Sometimes, we tend to take our loose change for granted. Sometimes it seems that loose change have no use for us anymore. Barya lang kasi. We just stick them into our pockets, bring them out when we get home, put the loose change somewhere in the house, and forget where we have put them. Most often, loose change just ends up under the sofa cushions, on top of dressers, and in the consoles of cars. But for some people in my province, loose change means life.
One time I was traveling from Manila to Northern Samar, I had a pleasant very early morning trip while on board a ferry from Matnog, Sorsogon to the port of Allen. The sea was calm and quiet. The air was cold. I easily fell asleep.
More than an hour later, I was awoken by the loud sound of the ferry’s horn. I also heard heavy splashes in the water so I peeked out of the window and saw children swimming and diving. The children were really good swimmers, I think we could find swimming champs from among them.
But this is not all for fun. These children swim and dive for a living. Some of them have stopped going to school and instead spend most of their time waiting for ferries to dock.
Once a ferry docks, they would ask the passengers to throw coins from the deck into the water. Then they would dive in, hoping to get enough coins to help bring food to their family’s table. The more adventurous ones would show some daredevil antics, climbing up the ferry and leaping or somersaulting into the water to get the tossed coins.
Seeing these children, I wondered how long they had to stay in the cold water to earn an amount that’s enough to buy a decent meal for the day. Then I thought of how we take for granted the value of our loose change. I wish we’d all see how these children risk life and limbs for a couple of coins. I’m sure we’ll never look at our loose change the same way again.
My heart sank as I watched these sunburnt children bobbed their head up and down the water. I turned my eyes away from the seashore, towards where the sun was beginning to rise over a ridge of mountains. Somehow, the calming orange beams of the sun created a distraction and soothed my heart.