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Givers and takers

Posted on June 24, 2007 by jimparedes

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In the course of my travels and the shows I have done, I have met many people and some have really stood out. I am not talking about famous people. I am referring to fellow Pinoys, ordinary people with whom I have had unique interactions. Here’s one. It happened more than 10 years ago. I was doing a lot of TV work then, specifically a noontime show called Sanglinggonaposila. After every show, fans would usually be waiting outside the dressing rooms for the performers to come out so they could pose for pictures and get autographs. I would usually mingle with the fans to get it out of the way before I even washed off my makeup, changed my shirt and fixed my stuff. Then I would have lunch at 2 p.m.

One afternoon, after I had done all that and was about to go out for lunch, my assistant called my attention to a young woman waiting outside who had asked to talk to me. I could sense that it was not good news for me, since I knew from experience that from time to time, there are people who go to celebrities with their sob stories seeking financial help. It had happened to me a few times and it was not pleasant having to deal with strangers, especially those in need of help but whose stories you couldn’t even verify. And it’s painful to turn anyone away.

Against my better judgment, I let her into the dressing room. A few awkward quiet moments after she entered, she began telling me her story. Between sobs, she claimed she was a nursing student who needed money to be able to take her final exams. She was without resources and had no one to turn to. I listened, feeling some annoyance that she had come to me instead of, say, a public official, or some other celebrity in the studio. When I told her so, she said that she had spent the entire afternoon the day before waiting for a certain public official at his office in City Hall, but he never showed up. And the first celebrity she went to asked for something indecent in exchange. And so, she said, she decided to take a chance on me.

For some reason, I began listening to her story with more interest. I asked her the usual questions — where she was studying, what year she was in school — and after dialing a number which she said was the office of the registrar in her school to verify the amount she said she needed, I took out my checkbook and issued her a check.

It was something new for me to be as rash as this. Like most people, I have always been wary of strangers who come up to me asking for money. “A fool and his money are easily parted,” the Chinese saying goes, and I had always made sure I was never going to be anyone’s fool, certainly not because of some unverified sob story meant to squeeze a few thousand pesos from me.

When I got home, I told my wife what I had done and she looked at me with incredulity. How could I be so stupid? She was so sure I had been the victim of a scam. Immediately, I began to have doubts about the wisdom of the compassion I felt. Was I duped by a sob story? I felt like a fool.

That night, as I mulled over the incident before sleeping, I reminded myself that if it was just about losing money, I should not worry so much since I had thrown away bigger amounts on more useless things. I knew that when I gave the girl the check, I was coming from a good place in my heart. If the young woman’s story turned out to be false, then it wasn’t my problem. It was hers. I fell asleep soon after.

Around three or four days later, I saw the same young woman with her mother, all smiles and beaming as I entered the studio. Even before I could settle inside
the dressing room, her mother, who was dressed very simply in probinsiyana clothes, approached me and thanked me profusely for “saving” her daughter. She narrated how just a few days earlier, it had seemed that their only recourse for tuition money was to compromise her daughter’s virtue, until her daughter mustered the courage to talk to me. She expressed her gratitude by giving me a whole kaing of fresh mangoes which, she said, they had brought all the way from Batangas where their family resided.

I was happy that my hunch was correct and that my random act of compassion had not been for naught.

Fast-forward to some four years later. The APO, together with some other entertainers, were in Tokyo to do a number of shows. On our first night, our Japanese host invited us to a club for some karaoke and entertainment. As I entered the club, I noticed that almost all the waiters and guest relations officers (or japayukis as they are derisively called) were our kababayans who greeted us with excited voices.

From out of the blue, a young girl approached me and said, “Sir Jim, do you remember me?” I stared at her for some time but I could not place her. “I was the nurse whom you sent to school,” she said. I was shocked to see her working in the club. After I found my seat, she asked to sit beside me and proceeded to call her friends. She told them proudly that I was the one who helped her finish her nursing course.

I asked her what had happened to her nursing career. She narrated how she had lost her job as a clinic nurse in a government office that was revamped when President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came into power. Her boss, an Erap appointee, was dismissed along with his entire staff. In the meantime, she was working in Tokyo for a few months while awaiting approval of her petition to work in the US.

In a circuitous way, I asked her what her job entailed since I had a negative impression of what japayukis were involved in. To my surprise, and this was verified by almost every long-time Pinoy resident I met in Tokyo, she explained that she sat with Japanese customers, conversed and sang Karaoke with them. That’s all. Her job did not entail going out with the men, and no, she was not a prostitute. I felt embarrassed.

