THE GHOSTLY BEGGAR

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By: Aya Paredes

“Iha, baka naman pwedeng makahingi ng kaunting barya?” asked the old beggar. Her wrinkled face and white-gray hair suggested that she must’ve been in her late sixties. She’s known in our place as Aling Lucilda.

“Hay naku, Aling Lucilda. Ang aga-aga e, nambubuwisit kana agad! Kita mo namang wala pa akong benta, eh. Alis d’yan baka malasin ang tindahan ko!” Aling Joy, the owner of the sari-sari store, lashed out at the poor old lady.

Feeling pity for Aling Lucilda, I handed her my P10. That was the only money I had after buying phone credits at Aling Joy’s store that day. “Sobra n’yo namang sinusungitan, Aling Joy. Kawawa naman ‘yung matanda,” I said to Aling Joy. I couldn’t see why Aling Lucilda should be treated that way.

“Hay naku. Dapat lang ‘yan sa kanya. Itinakwil na ‘yan ng mga anak niya dahil iniwan sila ni Aling Lucilda nang maliliit pa sila. Sumama sa ibang lalaki! O tapos ngayong namatay na ‘yung kinakasama niya, para na siyang palaboy. Ni hindi siya pinansin ng mga anak niyang ngayong malalaki na’t mga titulado na kahit alam na palaboy-laboy na lang siya. Buti nga sa kanya! Hmp!” Aling Joy explained. Still, I couldn’t quite understand why her children would let their mother beg for food. She must have been a bad mother abandoning her children the way she did but the fact remained the same-Aling Lucilda is still their mother.

I have forgotten all about Aling Lucilda after a few months. I became busy and I didn’t see her at all that summer. But recently, I was reminded for her because of an accident that happened to Aling Joy, the store owner. It was 11:30 in the evening and Aling Joy was preparing to close her store. The neighborhood was already quiet and there were just a few people out. She was cleaning her store when she was startled by a shadow behind her.

When she turned around she was relieved-and annoyed at the same time-When she saw that it was just Aling Lucilda in her usual dirty garb. “Tinakot mo naman ako. Gabi na, bakit nandito ka pa?” asked Aling Joy. She noticed that Aling Lucilda’s face shadowed.She could barely see her eyes in spite of the lampposts illuminating the street. “Maawa ka na Joy. Gutom na gutom ako at uhaw na uhaw. Painom naman ng tubig,” said Aling Lucilda in a very weak voice.

Sensing that aling Lucilda was indeed very thirsty and hungry, she asked her to wait for her outside as she went inside the store to get something to give to Aling Lucilda. The store holds a small kitchen in the back and that was where Aling Joy went to look for food and water. She filled a big tumbler with cold water and got a cracker from her pantry. She went out of the kitchen to give the food and water to Aling Lucilda who was still waiting outside the store. However, she was surprised to find Aling Lucilda inside her store occupying a plastic chair. Aling Joy found this strange since she remembered closing the steel gate behind her as she entered her store. Maybe Aling Lucilda was too hungry to wait outside and decided to follow me here, Aling Joy thought.

After consuming the craker and gulping down the water up to the last drop, Aling Lucilda thanked Aling Joy. She asked Aling Joy to tell Aling Lucilda’s children that she didn’t purposely leave them when they were young. She told Aling Joy that her in-laws didn’t approve of her, and that they threatened her that they won’t pay for her children’s education if Aling Lucilda won’t leave them to her in-laws’ care. Being a widow at a very young age, she felt helpless. That’s why she had no choice but to leave her children in order to ensure their future. After hearing Aling Lucilda’s story. Aling Joy felt pity for the old beggar.

She wasn’t aware of the true story behind Aling Lucilda’s abandonment of her family. And she doubts anyone in our place also knew anything about the real story. Fighting back tears, Aling Joy was about to touch Aling Lucilda’s shoulder as a sign of sympathy. But what happened next sent shivers down her spine. Her hands went through Aling Lucilda’ body! Aling Lucilda’s image faded until nothing of her former self was left in sight.

This made Aling Joy scream in fright and sent her running out of her store. The next day, everyone in the block went looking for Aling Lucilda. Aling Joy told Aling Lucilda’s children her story and most of them got worried. They too looked for Aling Lucilda. However, they found no trace of the old beggar in our place. She was never seen again after the incident with Aling Joy. Until now, no one knows what happened to Aling Lucilda.

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