A little girl who can’t be older than 5 was holding her father’s hand through a walk at Bonifacio High Street. The father traded glances between the stores on the left and the walkway in front, while all throughout the daughter had her sights at the open space on the right.
“Daddy,” the girl said, looking up with the brightest of eyes at her old man. “Can I play here for a while?”
I was waiting for my order along some street retail concept when I chanced upon the exchange. Between “No, mommy’s waiting for us; we have to hurry” and straight-up “No,” I waited from afar how creative the man would get in delivering his dismissal of the request.
But he got too creative. Sporting an ashen 5 o’clock shadow, plain black shirt and a laid-back attitude that matched the day’s feel, the father turned to his daughter and, without skipping a beat, said, “Sure, honey. But don’t go too far.” The daughter then made a beeline to the grass fields, running and jumping around, while the father looked on. He chose to allow his kid to be a kid.
It was an episode that was so simple yet sophisticated in its own revelations. It’s also something I could’ve easily missed. Had I chosen to, say, scroll without purpose through my timelines while waiting for my order, I would’ve continued to wonder why most parents remain irrationally restrictive toward their children. Yes, it is around that age when kids are most rambunctious, but only because they’re exploring not only their limits but also their strengths. Good thing to know that there are those who see it as that. The scene was both a reminder and a model.
Some years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of “people watching”. I honestly thought it was so innovative of her to mask her creepy stalking tendencies as such, but it was actually a real thing. “I do it when I’m stressed out,” she said. “It’s nice to see how each person goes about their own lives with their own worries and goals. It puts life into perspective.”
“Best of all,” she added in jest, “it’s free!”
She started doing it in college, along the pavilions of an open field, where the cool winds supported her pauses for ruminations. I joined her one afternoon, and we watched athletes stretch out, groups of students laugh, a student walk alone and priests stroll. We were lost in it all. What she said was right. Some answers to the questions we have, or the silence from the chaos we seek can be found when we take a step back and see the world operate on its own course.
But come to think of it, I have done all that before. Everyone has. You’ve done it in a restaurant while waiting for your food, in the carwash while waiting for your service, in the grocery counter while waiting for your turn. People have always been watching other people. It’s human nature. You just have to open your eyes wider and be more appreciative when you do it the next time. But for the love of the law, don’t be creep while you’re at it.
Anyway, you won’t always luck in at a scenario with an obvious moral of the story, like when a father allows her daughter to play. But doesn’t seeing a father take away her daughter’s liberty tell a story just the same? Stories surround you, and each has their own lesson to offer.
Just this weekend, my girlfriend and I went on a food trip around P. Noval Street in Manila. We went to our favorite fruit-shake stand and got their Mango Graham special. While enjoying the best P25 refresher in the Metro, we watched the vendors lollygag.
They were singing and laughing, one was dribbling a basketball and another petting a stray dog. “Look at them,” my date said. “They’re all without a care in the world despite what they have. They’re perfectly content.” It was truly quite a sight.