was shocked to see an old man in his 70s on a dilapidated wheelchair on top of the overpass. He had an oversized half-torn umbrella tied to the wheel chair, and a large tin can on the ground where people could throw their coins. He stayed there the whole day from 7am to 5pm. It was his ‘office’.
He was snoring. Delfin woke up him and gave him a 20-peso bill. He looked at Delfin, annoyed for disturbing his sleep, took the money, threw it grudgingly into the can, and without saying a word, went back to sleep. When Delfin went home at 4 pm, the old man was still there snoring. He peered into the can and tried to lift it, guessing there were about 3 kilos of coins.
The old man haunted Delfin. From then on, every day, Delfin saw the old man, and threw a 100-peso bill into the can without waking him up. He was intrigued. It was an ingenious way to beg. He was a pro. He just slept the whole day off, cooled by the large umbrella, and went home with 3 kilos of coins – no muss, no fuss, the easy life. Delfin admired the guy. The old man melted his hardened heart.
Delfin wondered how the old man took the 40 steps to the top of the overpass. So one day, he left for office two hours early to see how he did it. He waited a good hour, and there he was, pushed on the wheelchair by a young teenage boy. The old man could hardly stand up. He took his cane and waited while the young man folded the wheelchair and carried it to the top. On his second trip, the young man brought up the large umbrella, and on his third, he assisted the old man to the top. When he was settled, Delfin talked to the young man.
DELFIN. Hey there. You’re the son of the old man, right? And your name is … ?
RENATO. Renato, sir. My dad gets depressed doing nothing at home. Here he is happy. We live together over there. (He points to a ghetto area nearby.)
DELFIN. He’s happy because he earns a little money, right?
RENATO. Not really. He doesn’t care about the money. He gives it to me every day and I add to our food expenses. He is happy because he is of some use and help to me, and he is no longer bored.
DELFIN. And what do you do for a living?
RENATO. I collect plastic bottles from the garbage bins, mostly from the big restaurants over there. (Pointing to where Delfin would normally take lunch.)
DELFIN. Is that enough to live on? Here, take this. (He hands a 100-peso bill.)
RENATO. Oh no, no. Dad told me never to accept big money, just coins. See you around. Bye.
The boy was gone in an instant. Delfin could not get over it. A beggar who refused big money –that made him think. After two months, the old man suddenly disappeared. Delfin waited 1 day, 2 days, 3 days, 1 week, nothing. For 3 weeks, he waited, worried sick. He was nowhere. Delfin had sleepless nights. He had to find the old man.
He went to the ghetto area and asked around. Finally, he found their empty home after walking a muddy maze of crowded shanties. Delfin had never been inside a ghetto before. It was hardly a home. A flight up a steep staircase so narrow, he had to go up sideways. Their room was dark, 2 by 1.5 meters, enough for a plyboard for a bed father and son shared plus walking space of half meter. No pillows, no blankets, no cushion, no windows, no door. Dirty clothes hang on nails all around. The stench was terrible. Then did Delfin understand the violence of poverty
Neighbors said the old man and the boy had disappeared for more than a week. Delfin went into a protracted depression. Then one day, Delfin’s heart jumped. There he was again under his umbrella. In his excitement, he almost stumbled. He woke up the old man.
DELFIN. Hello. (The old man put a hand to his ear.) (Delfin screamed.) Hello.
No answer, just a smile. Delfin noticed that his feet were swollen. He knew instantly it was a heart condition. He saw the left hand limp on his lap. A stroke, definitely.
DELFIN. (Screaming three times.) I want to bring you to the hospital.
The old man just smiled and brushed him away. Delfin was helpless. He was in tears. After another month, the old man was gone for good. There was a change in Delfin. He was now kind and humble and gentle. He talked to the sidewalk vendors and bought their fruit although they would rot on his dinner table uneaten. He stopped cheating people and started giving to them instead. Once, it was his turn to be cheated of millions in a big business deal. He just remembered the smile of the old man and brushed away the thought. The Lord said He gave us the poor to enrich our souls. How true it was for Delfin. Bernie V. Lopez
Send to Friends –
you may not know who I am
but you can find Me
in the eyes of the poor
in the words not of orators
but of the mute
I am not so much in churches
but more in ghettos
please take care of Me
and I will take care of you
giving is not an option
it is an obligation
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