Running, walking, a simple-dressed uptight man, late twenties, carrying gifts bought with hard-earned money planned a pleasant and enjoyable Noche Buena.
“I’ve got to move fast or else the market would be closed and I don’t have time to buy coconut and malagkit (rice cake). Alicia requested me to buy this stuff before going home, ” Isaias murmured remembering what his wife ordered as he passed by Sta. Cruz church at exactly six hours before Christmas.
Isaias is an artist in a printing press in one of the business firms in Binondo. He receives a measly monthly compensation for every printing job that he makes… Christmas cards, memorabilias, gift items that need to be enticed with famous quotations. This time the Chinese owner promised to give Christmas bonus to all his laborers. Isaias was fortunate. His works were impressive and marvelously crafted. So most customers acquire his service.
By this time, he caught up with heavy human traffic in Avenida. So called last minute shoppers, they all crammed to get the choicest gifts in department stores money could buy. Carriedo was flourishing with vendors selling anything ranging from small figurines to imitation leather bags. He had to reach Quinta Market so he turned to a small callejon to reach his destination.
“My family is already waiting for me. My kids would surely what I brought for them,” he sighed as he looked as his small bag loaded with plastic toys and other kidstuff.
Little did he know that someone was following him. Not too far but trying to get his attention. Shoe lace turned loose. He paused for a moment to fix it when suddenly he felt a poke at his back.
“Mama, Meri Krismas! (Sir, Merry Christmas!),” a three or four year old, dark-skinned child, clad in t-shirt covering his whole body stretching his left hand begging for alms. Knowing a typical mendicant, Isaias did not bother to pry upon the lad’s family demise.
He dug deep in his pocket to look for small coins. “Well, this is a season for kids, so they say,” he got a few peso coins, immediately placed it in the lad’s hand and started to trek the road.
“Salamat po, Mang Isaias (Thank you Mr. Isaias)!” the boy uttered. Upon hearing that, the man was stunned! Never did he mention his name to the boy. Isaias is not a common Filipino name. He never heard of any popular movie star with that screen name. Pausing for a deep breath, he looked back at the boy’s direction. Alas, the kid was gone!
He was sorely frightened. “How could he have known my name?” He then decided to look for him. But his efforts proved futile. The child he met was already drowned in a river of people in that busy street. going back to what he was supposed to accomplish, he directed his eyes on the road. Still, flashes of the boy’s face appeared in his mind.
“Oh, well. Maybe my ears need to be cleaned,” he shrugged.
All of a sudden, “Looking for me, Mang Isaias?” The man was startled! That small boy suddenly reappeared from nowhere! “Who are you? How did you know my name? Why…..?“, questions crisscrossing his mind, eager to receive an answer.
“I’m just a small boy, Mang Isaias. I should not be concerned about other people. But I feel so neglected and lonely.” His innocent face frowned as if the world is in his hands.
“Why did you say that?“, he asked enthused as he kneeled down to get a good look at his face. “This is Christmas! You still have time to beg for other people’s money. Where is your family?”
“Come now, Mang Isaias. People have been so engrossed and busy with what to buy for others, what to get from their friend, what to decorate their houses with, what to wear during mass. Their so call Christmas spirit stinks. They don’t have time to think about me.“, the poor boy replied.
“Look at you. Have you thought about me? All you want is to spend your time with your family. You prepare for your midnight feast. You go to mass only to yawn loudly without shame and sometimes sleep during the sermon. You’re busy for yourself,” the boy’s seemingly all-knowing voice asserted.
He was aghast at his last words. Questions popped his mind. “I thought Jesus said, if we love our neighbors, it means that we’re also loving Him?”
“Yes, I did say that. But have you thought about why I had to be born in this world? That I had to suffer and die so that you will be free?“, he said authoritatively.
Before he knew it, he felt fidgety. “Am I talking to him or to Him?” Mang Isaias was awestruck by the lad’s strong utterances.
“Mang Isaias, try at least to greet me. It’s my birthday anyway,” he pleaded. He turned his back. And then He was gone, engulfed by the dark shadows of the alley.
Mang Isaias reached home with his mind full of thoughts about what he experienced. He bought what he needed and the whole family gathered at the table and prayed. He heard the message loud and clear. He pictured the faithful and joyous event that took place more than 2000 years ago to his kids and how wonderful this Perfect Child came into this world. That is, to win the people back to God.
Before Noche Buena, he asked his whole family to praise, “Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus!”
The reason why? Only he knows…
Note: I wrote this story during my college days. It was published on the Christmas Magazine Edition of The Featinean, the Official Student Publication of Feati University. I was then a member of the Editorial Staff and became its first News Editor.