[Rewind #AwaNgDiyosPH] Love of God is beggar’s evangelizing message

 

 

For Easter, The Filipino Connection releases articles from its special edition on the apostolic visit of Pope Francis last January 15-19, 2015.

 

 

MANILA—Barefoot, dirty and wet, 69-year-old Nenita Prado did not mind the people passing by her. Why would these moneyed people approach Aling Nenita?

She’s a sight of pity: Prado’s picking up trash, specifically plastic bottles and some leftover food coming from a mostly middle-class, young crowd inside the University of Santo Tomas where Pope Francis visited.

She took the chance of seeing Pope Francis inside the Philippines’ only pontifical university. The Pope’s sight was Prado’s source of joy that rainy January 18. Further joy came when she saw —and picked up— lots and lots of plastic bottles at UST’s vicinity.

She found a big plastic sack and, unhesitatingly, scooped mineral water bottles. She hauled two big sacks of those bottles. Reaching UST’s Quadricentennial Square that’s some 40 meters from a grandstand where the Pope spoke, she kept on picking up the trash.

A security person called her attention: “Bawal iyan lola (That’s not allowed, grandma).” I am not doing anything bad, she replied. Prado, wearing initially high-heeled sandals, kept on picking the plastic bottles, barefoot.

Nenita Pardo, after hearing Pope Francis speak at UST, immediately picks up plastic bottle inside the Catholic university's campus. But his evangelizing message while picking up trash only but affirms the pope's message: Learn from the poor (photo by EFIGENIO CHRISTOPHER TOLEDO IV /The Filipino Connection)

Nenita Pardo, after hearing Pope Francis speak at UST, immediately picks up plastic bottle inside the Catholic university’s campus. But his evangelizing message while picking up trash only but affirms the pope’s message: Learn from the poor (photo by EFIGENIO CHRISTOPHER TOLEDO IV /The Filipino Connection)

She then searched for a hard rock. Good thing some female students gave her one. Unhesitatingly, Prado went to an area where there’s a metal barricade, knelt, and pounded the bottles with the rock.

Hindi ko madadala ng malaki yan (I cannot bring home that sack of plastic bottles in their normal form),” Prado says while drubbing her bottles.

This resident of Bulacan province is used to the music of hammering mineral water bottles. But why on earth would she pummel those?

Panggatong ko sila, anak. Mabilis kasi makaluto ang plastic kaysa sa kahoy (The plastic bottles are an effective firewood; they cook the food quickly),” she explains, not knowing that burning plastics releases dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer and respiratory diseases.

Then the fact of life, economic hardship, sets in. Who cares if people look at me doing this, Prado says. “Hindi na ito kahiya-hiya (This is not shameful).”

Prado, a widow, is a mother of ten children who are part of the entrepreneurial poor. At Bulacan, she handles a bahay paupahan (apartments for rent) and manages a small sari-sari store. Her children know her picking up of the trash, and will never cease to scold her.

As for the crushed plastic bottles, Prado uses them as firewood while cooking underneath their mango tree in Bulacan. When she picks up newer bottles from her suki (frequent source of those bottles), Prado doesn’t feel embarrassed.

The Lord’s with her, she says. “Hindi na ito kahiya-hiya (I have nothing to be ashamed of),” Prado says, though her children scold her every time she collects those empty plastic bottles.

Never mind the muddy dress and the greasy feet, no matter what people tell her, Prado says. God will not get angry at her for being “dirty.”

Hindi bale nang marumi damit ko. Sasabihin ba ng Poon na bakit ka marumi? Hindi magagalit ang Poon na marumi ka. Hindi! (Who cares if I look dirty? Will the Lord scold you for being filthy? He will not get mad at you for being dirty!)”

Shameless faith amid economic adversity is one lesson Prado gave, something which Pope Francis told thousands assembling at Santo Tomas before she started picking mineral water bottles.

“Real love allows you to spend yourselves, to leave your pockets empty,” Pope Francis said.

What followed was Pope Francis’ dare to the mostly middle-class crowd: “Become a beggar… (Learn) how to beg, to learn how to receive with humility.”

“Learn to be evangelized by the poor, by those we help: the sick, orphans. They have so much to give us. Have I learned how to beg? Or am I self-sufficient? Do I think I need nothing? Do you know you too are poor? Do you know your own poverty and your need to receive? Do you let yourselves be evangelized by those you serve? This is what helps you mature in your commitment to give to others. Learn how to open your hand from your very own poverty,” Pope Francis said, in Argentinian Spanish.

Prado heard that loud and clear: Before picking up the trash after the Papal encounter with the youth, she was “lucky,” she says, to stand at the middle of UST’s grandstand, just near the stage.

After the event, without any shame, she brought the two sacks of crushed plastic bottles and some leftover food to a church in Tondo, Manila to celebrate her birthday last Jan. 20. She’ll also buy miniature images of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus)

Yes, she even brought with her some leftover food, trash coming from Pope Francis’ encounter with the youth at UST —all for Prado’s for pet dogs. “I am very happy today!”

 

 

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About JEREMAIAH OPINIANO