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By Bai Maleiha B. Candao
By Bai Maleiha B. Candao
This is a short story that shows the face of poverty which anyone can relate to.
The primary aim of life is survival but it is easier said than done. Poverty of the soul is more worse than not having money in the pocket. There comes a point in one's life when life hits us like a hurricane-- depleting us of our strength and determination to survive.
Poverty is both an experience and a lesson in life. It teaches us to value personal industry and the preservation of self-dignity to escape from the dilapidation of the soul.
Mariano is just a typical clerk in a small private company. His salary is not enough to cover all their basic needs including his transportation fare and room rental where the seven members of his family, including him had to squeeze inside.
He earns barely enough to support his growing family. His wife used to be a factory worker but since the birth of their youngest child, the couple decided that Juana should stop working and just stay home to take care of their five growing kids. Pregnant with their sixth child, Mariano has to double his efforts to prepare for the arrival of their new child.
Difficult times consume Mariano's strength.
Most of the time he would borrow money with fifty percent interest to make both ends meet. His income could only afford instant noodles but not sufficient for all of them most especially for pregnant Juana who needs to eat foods with nutritional value.
"Wala akong magawa..mabuti na kesa wala" (I can't do anything..better than no food at all), said Juana.
Juana laundries for her rich neighbors and ignored some physical pain related to her work. She needs to earn for their daily expenses.
Planning the number of her kids has been the cause of constant argument between the couple. Juana decided that after the birth of their sixth child, she will undergo free operation for tubal ligation offered at the nearest public hospital . Tubal ligation is considered to be a permanent method of birth control for women. Realizing perhaps the he has no choice, Mariano agreed to Juana's decision.
However, something happened that tested the couple's strength.
It was one ill-fated night when Mariano had to do overtime works for the company he works for. Alyany Corporation engages with selling processed foods. They have many foreign clients.
While he was engrossed with his work, he heard a loud crash coming from the room of his boss, Mr. Rafael Ginto (not his real name), the company owner. Mariano's work space is located below the office of his boss, so he wasted no time and hurriedly went up to check what happened.
Why was he not informed by the company guard that his boss will be on overtime? Or was it the request of his boss that his presence should be a secret? Why? What was there to hide?
He recalled asking the company security if his boss went home ahead of him. He remembered that the security said yes. While on his way up, Mariano was thinking that maybe it was the wind that caused the loud crash. His boss keep a small flower vase beside his office window and he always forgets to close his window before he leaves his office.
Mariano knows too that lately, he and his work mates noticed some weird changes about Ginto.
He is known to be a fun loving man who has a ready smile for everyone. But lately, he leaves the office when no one else is around and stays late until the wee hours of the morning.
When Mariano was about to knock on the door of his boss, he heard a loud gunshot. It made his heart beat faster and stopped where he stood. He hesitated to knock or open the door. But he got worried about his boss.
He slowly opened the door knob and called his boss's name. No answer.
The room was dark and he could not who was inside. He turned on the light and he stood back in fear. He saw his boss slumped on his desk with blood oozing from his head.
He was startled at first after he saw the 45 caliber pistol at the right hand of the victim. Ginto committed suicide.
Mariano managed to call the police before he wasted no time in carrying the body of his boss outside the office to save his life. He wanted to bring his boss to the hospital. Unfortunately the company driver has gone home and the company security does not know how to drive, neither he.
No ambulance came so he had to transport his boss through a taxi only to be declared dead on arrival at the nearby hospital.
The police arrived in a short while. All employees looked absorbed in asking each other what happened. Mariano is still seated at his office desk with a sad and frightened look. His white shirt is still full of blood for he has not gone home yet to change. He still shakes in fear and pity for their kind boss.
The police took hold of the gun allegedly used by Ginto when he committed suicide. But the whole staff wonder why their jolly and kind boss had to end his life. Was their a foul play? Ginto kept his personal money inside a vault and probers saw that the vault was emptied to the last centavo. Questions poured in and Mariano, being the only one present during the incident, was considered a suspect. He was interrogated in the police station for long hours.
Juana is worried that her husband has not come since last night. She tried calling the office but there was no reply. The line was cut off and she had no choice but to wait for Mariano to explain why he was not home. While she was engrossed with worries for Mariano, she heard slow steps headed to their door. She stood up and opened the door and blurted when she saw her husband's shirt covered with blood.
