Friday, October 02, 2009

The Bag Lady ,the Flashlight and the Earthquake

Dear insansapinas,

When I was in school, I remember the time when there was an earthquake and our Group (barkada) was in the library doing our book report. The earth shook and the book shelves swayed. In our earthquake drills, we were advised to go under the table for safety. So that’s what we did.

Under the table, our lady friend who was much older than we were (she went back to high school when she was already in her twenty’s) started rummaging inside her tote bag. We often teased her for carrying a big heavy one that another friend asked her everyday what appliance did she bring for a particular day. She would merely respond with a chuckle and a slap on his back," Ikaw Naman."

That afternoon, she was counting the small packs of biscuits inside her bag, some dozens of candies and chocolate bars. Nah, she was not a walking convenience store. It was also a puzzle to us why she brought so much in her bag and yet she rarely ate them. Another friend who became a shrink told us that it must be the “poverty mentality” that made her hoard food to assure herself that she will never be deprived again. The reason why she was late in pursuing her education was because of extreme poverty. Her sister who married a Chinese businessman was the one sending her to school in exchange of working in the restaurant during her free time.

One by one, she gave us a pack of biscuit, a bar of choc-nut and a few pieces of candy.
Surprised, we looked at her. Then the librarian announced that it was safe to go out and asked everybody to proceed to the main door where the security awaited us for safe exit out of the building. We were already out in the grounds when I asked her about the biscuits.

She said that when she was younger , she was trapped in a building during earthquake. She had only one small pack of biscuit on which she subsisted while waiting for the help. From then on, she did not leave the house, without packing some food in her tote bag.

I was touched because at the time when we were under the table waiting for aftershocks, she did not hesitate to share with us her food; scared that we might get trapped under rubbles and become separated from each other.

A few years after, my companion and I were stranded in flood in the City. Traffic did mot move for hours. We were hungry but could not leave the car. We were able to reach home the next day.

That was the time, I remember my friend, the bag lady. So I saw to it that there were stocks of biscuits and water inside my car, rain or shine. I also kept several cans of
biscuits in my office just in case we get stranded.

When I was already a professional and having a meeting in the thirteenth floor of a building with some foreign clients, an earthquake struck it was so strong that our rolling chairs swayed from one side of the conference room to another side nd back.Para kaming naglalaro. Sila nagdasal sa kanilang Diyos.
A colleague whose sense of humor never waned even during adversity remarked, Hoy Diyos din naming yan…while he was holding on to the conference table.

The shaking stopped but the power was out. We had to use the stairwell and it was pitch dark. From that time on, I bring with me a small flashlight. Here in the States, that was one of our give-aways…flashlights that are keychains.

These small stuff are not only good for earthquake calamity. Even in typhoons where people get stranded in places where there are no available food. Remember, the first to go is electricity to avoid accidents . Food may not be available in the next few hours. Sabi nga ng Girl Scouts, be prepared.


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