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Golden values from a ‘basurero’

05:05 AM May 29, 2018

A recent news story about Emmanuel Romano, a garbage collector (“basurero” in Filipino), can tell us about our own values in life.

Romano was collecting garbage inside a subdivision in Baliuag, Bulacan, when he found a trash bag containing a huge sum of money: P427,798 to be exact.

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He was in urgent need of money at the time because his newborn child was sick. Being poor, he could have entertained the thought that the money was heaven-sent.

A garbage man’s job is tough, demanding and underappreciated that could make anyone feel beaten and demeaned. Think about the daily task of collecting, sorting out, transporting and disposing not only pieces of hazardous junks such as broken glass, rusty galvanized iron, splintered wooden boards, pesticides, and discarded medical materials, but also unsightly and foul-smelling matters including rotten food and animal manure and carcasses. If one is faint-hearted, these things could assault not only one’s senses of sight and smell, but also one’s self-worth and dignity.

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Poverty, like prosperity, is one of the hardest tests in life. It is said that a man’s character is revealed in the way he handles wealth. If the human heart reserves its biggest place for material wealth, it can lead to moral and spiritual failure. Deprivation, on the other hand, can embitter a person and push him to think of getting even with society by coveting other people’s possessions, which also results in self-destruction.

When Romano found the bag of money, he decided to do what was clearly right: find its owner. He sought the advice and help of Joel Miranda, a Baliuag barangay captain. It turned out that Miranda had received information about a couple who reported to Baliuag’s sanitation unit about a bag containing money but was mistaken as trash for disposal.

The grateful couple rewarded Romano with P20,000 and gave P1,000 each to the other garbage men in his team. Romano was also given a more stable position in the sanitation unit. Barangay captain Miranda was quoted in the news as saying to this effect: “Because of his honesty and faithfulness to others and to himself, a lot of blessings will come his way.”

Sadly, however, not everyone was impressed by Romano’s good deed. There were those who thumbed it down as unwise and naive. “It should have been finder’s keeper,” they quipped. Others commented that honesty no longer makes sense in a society where not a few of those in power have no qualms about committing grave acts of dishonesty and carrying out manipulative means of appropriating for themselves other people’s money and possessions.

These criticisms notwithstanding, Romano’s story has inspired a greater number of people who are thankful for the golden values of honesty and altruism that he has exemplified.

The Bible tells us that God had chosen the humble of the earth to share in the riches of His grace. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones and raised up the humble” (Luke 1:52).

Jesus said in Luke 12:15: “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Along this line, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Avarice and happiness never saw each other; how, then, should they become acquainted?”

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In returning the money to its rightful owners, Romano revealed his great strength of spirit, heart, will, and character. He ignored his urgent financial need for the sake of doing what was right and pleasing to others, to himself, and to God. He works amid waste and refuse, but his character remained clean and steadfast.

Garbage collectors help much in keeping our surroundings clean and free of pollutants. How, then, can our world survive without a rare breed of garbage collectors like Emmanuel Romano?

* * *

Prosy Badiola Torrechante once worked as a community relations officer for a food production company.

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