She then asked me what my schedule was for the next day. She said she was free in the morning and she could help me shop for gifts since she knew where the bargains were in that über-expensive city.

The next day, we met at a big department store and I chose some pasalubong for Lydia and my three kids. She was carrying all the stuff while I looked for some gadgets I could get for myself. Soon after, I noticed that she had disappeared. I found her at the counter paying for my purchases. I ran to her and insisted that I pay for them, since they were my gifts. She raised her hand and motioned me to stop, saying that it was now her turn to do me a favor, and while the amount may not come close to what I did for her years ago, she was now in a position to return the favor with gratitude.

I was touched — and stunned speechless. I could not muster any words and I noticed a lump growing in my throat. I opted for silence, knowing that there are some tender moments that are best left alone.

In life, we are both givers and takers, and I believe that every act of kindness we do somehow takes root and blossoms into more compassion, more kindness, more hope for mankind.

35 to “Givers and takers”

  1. Cristina says:

    There’s a lump in my throat, too, now! Even if people say that no good goes unpunished (and many times this is true), it is truer that kindness begets kindness. It is simply universal law. If not in the way you expect, it will always come in other ways. And in reality, we are all responsible for each other in the grand scheme of things. Each life affects the next, as Mitch Albom said.

    What a nice story *sniff*

  2. Anonymous says:

    Having lived in Sydney for 27 years, I’ve seen my fair share of panhandlers and beggars. I used to think of all of them as freeloaders. Then one day, I guess I had an epiphany : I saw an old Asian man standing out in the rain with his back to the wall and his hand cupped in front. He didn’t move. He There’s a book I read a few years back by Catherine Ryan Hyde called ‘Pay It Forward’. In it a boy named Trevor had an idea which he started out by helping 3 people in need. For repayment, he told them to each help another 3 in need. And so on. Kind of a Pyramid scheme but with a twist.

  3. LAR says:

    One of the best stories I’ve ever read. Sana lahat ng tao, especially Pinoys, maging ganito katotoo! Thank you for sharing, Kabayan! :)

  4. ~ istar bakekang ~ says:

    hi jim, your post made me eager to find this one person (Judge Rommel Baybay – i guess he was promoted as a regional trial court) who helped me finance my studies during college, he was my professor in my law subject wherein I failed due to hectic schedules of being a student assistant, I was then asking him to give me some remedial exams to pass so as to continue my scholarship/assistantship. He did not do that..instead he gave me 15k to support my whole term! generous isn’t it! I cannot wait to tell him that the student he helped before who is very hopeless that will be removed from the Accountancy Degree is now a CPA. Yihee! It is really inspiring to help others, much more to give it back in some other way to the person who made our dreams come true. =)

    Thanks for sharing, you never failed to enlighten my week!!! =)

  5. Anonymous says:

    naiyak ako doon ah..nakaka-touch, may tao rin palang mababait these days..
    fatima harain
    PGI-CCMC, cebu city

  6. Anonymous says:

    Compassion is quite rare nowadays and there are few noble people like you around. You have trusted your instincts and it proved to be right.

    A blessing in one form or another will come to those who has this rare virtue in their hearts. God Bless you and your family.


  7. bu says:

    and didn’t john d. rockefeller jr. say, “think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”

    amen :-)

  8. bu says:

    and didn’t john d. rockefeller jr. say, “think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”

    amen :-)

  9. Ayi says:

    Hi Jim! That’s a very powerful story and you made a very strong point there. A situation like that happened to me and I found out much later that I was conned by this stranger whose only connection to me was that we came from the same school. At first I felt bad but realized it was not about me but it’s between that person who conned me and God. Nevertheless, I learned to do it this way…A gift is a gift and a loan is a loan. I have become more cautious and realized that I have to verify if it happens again.

    I also learned a valuable lesson from my Dad who is sometimes just generous to a fault. When somebody commented on this virtue of his in a negative way, he said, “Do you want to exchange places with him?” I didn’t hear it from my Dad directly but that person who questioned my Dad told me about it.

    Great topic…as always.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Paredes,

    Your story could have not come at a better time. I just loaned my sister and mom a big sum of money so that they could have a roof over their heads ($27 THOUSAND) to be exact. I had my reservations in doing this, because my sister is not the best person one can trust when it comes to money. Your story is a confirmation, that it is in giving that you receive. Just like you i have my doubts, but I will hope against all hope, that this act will bear much fruit, just like yours did. Someday.

  11. Meg says:

    so, so touching, i had a tear in my eye when i finished reading your story. makes you truly believe in the innate goodness of man wherever, whatever they are in life.

