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I just realized how sheltered I have been. I’m nineteen and it’s only my first time to commute alone. How sad. Well, doing real commuting that is. Of course I’ve been commuting when I’m in Katipunan, how do you think I’ve been able to meet up with my friends or go to parties? But it was always via cabs or the train. Not too tricky. Unlike riding shuttles from the province of Laguna to Makati, which I’ve been doing for the past week. Before I could do that, I had to be ‘trained’, so to speak, by my brother to have a stern look and dress simply, so as not to attract too much attention. And stop losing my gadgets too, thinking if I put it down on the seat and forget to put it back in my bag I’ll find it exactly where I left it.

So for the past three days, I’ve been dropped off by my brother at the terminal of the shuttle that takes most working people to Ayala Avenue, Makati. It’s always brimming with workers either too sleepy to care or continuing where they left off in preparing themselves for work like putting makeup or fixing the folds of their polo. I had to blend in and stop smiling at everyone and look like a freaking tourist, so I wear my shades and look far away to avoid anyone’s eyes.

While waiting for the next shuttle, there is always this old man with two plastic bags in hand with his kakanin. The first time I encountered him, I thought he was just another one of those vendors feeding on your pity and conscience. But something about him allowed for my hard coating to crack, to expose that vulnerable part of me that my family warned me never to expose. I gave in; I pitied that lolo who had to wake up early to catch the workers in the hopes of selling his kakanin. He looked genuine; not the kind you see knocing on your car window asking for some spare change. He was actually making an effort to make a living – amidst his condition, hunched back and barely able to make it to the waiting shed to us.

The least I can do for him is to buy his kakanin. I’ve been so absorbed in my own perfect, protected world revolving around school, house, and everything comfortable. Then I look at him, and my heart crumbles. I hate it that I’m exposing this side of me, but thankful as well that in this experience I’m able to see how lucky I truly am. Truth be told, in a tray of pichi-pichi that I bought for him this morning, worth only 12pesos, I don’t think he’s earning enough to get himself by. And his family, if he has any.

Everytime I look at the pichi-pichi inside my bag, I feel a mash of emotions. Maybe I shouldn’t have fallen for his trap? But then again he was genuinely respectful when he walked across the benches offering his goods. Maybe I’ll learn how to ignore the ramming I feel against my hard coating, or maybe the hard coating is there to be taken down.

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