Half past eleven in the morning when I bid my new acquaintances farewell. I had half hour of a leisurely walk back home, seeking cover from time to time to escape the heat. I forgot to bring with me a baseball cap to shield my head from the scorching rays of the noontime sun.
A hundred fifty meters later, I passed by the elementary school where some of my godchildren attended classes. As soon as I saw kids gleefully running around the premises, I accurately guessed it was lunch time.
“Ninong, why are you here?” It was the six-grader godson who noticed my presence.
“He wants to see my teacher,” teased another godson, the ever-annoying fifth grader, riding his bicycle while circling me around.
“Do you have change, Ninong?” the third grader goddaughter asked, her palm opened wide for any grace coming her way.
“We eat lunch together, Ninong,” the fourth-grader godson informed me. He was the meekest of the four.
“I am hungry so you have to feed me,” I said, catching them off guard with my remark. “I am sure your leftovers are enough for me.”
They stared at one another as if asking themselves what has gone into me, visiting them and partaking of their lunch.
“Where have you been, Ninong?” the eldest asked. “You don’t come to school often.”
“I went for a walk earlier. I am on my way back home.”
“He’s probably looking for our would-be Ninang.”
They all grinned at the prospect. I did not react as if I did not hear anything. Better let the subject be forgotten the soonest.
“Well, what are you waiting for? Eat now. I am starving.”
They were considerate enough not to make me wait for the leftovers. Instead, they gave me the covers of their lunchboxes and left portions for my share.
“This is fun,” quipped the only girl in the group. “We should do this often.”
As I watched them eat, I felt young again. I could vividly recall how my childhood was filled with similar innocent experiences, unmindful of problems, both local and abroad. Thinking only of entertaining activities was programmed in my brain.
Half hour later, everything was consumed, no food was wasted.
“If you are still hungry, tell me. We could buy some bread if you want.”
Their faces lit up. They were always receptive to the word ‘buy’ especially if it was I who presented the offer.
“The ice cream vendor is just outside the school gate,” the fifth grader said, eliciting nods from the other three.
“So, what are we waiting for?” I said, leading them the way.
When we reached the ice cream cart, there were small children, most probably first graders, waiting for their turn. But I noticed the vendor was not doing anything to serve them.
“Is there a problem here?” I asked, handing the man a hundred-peso bill.
“They do not have money.”
Of course, the man was there for business, not charity.
“Ninong, look at them. I am sure they will cry if they see us eating.”
I counted them plus my godchildren. Right, no more change for the hundred.
“Please give them smaller cones,” I suggested so everyone would get their share. “Give me the last one if there’s still something left.”