Headline Dec 26, 2015/ ''' WHEN *STUDENTS* GROW UP IN MINUTES '''



IT WAS THE WORST THING that could happen to a pampered ten year old: eight o'clock in the evening, storm raging outside-

Three-digit subtraction homework still undone, home all alone except for the maid, who was working in the kitchen. From time to time I would hear the roar of  tricycle's three stroke engine and-

Rush to the front door of our house in  Quezon City,  Philippines, hoping to see my mother arriving home, but it was always someone else's mom or dad.

I like to think of myself as a grown man, but consternation was eating away at my bravado like a starved piranha devouring its prey. The storm grew stronger. The lights went off. The clock struck nine. I began to cry.

Then the phone rang. I wiped my tears, swallowed my sobs and answered. It was my mother.
''Hello, Carlo,'' she began, ''I'm still.................''

''Where are you?'' I interrupted, fully aware that my agitation was unbecoming for a gown-up.
''I.m here in Glori's with your brother.''

I knew that Glori Supermart was only five minutes from our house. I knew because my dad told me, and estimating distances was grown men's stuff.

''What time will you be home?'' I asked.
''Unless we get a ride, you shouldn't expect us anytime soon.''
''Why don't you take a tricycle home?''
''The tricycle drivers won't accept any passengers.''
''Through that flood? I don't think so.......that's why I called.''
I braced myself.
''Get your raincoat, hail a tricycle and fetch us here,'' she said.
Stunned, I couldn't utter a word. My mother continued.

''Carlo? Is that OK with you?''

Was it OK with me? Was she kidding? It was raining hard, it was dark, and thunder roared every minute   -not that I was scared, but I was only ten. Who knew what danger awaited me in the dark?

''Sure, no problem,'' I replied.
''Great! Bring an umbrella. You might get wet.''

I put the phone down. I couldn't believe I had said Yes. I wanted to kick myself for my arrogance, and I wanted to call back to say I couldn't do it. 

But then I stopped. Do grown men shrink away from challenges? No. And I was a grown man. Right then I resolved to face the Herculean challenge that lay before me:
To commute to a department store five minutes from my home. I felt like a cavalier on a quest, a knight shining armour sallying forth to succour a lady and a child in distress, I put on my yellow  Bugs Bunny  raincoat and stepped out of the house.

The chilly wind hit me in the face and the rain pounded me, Lightning streaked across the sky and thunder boomed. I was scared. I hadn't taken public transportation before, and I didn't know what to do. I recalled newspaper articles about kidnappers who disguised themselves as tricycle drivers. I started to walk back to our house, when a tricycle pulled over beside me.
''Boy, do you need a ride?'' the driver asked.  

I hesitated. The driver wore a transparent raincoat ten sizes too big and had a moustache, I remembered all those actions films where the bad guys sported a moustache, making it easier for the audience to distinguish them from the good guys.

I wanted to say ''No,'' but I knew I might not get another ride if I turned this one away.
''Are you getting in or what?'' the driver asked.The tricycle engine hummed impatiently.
''Yes. To Glori's.'' I said finally.

As we pulled away, I became frantic with worry, What if the driver was a kidnapper? What if he charged me too much? What if he decided to drop me off and I couldn't find my mother or my way back home?

Overwhelmed, I began to pray. It didn't stop me from trembling, but it did ease my fears. The minutes flew by. We reached Glori's.

My mother, who was standing just outside the main entrance, saw me. She took my brother Paolo, who was nine, by her left hand and carried their umbrella with her right. They walked towards me.
'' !WOW!, you're really a big boy now, taking public transportation and all,'' my mother said with a smile.

I would have preferred  ''grown man'' to ''big boy,'' but still I glowed with pride. We all got in. I took the seat behind the driver, as all grown men do. It's the most dangerous position because the person sitting there could easily fall off, so I held on as tightly as I could. Paolo turned to me. ''Kuya, you were really brave today,'' he said.

I smiled nonchalantly. ''It was nothing. Someday you'll do this too.'' He looked at me as if I was a god.

As the tricycle roared through the flooded streets of our neighbourhood, past the stores, the houses and the people, I felt great, I had faced my fears and delivered. I had a brother who admired me, a mother who trusted me and a memory of a little adventure for keeps. I had everything, and I felt invincible. Everything, plus my mum to tuck me in.

''Were you scared/'' she asked me.
''Scared? Me?'' I replied indignantly, ''It was only a five minute ride.''

I looked at her. She was beaming.

Merry Christmas to the World and many more, ever.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Philippines. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society:

''' !WOW!  Power '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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