"Oh My God Mariano! What happened to you?"
"Don't worry Juana, I am fine. I need to sit down first. I feel so weak".
Ginto's wife, Elenita, arranged a decent burial for him. But she wants more probe on the incident. She named Mariano as a possible suspect since he was there at the time of the incident. She recalled to the police that Mariano approached his husband many times to ask for a raise but he was declined by her husband. But when she was asked by the police about the observations of the company employees why her husband had noticeable weird changes in his behavior before his death, she evaded the issue.
Juana fed the children early for dinner so that she and her husband could talk about what really occurred in the office. She did not want to upset the kids. Mariano lied down in their wooden bed covered with a two-layered balikbayan boxes used by overseas foreign workers to send gifts for their loved ones in the Philippines. It is a box made of corrugated fiberboard, paper-based consisting of a fluted corrugated sheet and one or two flat liner boards for shipping containers. Juana topped the boxes with a blue soft bed sheet which was given by the rich lady as a gift during the last holidays.
Juana is a loving mother and wife. She does her best to make everything comfortable for her family. She has served as Mariano's inspiration for being an understanding and a loyal wife to him.
Mariano narrated with tears what really happened. Innocent and caught in the situation which he has no knowledge of, he told Juana about his worries that he might get imprison for a crime he has not committed. They have no means to pay a lawyer and what if he gets convicted? Who would take care of his family? His wife is pregnant. He agonized silently the whole night without showing his wife how affected he was. Just like a protective husband, he would choose to suffer in silence than make his Juana worry.
Elenita succeeded to put Mariano in prison. As if the lady wanted to hold someone responsible for the murder of her husband. But was it really a murder or a suicide? She needed an alibi and someone to point as culprit for the millions of pesos stolen inside the volt of her husband, Rafael Ginto.
But was it only Rafael who knew the code to unlock the volt that contained millions of pesos? There is no way to find that out now for Rafael is dead. A dead man tells no tales.
His ten years in jail had taught Mariano how to be tough in life. His wife and kids ocassionally visited him including his youngest who took after his features. He murmured to himself that he will do everything to get pardon for he had been good while inside the prison, avoiding any form of strife by making friends with his all prison mates.
God's justice works slowly but sure. Simon Afurer, the driver of Ginto's family confessed to the crime after ten years of carrying the guilt in his heavy chest. Simon confessed that he and Elenita, the widow of Rafael Ginto, had an affair for many years beyond the knowledge of the latter. He also admitted that it was Elenita who taught him how to unlock the vault to rob Rafael to the last penny.
Simon added that when Rafael caught them in the act one night, the latter decided to divorce his wife and promised not give her even a dime. Elenita Sininla was a bar girl when she and Rafael met. Rafael's family was opposed to him marrying Elenita charging her that she was only after Rafael's money.
Elenita knew that she could not pretend any longer. She covered her guilt by telling her friends in their social circle that she was maltreated by her in-laws which was a complete lie for despite the fact that Ginto's family hate her, they never showed it to her out of respect for their late sibling.
It was Elenita who always started the conflict in the family. Through the years, Rafael sided with her, perhaps not only for his love for Elenita, but owing to his inability to procreate a child. Their family doctors confirmed that he cannot be a father at all.
Rafael was faithful to Elenita and gave her everything she desired. Only she and Rafael knew how to unlock the vault inside the company office.
Owing to Simon's admission of guilt for the crime, Mariano was freed and the court ordered Elenita to pay Mariano and his family more than enough to start a decent life and business for his kids and wife.
Simon said that he planned the crime to look as if it was a suicide but when Mariano entered the scene after the incident, that was when he decided to tell Elenita to divert the focus of the probe from suicide to robbery with murder. That was the only way, according to Simon, to justify why the money got lost. However, his conscience haunted him day and night most especially by the knowledge that he and Mariano used to be very good friend because. Simon is the godfather of Mariano's eldest son.
The court found Elenita and Simon guilty of the crime Murder and they were sentenced to life imprisonment. (END)
(All the names mentioned in this story are fictitious but the entire context was based on a true account).