  12. vernaloo says:


  13. Anonymous says:

    Hello Sir Jim!

    I am a regular reader of your Blog and it’s my first time to comment, this was a nice entry at napaiyak pa ako while reading. Best Regards!

  14. Anonymous says:

    one nice, touching piece again… how nice if all takers will be givers naman at some point in their lives. what a wonderful world!

  15. Frances says:

    That was really nice and touching. I nearly cried. :)

  16. Nina says:

    Beautiful story. Ah… the serendipities of life. I also felt a lump on my throat while you were narrating it. As well as tears in my eyes. Beautiful story.

  17. ces says:

    I thought that was absolutely beautiful, Sir Jim. Just beautiful.

  18. ces says:

    I thought that story was absolutely beautiful, Sir. Just beautiful.

  19. Edong says:

    wow… this is truly inspiring!

    your heart was made to do noble things which have eternal consequences. i bet that girl also returned the favor of helping others by your example.

    God bless you Jim!

  20. April says:

    Hello po… I’m a silent reader of your blog. Just want to say that this entry really touched me. As in naiyak ako while reading it. Godbless :)

  21. Calvin G. says:

    this is unbelievabe, jim!

  22. namumundok says:

    Good Story Jim…
    Really Good Karma…what goes around comes around…
    No different from when I lost my mobile in a Sydney suburban train…the mobile phone arrive ahead of me at home…the one who found it drove to my house to deliver my lost phone (at that particular point in time, I did not even know it’s missing)….I had my chance a couple of weeks ago…I found a mobile whilst walking…and returned it to the owner that same day…he wanted to shout me an ale…but, I had to go to catch my train…

    Again…what goes around, comes around..


  23. lady cess says:

    this is so inspiring. bagay ito as one of the stories sa chicken soup for the soul. submit it!

  24. JO says:

    GOD bless you Jim for your kind heart and helping hand… I was deeply touched by this story… wish there are more people like you in the world!

    I am one of your regular reader though I don’t usually leave messages… this would probably be my 3rd or 4th time.

  25. atoy says:

    what a heart warming story. pwedeng pang “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
    asan na kaya siya? sana natuloy sa u.s. at ginagamit ang natapos niya at hindi nanatili sa japan.

  26. Micaela says:

    What a touching story Sir Jim!

    That is what you call good karma. I’m going to keep this article :)

  27. Anne says:

    I have always been a believer of miracle money. My husband once complained that I gave too much to the church collection on Sundays. I told him that “God just gave us a house and today I am giving his church 50 Bucks. You should be ashamed of yourself.” And he was. I have always been generous to those in real need, and in our experience as a couple, my husband now believes in miracle money too. On days that we am low on cash, God somehow manages to send some our way.

    Good job Jim. It annoys me how people who have the capacity to help don’t. Your kindness paid off. In a few more years when you come back to the US, She will invite you to dinner at her gorgeous home and she will tell all her guests that you made HER LIFE possible.

  28. Anne says:

    I have always been a believer of miracle money. My husband once complained that I gave too much to the church collection on Sundays. I told him that “God just gave us a house and today I am giving his church 50 Bucks. You should be ashamed of yourself.” And he was. I have always been generous to those in real need, and in our experience as a couple, my husband now believes in miracle money too. On days that we am low on cash, God somehow manages to send some our way.

    Good job Jim. It annoys me how people who have the capacity to help don’t. Your kindness paid off. In a few more years when you come back to the US, She will invite you to dinner at her gorgeous home and she will tell all her guests that you made HER LIFE possible.

  29. Anne says:

    OH OK! sorry i sent multiple ones :)

  30. rowena says:

    hi mr. paredes,

    am so touched by your story. been visiting your site. had my college practicum in your show last 1991. and i know that you’re really kind-hearted. God bless.

  31. Jim says:

    To everyone who commented, salamat. I am amazed at the reaction I got.

    My idea behind giving is this: many times, it is more painful for the one who asks to do so than it is for the giving. I am happy to be in the giving place although I admit, I still hesitate many times.

  32. maureen says:

    i am touched by your story.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Hi sir, Im one of those regular reader of your blog. Im really touched in this story, really, it made me cry to think Im here in the office while reading it (he he he). God bless, Good person like you are truely blessed.

  34. Leah says:

    Hi Jim,
    The first part of your story seemed familiar and i realized I’ve read it in one of your books. Its nice to know that there was a part 2 (the Tokyo bit). A very heartwarming story.

  35. Jim says:

    leah–yes. It was in my book!

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