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Monday, January 9, 2017

Begging Along With My Friend

One day a week or two before Christmas I was walking over to my favorite coffee shop to try to get some studying done. Victoria Mall was quite busy with lots of people trying to sell things along the road to the Christmas shoppers or walking around on the sidewalks. Little kids love to carol and beg around Christmas time and there is no shame in it for them even if their family is not poor. They just want the extra coins to spend on kid things. I have been swarmed several times by a bunch of little boys singing and holding out their hands and nodding their heads to encourage me to get out my purse.

It's also a good time of year for the Badjao many of whom don't have a job besides begging. The Badjao tribe are the 'sea gypsies' who now have stilt houses over the ocean. They have a different language than other Philippinos, and their voices are a rich, deep, sometimes gruff sound. It's a little surprising sometimes to hear a young girl say something and sound like a grown man but it is beautiful in it's own way. They also have lovely characteristic bright colored clothing. I once bought a pair of pants from a Badjao seamstress, though I've never worn them out. A little too bright for me.

Anyway, back to my story, this day before Christmas I was walking up the overpass over the road and saw a couple Badjao mothers with their children begging. They were sitting on cardboard holding out their tin and paper cups saying "Merry Christmas!" and nodding for people to put in some money. I wondered where 'my' Badjao was.

I thought of her this way because I had been the one to help when her baby was born a couple months before. Her name was Tina and, if I remember right, she and her mother(who was also at the birth) were Christians. I love Badjao births because they are usually so fast. There are exceptions but for the most part, Badjao don't even look like they are in labor until suddenly you see a baby coming out! They are so strong. I also loved this birth because, surprisingly, Tina and her mother spoke Visayan and were quite friendly talking to me. When it came time to put a name on the birth certificate, Tina said, "Amy" and I was so proud and honored. My first namesake!
Baby Amy and I
Of course, since the Badjao don't have calendars, she had never come back for her checkups after the birth. I hadn't seen her again although I did give her pictures of us and the baby through a friend of a friend. I remembered that she lived quite a ways away and worked cooking for a feeding program for some other missionaries. I figured I wouldn't see her again. I was a little sad as I crossed the walkway past the other Badjao.

Then I heard, "Hi Amy!" and there she was. She was sitting just around the corner on the steps going down with a huge smile on her face and a happy baby in her arms. Boy, did I get funny looks when I sat down next to her! Apparently white people don't usually beg, let alone sit with a Badjao!

We had a lovely chat, anyway as much as I could understand. I went down to the 7-eleven and got a bag of chips and we ate together and I held her baby. She didn't try to beg from me, just grinned and reminded me the baby was named Amy. Her friend came over and politely asked if I was working at Mercy. I said yes and she pointed out which of her kids was born there. The friend was quite pregnant and informed me she was planning on getting an ultrasound soon at Mercy. Then she excused herself and said she had to get back to begging and hoped I had a Merry Christmas.

I have seen people begging, Badjao and not, who will stop at nothing. They hit their babies to make them cry and look dirty and pretend to be super hungry in order to get more money. Tina and her friend, though, had some kind of class about them. They had huge smiles. I know they needed money just as much as the next family because when Tina gave birth she didn't have another dress to change into. Maybe they have class because they are Christian. Maybe they just respected the people at Mercy because we have always respected them. I hope I didn't mess up her business by being a white person sitting beside her. Needless to say, no one gave her any money while I was sitting there although she did try to beg some. At any rate, I am thankful for that day when I saw her and baby Amy again. After all, not everyone can say they are friends with a beautiful beggar and her chubby namesake baby.