Perfect strangers | Inquirer Opinion
In the Pink of Health

Perfect strangers

Growing up, one of the things that your parents probably taught you was never to talk to strangers. I can only smile inside and reminisce about the many times I failed to heed that advice. Engaging in random conversations has almost always been an enriching experience. Have you ever had those? Brief but memorable enough to cause you to reflect, be grateful for what you have, dispel thoughts of occasional negativity, and best of all, renew your faith in people and be more attuned to what God is trying to tell you.

I sincerely hope you have. In every encounter, you learn more about life and living if you choose to be present.

I met him on my way out of the hospital lobby. He was happily going around in circles, expertly maneuvering his wheelchair near the exit. There was no companion in sight and a little worried that he wandered too far away from a companion, I approached him. “Ayun po yung nanay ko, naka-brown na pantalon.” It was his bright smile and twinkly eyes that easily held and caught my attention, not his severely underdeveloped legs nor his visibly enlarged head. Engaging him in a conversation, I asked if he knew what he was sick of. “Spina bifida at hydrocephalus po.” Impressed with his positivity and wondering who explained his condition to him, he shared that he overheard.

Probing further, the next questions were: if he was attending school, what grade level he was in, and what he wanted to become in the future. “Opo, grade two. Med tech po at doktor!” His mother later told me the reason. He wanted to be in a position that would allow him to give his services for free as a way to thank the people who were helping him. How selfless can this 9-year-old be? How many of us would have such a long-term goal, let alone an altruistic one? We can all take a few pointers from this little man, and how he chooses to look at the world unencumbered by his physical limitations. “Doktora po kayo? Wow, simpleng tao lang po kami, mga OFW po.” How does one define the word simple? I turned to them and said, “Maraming salamat!” One spoke her thoughts out loud, wondering where that was coming from, as they had not given me any personal favors. “Dahil sa tulong ninyo at sakripisyo para itaguyod ang ekonomiya ng bayan.”


That remark brought an unexpected sparkle to their eyes. Maybe this had come from feeling unappreciated, or from hearing that they were not overlooked, and are vital members of the society who help keep the economy afloat. They had a lot of things in common. Both had to leave to provide for their families and, as a consequence, their relationships suffered. They thought little about themselves, with one verbalizing that she would grow old in the profession as the chances of being a success in anything else are quite remote. They were also noticeably unused to being served and hesitant to ask for things that would have made their flight more comfortable. Our steward was gracious and prompt in providing blankets which I requested. Nearing touchdown, they both handed the blankets over and thanked me. “Hindi po ninyo alam na napakalaki pong tulong yung kumot.” She was right, I had no clue that such a simple gesture would hold great meaning for them.

A sibling and her group of friends were having difficulty finding their way in the streets of Paris. They were attending a concert to lend support to a nephew who was part of the orchestra. Chancing upon a man in his 40s who looked Asian, she asked him, “Are you Thai?” to which he replied, ”No, I am Japanese.” After exchanging pleasantries, he offered to accompany them. The venue was two kilometers from where they were. Upon reaching their destination, she turned to thank him. His parting reply, ”It’s my way of making up for the things that my countrymen did to yours.”

A friend was in Changi Airport and rushing to the boarding gate when she happened to look behind her to see a man in crutches. It was evident that each step he took was excruciating from the look on his face. She came to a full stop, approached him, and asked, “Are you a Filipino? Would you need a wheelchair?” In wobbly English, he replied that he was not and that he did request from the airline but was not provided with one. In the plane, after ensuring that he was attended to, she couldn’t help but think how people could just pass him by, oblivious to his pain.

This verse was shared by my sister the morning before you saw this article in print.


“Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for so by doing some unwittingly entertained angels” (Hebrews 13:1-2).

Talking with strangers might not be a bad idea after all.


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