I met these boys while I was tending my mother’s sari-sari store.
“Maupay!” they called out. “Maupay“, in Waray dialect, means “good.” But when we visit another person’s house or go to a store to buy something, “Maupay” means “Tao po.”
The boys wanted to buy “ice water,” or simply, cold water. Since we do not sell “ice water,” I offered to give them water from our fridge.
While they were drinking, I noticed a pedicab parked in front of the store.
“You drove that pedicab here? Namamasahero kam?” I asked them.
Their answer, a “Yes”, felt like a stab in my heart.
“Who drives it?” I asked.
“Ako,” answered the older one. He was thin and I estimated he was not tall enough to reach the bicycle’s pedal when seated properly on the driver’s seat. How could he maneuver a pedicab? I could only imagine how hard he pedals when he is going uphill or on a steep road. Pedicabs in my province are different from the ones you see in Metro Manila. Mas mataas ang bicycle na gamit sa pedicab sa amin, minsan nga parang racer bike.
I offered them some packs of biscuits. I learned that they are brothers and they have 2 younger sisters. They are orphans so their sickly grandmother, a labandera, is taking care of them. The older one drives a pedicab to help bring food to the table.
“I help him sometimes. I go with him. I push the pedicab when he is having a hard time, especially if the load is heavy,” said the younger one.
I took a photo of them as they pedaled away after our short conversation. I noticed the driver did not sit properly as he drove. His legs were still short for the pedals. He managed to look back and give a shy smile. Beyond his smile, I know there are a thousand more hardships he could not tell me…in words.
I wonder how long they will have to do this. I wonder how long their young, fragile bodies will endure. While other boys their age are probably enjoying at the mall or busy playing war games on computers or PSPs, these brothers are out in the streets fighting their own war, pedaling to keep their family afloat.