(This article is inspired by a story in the Internet without an author.)
Manolito, a homeless 15-year-old orphan, lived alone in Plaza Ferguson in Ermita, Manila. He slept on a flattened cardboard box underneath a bench. One night, like an angel from heaven, policeman Sergeant Leandro rescue him from his poverty.
eastwind journals, June 23, 2022 (archives tr262)
By Bernie V. Lopez, firstname.lastname@example.org
SGT. LEANDRO – Hey, no one is allowed to sleep in this park.
MANOLITO – Where should I go, sir? I have no home, no family. From here to Plaza Cervantes, there are dozens of children like me who live in cardboard boxes. Why don’t you tell all of us where to go?
SGT. LEANDRO – What happens if it rains?
MANOLITO – The bench is my roof. When the rain is too strong, there is a better shelter two blocks away. My cardboard box is my umbrella.
SGT. LEANDRO – Okay, you can stay here, but don’t tell anyone I gave you permission.
Leandro would visit Manolito, and give him ten pesos or a Jollibee sandwich. He had adopted him. One day, Manolito gave Leandro a perfumed rosary made of silver, which he found on a bench. Leandro cherished the ‘gift’ and prayed a decade of the rosary for Manolito every evening as he made his rounds. The homeless boy somehow sanctified the cop.
Once, extremely hungry, Manolito stole a loaf of bread from a bakery. The baker caught him, and reported it to the police, who arrested him. He resisted, so the policeman hit him with his baton. He was bleeding on the forehead, which attracted a big crowd. They all followed the policeman to the precinct. The next day, the courtroom was jammed with people. A journalist with a video camera was present.
JUDGE – Did you steal the bread, boy?
MANOLITO – Yes, sir.
JUDGE – Why?
MANOLITO – Silly question, sir. I was so hungry.
JUDGE – Where do you live?
MANOLITO – Plaza Ferguson, sir, no family, no home.
JUDGE – Why don’t you look for a job?
MANOLITO – I wash cars at Padre Faura, good business, but policemen shooed me away.
JUDGE – (Seeing Leandro enter the courtroom.) Do you know Sgt. Leandro over there?
MANOLITO – Never saw him before, sir.
JUDGE – But Leandro is in Plaza Ferguson every night. How long have you been staying there?
MANOLITO – About a year, sir.
JUDGE – You have never seen this policeman before?
MANOLITO – Never saw him before, sir.
JUDGE – (More curious people entered the crowded courtroom. The judge was now speaking more to the crowd rather than to the boy.) Stealing bread is not a crime when the life of a child is at stake. The boy is innocent. All persons in this courtroom, including myself, are guilty of neglect and indifference. I am fining all people present here ten pesos each. Leandro, please collect the money. Here is my share. (Handing 100 pesos.)
The loud bang of the gavel echoed across the hearts of the crowd. Leandro went around collecting. No one complained. Some gave 20 or 50 pesos.
JUDGE – Leandro, I also order you to collect money from each commercial establishment in Plaza Ferguson. Any amount is good. Tell them it is a request, not an obligation, to help this boy who was injured for being hungry.
All this was on camera. The news came out on TV that evening, causing a stir, and hit frontpage in several papers the next day. Leandro raised P80,000 at the plaza. With the small fortune, Manolito decided to give food and cash to fellow street kids all the way to Plaza Cervantes.
An orphanage hired him to gather street kids in the Ermita district. There was not enough space in the orphanage, but they installed four lugaw (rice porridge) sidewalk stations in Ermita, all on mobile wheeled carts. From the leftover of the P80,000, Manolito installed two more. A woman offered to pay for six more.
Due to more support from the public, the 12 lugawan started offering sandwiches. Manolito installed a bulletin board at each lugawan so establishments could offer odd jobs to the kids. It was giving a fishing rod to them, not just fish. Now, Manolito had a job and a home. See how the Lord works through a judge, a boy, a policeman and media to sanctify an indifferent the world.
There were about 80,000 homeless street kids in Metro-Manila two decades ago. Today, it may have doubled. Do your part. If you see dirty street kids, give a sandwich or ten pesos and a Hail Mary, and the Lord will bless you ten-fold.
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