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PGH valedictorian speaks

Marissa was selling fruits on a plastic sheet on the ground. No more pushcart. That meant less food for six kids.

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This story is inspired by the valedictory address of Omid Siahmard of Philippine General Hospital (PGH) class 2021.

Rudy went out to the PGH Taft Avenue gate to buy his regular snack. There was about a dozen street vendors scattered all around. He approached Marissa, a 54-year-old widow.

Rudy: How are your six children?

Marissa: Always hungry. Here’s your regular order — six squid balls for P30.

Ester, Marissa’s 5-year-old daughter, the lookout on duty on that day, appeared from nowhere and screamed, “Pulis, pulis.” Suddenly, there was total panic. Vendors scampered, quickly packing their wares. Fresh vegetables lying on a plastic sheet on the ground were instantly wrapped and hauled away. Second-hand cellphones for sale were dumped into a plastic bag. The vendors had rehearsed how to pack their goods in minutes. When the police arrived, they caught a few, and confiscated their wares.

Marissa: Have mercy, Mr. Policeman. Just give me back my pushcart.

Policeman: Get it back at the police precinct. It is crowded here. People can no longer pass through.

Ester: Mommy, they took my sampaguita flowers.

Marissa: Do you also need to confiscate the child’s flowers? You are so cruel.

Policeman: That’s included.

Weeping, Marissa hugged Ester. Ester freed herself from her mommy’s grasp, and ran toward the pushcart being hauled away, grabbing the sampaguita flowers, and sticking out her tongue at the policeman. She disappeared instantly into the crowd.

Marissa: (Whispering to herself.) I am so proud of my daughter.

Policeman: What did you say?

Marissa: Nothing. I said you are cruel to the poor, and ask for bribes from the rich.

Rudy: (When the policemen had left.) Aling Marissa, the driver of the police car is the millionaire owner of the mall. I think he thinks he is losing customers because of street vendors.

Marissa: Why are they like that? We earn so little compared to their millions.

The next day, all the vendors were back. The police came regularly every month or so. The vendors were organized. They had a set of kids as lookouts. Marissa was selling fruits on a plastic sheet on the ground. No more pushcart. That meant less food for six kids, and the burden of carrying back home her heavy leftover fruits. On her mommy’s birthday, Ester bought a giant second-hand backpack with rollers from her flower income. Marissa was in tears.

After five years as a medical student at PGH, Rudy disappeared. But suddenly returned one day.

Rudy: Aling Marissa, I miss your squid balls. This is my girlfriend Rose.

Marissa: No more squid balls since I’ve lost my pushcart. Just fruits.

Rudy: We are both doctors now at Manila Doctors on U.N. Avenue. If you get sick, come over. No charge for you.

Ester: (Giving a rose to Rose.) A rose for Rose.

Access Omid’s valedictory address at m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10220394746038194&id=1216912036.

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