A poor man’s refuge

It’s past eight in the evening. The skies, yet again, feed their rage upon earth’s unholy ground, as if they have just realized that it needs cleansing. Everyone scampers about between the streets of Roxas and Claveria – students, professionals, and workers alike – outwitting each other for a ride, hurrying to escape the rain’s fury. Their faces all sketch one picture – the need to be home, safe and warm. Lucky for me I’m already in a taxi, just waiting for the green light to burst the bubble traffic.

I continue to gape at the restless throng of people. Oh, pity them. If people were not only capable of crimes, I would have offered them to ride with me. But then again, who does that in the real world?

Just as I was about to resign to my on and off self-centered being, something caught my attention. My brows creased at the sight beyond my fogged up window. Behind them, where darkness consumes like a parasite, a barely clothed old man, watches the eager crowd as he lies down on the cold, concrete side-walk, covering himself with a “blanket” so as not to get wet. A blanket with the big bold letters upfront: SunStar Davao.

If a thousand trees are equal to one or two pads of paper, the newspaper on the other hand, is equivalent to one or five lives in a street.

For a child, a newspaper is a plaything. For a politician, it is his guide. For environmentalists, it is another momentum for recycling. However, for a poor old man sprawled on the street, it is much more vital than any information or usage we can acquire from it. It’s his pillow, his blanket, his plate, his umbrella, or even his home.

Everyday we see newspapers sold everywhere, ranging from 10 pesos to 25 pesos per copy. They are in our front doors, in fast food chains and restaurants, hotel lounges, and on someone’s armpit.

But then again, we also witness beggars, lost souls, children, mothers, fathers, and elderly alike along the streets of Claveria, San Pedro, or anywhere they deem to call their personal space. They just pick these newspapers up and sleep on it.

Without a care of onlookers’ snide remarks nor complaints, not that they have a choice. While we, the privileged, still complain, even if our beds are king-sized and comfortable. We simply cannot get enough even if we have roofs above our heads, and four-cornered rooms to shield us from the night’s unpredictable haze.

Pity that man. No home, no family, no room, no bed, no blanket. All he has is a newspaper.

Newspapers are not just meant for reading, it seems. To some of us, it may only be a mere paper that we leaf through for a few minutes over breakfast or brewed coffee and then discard it, but for someone like the homeless, aimless wanderers on the streets, it is their shelter, their sanctuary, their refuge.

(As published in SunStar Davao | October 25, 2009, Davao City, Philippines)

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