Larry is taking a bowl of hot noodles inside a Chinese restaurant in Ermita (red light district, Manila). From the corner of his eye, he sees a barefoot boy with a dirty T-shirt full of holes. He continues to eat.
When he is finished, to his surprise, the boy is right in front of him, staring at him with pleading eyes. The waiter shouts at him to get out, but Larry tells him to leave the boy alone. The boy sits down, puts a hand to his chin, and stares at Larry even more intensely. When Larry smiles, the boy gets the cue, and immediately grabs the bowl and starts to drink the left-over soup without a spoon, slurping loudly. The waiter approaches. Larry tells him to back away.
All the while, Mayor Frank is watching from another table. He orders his bodyguard to get a piece of rope from the kitchen and tie up the boy “the usual way”. The bodyguard ties the hands of the boy at the back and slings the rope to his neck tightly. The boy can hardly breathe.
LARRY – Hey, hey. What are you doing?
MAYOR – We cannot allow such criminals to go scot-free.
LARRY – He is not a criminal.
MAYOR – Do you know who I am?
LARRY – I don’t care who you are.
BODYGUARD – Sir, this is Mayor Frank. Everybody knows him.
LARRY – Mayor, let the boy go. Look, he is choking to death.
Unable to stand the boy choking, Larry grabs a table knife and cuts off the rope. The bodyguard comes forward, but Larry, who is taller and bigger, places the boy behind him.
LARRY – Mayor, I am sorry, you can’t have your way.
MAYOR – You think so? (To the bodyguard). Get a policeman at once. (The bodyguard leaves promptly).
LARRY – Look, mayor, I was taught in school that when a person is desperate, stealing a morsel of bread is no longer stealing. It is no longer a crime. He has a right to survive.
MAYOR – Where did you study?
LARRY – Ateneo.
MAYOR – (Relaxing his forward stance, realizing he is facing a schoolmate). So did I. My theology teacher taught me that …
LARRY – Father Gerry de Leon, I presume?
MAYOR – As a matter of fact, yes. He said that rules and discipline are important as a basis of a harmonious society. He is my idol.
LARRY – He also said that there are exceptions. Morality depends on the situation. Those are the words of your idol.
MAYOR – (As a policeman arrives) I am sorry, I have to take this boy to jail.
The mayor grabs the boy, Larry takes a photo of the mayor and the boy together with his cellphone. The bodyguard, emboldened by the policeman’s presence, grabs the cellphone from Larry. Quick to the draw, John Wayne style, Larry pulls out a calling card, and gives it to the mayor.
LARRY – I am a columnist at the Inquirer. Even if you take my phone, I will get this story out, that you are a vicious inhuman Atenean of a mayor. Boy, will that be a scoop. Especially if I say that you stole my phone.
MAYOR – You would dirty your own alma mater?
LARRY – Yes.
MAYOR – Hold on. Relax. (To the bodyguard). Give him his phone back. I am returning your phone on one condition. Don’t print that picture.
LARRY – Sure, no problem. Just let the boy go.
MAYOR – Agreed. That’s the problem with Ateneans. The Jesuits taught us to be rebels. Ateneans fight Ateneans.
The boy, who is all in tears by now, is released and runs to Larry and embraces him. Larry hands him a fifty-peso bill.
LARRY – (To the boy.) Go and never come back to this restaurant. They’ll kill you here. Go find another restaurant where there are kinder people. Go, go. (The boy flees quickly.) Mayor, from one Atenean to another, please remember what Fr. Gerry said. Even beggars and dirty boys are made in His image and He commands respect for the poor. (Embarrassed, without a word, the mayor lives with the policeman and his bodyguard.)
OLD WOMAN – That’s the bravest thing I have ever seen. Young man, God bless your pretty soul.
LARRY – To tell you frankly, ma’am, my knees were trembling.
OLD WOMAN – You’re a good bluffer. I wanted to intervene but I thought you were handling it pretty well. I have kicked on the shin many macho guys in my life. You plan to write about this?
LARRY – Of course, but no photo as I promised. Teach a warlord a lesson.
AUTHOR’S BOOK NO. 1 – Wings and Wanderlust – Discovering your Inner Self. At age 26, the author hitchhiked 25,000 kilometers in Europe and North Africa for three straight years. In this book of his wild adventures, he learned deep insights that changed him totally, which he wants to share with readers. It also a guidebook on how to plan your own adventure.