Lessons from the Marketplace


People walk beside some of the fruit stalls near Guadalupe Market.

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:42, NIV

The Guadalupe Market is a wet market not too far from our place. (A wet market sells fresh meat, fish, produce and other perishable goods—thanks, Internet!) The vendor stalls also spill out onto the streets surrounding the actual building for quite a ways.

However, walking there is not for the faint of heart or sensitive of nose. The journey is a riot of people and cars, noise and dirt. Most of the way lies along EDSA, one of the main roads in Manila.  Buses, jeepneys (large jeeps used to transport an abnormal amount of people crammed into them) and cars crowd EDSA’s lanes, constantly blaring their horns and belching thick black clouds of smoke. The sidewalks are uneven with unusually high curbs, oh-so-much fun if you happen to be pushing a stroller.

Once in the market area, the sidewalks become worse: narrower, crowded with more people, dotted with pools of liquid of unknown origin. Crossing the street poses real danger; jeepneys buffalo their way through the narrow streets with alarming disregard for pedestrians (although to be fair, people swarm though the streets with alarming disregard for the traffic).

And the heat! There will be sweating involved—and more. As we walked back from the market, I wiped sweat away from my brow—and a fine layer of grit.*


Bjorn and Journie stand near a busy street corner around Guadalupe Market.

Of course, some of the best reasons to brave all of the above are the bargains (unless, of course, you defy death at street corners for fun and enjoy noise, pollution and crowds). Fruit here is about HALF the price of our closest grocery store.

But even more valuable was the lesson I learned. On the way back from the market, Bjorn suggested we give some of our produce to a homeless man he frequently sees laying on the sidewalk. I readily agreed.

As we crossed over a bridge and came down the stairs, a young boy, about 10 years old, approached me with cupped hands. He looked clean, healthy, had on a nice, black polo shirt. He didn’t even seem to be begging, really; it seemed more like a brazen approach for money because I was with a definite foreigner (ahem, Bjorn). I felt annoyed.

Then he said, “Para pagkain (‘For food’ in Tagalog).”

I refused.

I took 3 steps and remorse flooded over me. I took out some fruit and asked Bjorn to give it to him, but in that time, Bjorn wasn’t sure where the kid had gone.

We found the homeless man and gave him some food. I was ashamed that I had been so willing to give to him but not the boy.

I had been judgmental and unkind, angry and contemptuous. Contempt never leads anywhere good.

If life has taught me anything, it is that you never really know what’s going on in someone’s life. You don’t know what kind of pain they may be living through. You can’t judge, no matter what they look like, no matter how they act.

You should always give.



*Update: I now realize that “grit” was probably really ash from the Mt. Taal volcanic eruption. So maybe that walk isn’t as bad as I think it is. 😀


3 thoughts on “Lessons from the Marketplace

  1. I recognise the scenario. It is true that you cannot know what is going on in somebody’s life but when it comes to people begging it is very hard to get things right every time.There are people with genuine needs but as the boy gave up so quickly I wonder whether he was just out for some extra cash.
    Good for you that you got back to your flat before you got too much of the ashes from the Taal volcano.

    • I couldn’t be sure either, but maybe he was just so used to rejection? I also question whether it is right to give money all the time.
      What I really meant is that I need to give more of my time, my compassion, my help. Even though I had my doubts about giving him money, as soon as he said it was for food, I should have given him something to eat. Sigh. A good lesson for next time!

      P.S. as soon as I felt that grit on my face, we went into a drugstore and bought face masks. 😀

  2. Pingback: When Taal erupted… | Go Karlmans

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