Another hiatus… I didn’t even get to wish you all a happy New Year. Sorry about that. Aside from being perpetually busy, I have a lot in my mind.

Times have changed so much that sometimes I can’t help but wonder if any “traditional Filipino value” is still alive. Being born and raised in the city, it’s hard not to wonder. Just tune in to the evening news and you’ll see what I mean. So many have changed that I’ve learned not to expect much from anybody anymore.

I’ve always wanted to believe the best in people, giving them the benefit of the doubt… But unfortunately, there really are those who would take advantage of that. There are also very few people I know who’d do things for others just because they wanted to help, not asking for anything in return.

We’re in trying times, that’s true, and I fully understand that people are just looking out for their selves. But sometimes, we still hear reports of regular people turned heroes — people who placed another person’s welfare above his own. Little miracles like that gives hope — that maybe, it’s not so bad to still believe in the best of people.

I’d like to start off 2011 in this blog with two of my own stories to tell, of the heroes I’ve met in just a span of two months.

They saved our car from drainage doom

Last January 2, my husband Marc and I were on our way to Caloocan City to welcome my aunt back from the States. I can’t remember exactly where we were, but Marc drove the car right into an uncovered drainage in the gutter. As luck would have it, our right front wheel perfectly fitted into the hole (I’m trying not to want to strangle my husband again as I write this). There were some minor scratches on our bumper, but no spectacular damage except for the fact that the right front wheel fit so perfectly inside a deep hole you’d think it was made just for my husband to drive into.

When we both got out of the car to survey the damage, I could only scratch my head in disbelief, awe, and frustration. How was I supposed to lift the car out of the hole?! The drainage on the gutter was located a few meters from the intersection. People were starting to look, probably wondering how in the world we got ourselves in that crazy predicament (and probably even laughed at our expense if they were mean).

It was embarrassing. It was one of those situations when I just wanted to cry on the spot in the hopes that somebody would take pity and lift the car for me. Guess what? Somebody actually did, and I didn’t even shed a single tear 😛

A white van parked in front of us, and out came our savior. He looked about my dad’s age, and he immediately took charge of the situation — advised Marc what to do, and asked able men walking by to help out. Took them a few tries, until a man on a motorcycle wearing gloves stopped and held on to the underside of the fender so the other men could lift it up. Marc gunned the engine while the men pushed and lifted. Our car was free!!!

We couldn’t stop thanking everyone, especially the man in the van and in the motorcycle. We wanted to offer them something, just anything, to show how thankful we were. But before we could even think of what to offer them, they just waved, smiled, and went off in their respective vehicles. Just like that.

They helped me conquer the Wall

“Hitting the Wall,” in non-technical runner terms, is usually the point where a long-distance runner’s energy gets depleted and the will to continue on just seems to disappear. I ran my first official 21 kilometers (half-marathon) last February 6 at the Condura Skyway Marathon, and it was in this race when I nearly encountered the dreaded wall. Twice.

You see, hitting the wall can be countered by replenishing energy resources, like carbohydrates. I prepared for that, bringing along with me sufficient energy gels and sports beans along with two hydration belt bottles of Gatorade. I prepared like I was going to battle. But the will to carry on and the temptation of raising the white flag in the middle of battle just zapped my brain out of common sense. I only had to reach down and take a pack of energy gel before it became too late for me — but all I could think about was throwing in the towel and calling it done.

As I ran and walked on the long highway with nothing but rising sun for company — everybody’s minding their own business, as we still had a long way to go, so I might as well just talked to the lamp post if I wanted conversation to distract myself — I prayed. I prayed for something, anything, that can strengthen my resolve to finish at that moment.

A few meters ahead, I saw a family looking over the fence separating the Skyway from the residents. They weren’t saying anything to the passing runners, they were just looking. Even to those who looked like in a worse shape than I was, they didn’t say anything. They just looked. But strangely enough, the moment I passed by them, they cheered me on. Me. The father said I could do it, the kids shouted to go for the finish. I waved my thanks and smiled. Common sense came back. I took my energy gel, and ran strong once more.

At kilometer 16, my calves started to stiffen. Uh-oh, cramps! Luckily, an aid station was near. I cooled my stiffening muscles, and stretched a bit. It was at this point I was really, really considering not to go on. Sheer will might not be enough to carry me to the finish line if my calves failed. Runners were passing me by, albeit some were struggling — but at least they were still running 🙁 I was losing hope, and I had to decide while I was still near the aid station so marshals could help me get back to Bonifacio High Street. I was in limbo. I didn’t know if I should go on, or raise the white flag.

Kaya mo yan. Halika, sabay tayo,” a runner said to me. He was willing to let me run with him and keep me company. I went with him, ran about 2 to 3 kilometers, and had fun. Talking with him during the race kept my mind off the stiffening muscles, and kept my common sense in place to avoid having cramps or hitting the wall. We only parted ways when I decided to keep a struggling runner company at the last 3 kilometers. I was pretty sure I looked as exhausted as she was before the kind man helped me. He saved me from giving up without asking for anything in return, and I felt I just couldn’t leave a runner behind needing help when help came to me when I needed it.

The kind runner who helped me? I found out later that he was a priest 🙂 I’m not the religious type, far from it actually. As a Catholic school girl, I’ve met a variety of priests already — from those who are genuinely living the Church’s teachings, to those who use their religious authority for their own benefits. Who’d have thought that of all the people to help me, it was a priest who had kind heart who would?

These things, no matter how simple, I consider little miracles. Little miracles brought on by everyday heroes. In a time when people are too busy looking after themselves, they find the time to stop and help a stranger in need.

Miracles do happen. And maybe, our everyday heroes will give us hope that not all is lost in these crazy times… Like it did me 🙂