The Boy Who Lived Under the Foot Bridge


eastwind journals, January 12, 2022 (archives tr05)

There are about 50-odd stalls in an eight-block area which sell 300 to 400 lechons a day, or 1.5 million pesos. During Christmas, this doubles, even during a pandemic. In this strange part of the city, poverty and affluence co-exist eyeball to eyeball.

At 6 a.m., Richard roams the lechon stalls, clutching his plastic plate of steaming rice given by Fr. Jay. Most of the lechons roasted at 3 to 4 a.m. are done. At Mang Kiko’s stall, five lechons are standing diagonally on bamboo poles against the wall, deep red-brown, glistening like sports cars. Richard places his plate of rice underneath the biggest and lets the oil from the lechon’s mouth drip to his plate.

Mang Kiko sees Richard and ignores him. After about 20 drips, he takes his breakfast plate, sprinkling salt from his pocket, and starts to eat with dirty hands, standing on the sidewalk, making sure he leaves enough rice for lunch. He then says “God bless you, Mang Kiko”. He hugs Mang Kiko, who shoos him away.

At mid-day, for lunch, he pretends to limp towards an egg-vendor woman and just stands there in front of her, smiling. She gives him two salted eggs.

ALING FELY – Hello, Richard. I know you’re not lame.

RICHARD – Hello, Aling Fely. I know you know. Just practicing for my tele-serye. (Hugging her.) God bless you, Aling Fely.

ALING FELY – Get out of here.

He sits on a bench, peels the two salted eggs, puts them in the plastic bag together with the rice, and pounds the bag against the wall, his noon-day feast. He goes over to the coconut juice vendor, and drinks left over juice from two plastic cups. Before he leaves, he gives him a hug and a God-bless-you before he is shooed away.

In the evening, Richard stalks another lechon stall, the biggest in the area, which displays a dozen lechons at any given time. Hiding within the forest of lechons, he takes a pair of foldable mini-scissors from his pocket and cuts off two 6-inch pig tails of lechon. Aling Donna, the owner, pretends she does not see him. He gives her a God-bless-you hug, waving the pig tails, for which he is rewarded a plate of rice. That is dinner for him. The next day, Mang Kiko confronts him.

MANG KIKO – Hey Richard. I sold ten lechons yesterday? That’s a record. As soon as you left, a lady bought all five lechons.

RICHARD – That’s because I told God to bless you. You give to me, He gives to you. Haha.

MANG KIKO – I give you 20 drips of lechon fat and He gives me P12,000 income in return.

RICHARD – You don’t know Him. He didn’t take up Accounting. He’s poor in Math. As long as you give, He gives back times ten. (Proudly) God gave to you because I asked him.

MANG KIKO – Maybe so. Hey, hey, bless me again.

Richard blesses him. Onlookers begin to laugh. Next day, Mang Kiko sells 14 lechons. Richard’s God-bless-you image yielding big income goes viral. He is now famous. He is giving God-bless-you’s to vendors left and right. The mini-eatery quadruples its income. The juice vendor sells a record 44 coconuts. Aling Fely quintuples her egg sales and is diversifying into balut (fertilized duck’s egg, a Filipino delicacy). Aling Donna, the lechon tycoon, sells a staggering 46 lechons in one day. Richard is getting fat, eating all the lechon he can, no longer drips or tails, but the real McCoy.

The Lord uses the poor to sanctify the rich and the rich to feed the poor, especially during a pandemic, when so much is demanded from both the rich and the poor to share, spiritual bounties in exchange for material bounties. God bless you, Richard, Lechon Kid of La Loma, wherever you are. Spread God’s grace to the rich.

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