My story about a sampaguita girl

I replied, 'I don't have any money. I've just been robbed'

May 12, 2004
Manila, Philippines

At the end of a training day just before nightfall, I was still in a daze as I walked to my car. A very young girl, about seven or eight years old, approached me with several garlands of sampaguita.

“Sir,” she pleaded (in Tagalog), “please buy my sampaguita so that I can go home.”

I stared at her wilted sampaguitas. Bothered by the events of the night before, I was at a loss for my usual dismissive and weary answer to street vendors, beggars, and their ilk.

I replied instead, “I don’t have any money. I’ve just been robbed.”

The night before, my two helpers had carted away a heavily-armored safe from my condo. They got my big freezer bag made of ballistic nylon and placed the safe inside and carted it away. I had naively thought that the safe was too heavy to lift, so I never bothered to have it bolted to the floor. More than a dozen watches, passports, tickets for an upcoming trip were gone. And cash. I had just withdrawn a bundle the day before.

A quizzical expression crossed the girl’s grimy but determined face, an expression that quickly melted into a look of infinite compassion. She again reached her hand out and offered me her garlands. “Here sir, please just take my sampaguita, you don’t need to pay me.”

Stunned, I took the flowers, reached for whatever bills I had, and offered what must be for her the equivalent of several days’ work. She stared at the money but didn’t take the payment. “No, sir, please just take them,” she proffered resolutely. She then turned and ran away, leaving me clutching her bunch of sorry flowers.

As my driver and I slowly wound our way through the Manila traffic, many thoughts raced through my head. Perhaps the girl’s leftover flowers from a day’s toil could have been the equivalent of an additional galunggong or a kilo of rice for dinner. Or perhaps it could have bought enough pan de sal for her family’s breakfast the following morning.

But to this little girl, my loss was far more important than missing her meal.

At seven or eight and without the benefit of education, she guarded in her tiny street-hardened heart a greater sense of nobility and kindness than me, who was more abundantly blessed.

At the oddest times, and through the humblest of mediums, my awesome God resurrects and always finds the time to speak gently to me.

Dedicated to Dinah Salonga, our BFF who was first at the scene of the crime, and Grace Bordon Buan… sorry our tickets got stolen, and we missed our trip

About author


The author is a psychologist, banker, restaurateur, musician, international consultant—but he realizes, he tells, that he "won't leave anything behind save for sundry scraps of his soul captured in words."

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