Inspiration, Travel Stories

The Woman I Met at a Manila Park

The Manila City Hall is one of the most iconic structures in Manila. Built in 1939, this building has not just withstood the test of time but has also become witness of the city’s vibrant history.

Today, there are a lot of people in the area. No wonder, because a huge mall is just located at the back of the building. Beside it is a university, and between the school and this building is a park where students group together to relax and chit-chat. This is also a place for others to grab a bite as food stalls and kiosks are lined up.

After so many years, I’ve found myself sitting at the park again. I’ve never expected that I would enjoy being in a place like this. It was nostalgic. I remember when I was a kid, my parents used to bring me and my brother to Luneta Park, the most popular spot in Manila which is also situated near the City Hall.

I just finished a meeting with a client near the place when I decided to take my lunch at the park’s food stalls. I work as an Account Manager for an international shipping company, visiting customers is a big part of my job.

At that time my car was busted so I took a cab going to my client’s office. I admit, the inconvenience aggravated my mood.

I felt lost.I was experiencing a deep sense of unhappiness. I was looking for meaning.

Manila City Hall Park
(C) David Gonzales / Creative Commons

READ:  7 Reasons to Explore and Travel the Philippines

There is no tangible specific event nor situation in my life that would make me feel this way. All I knew was I was beginning to feel unhappy, unsatisfied with everything.

I just sat there, observing. People who pass by. Students having lunch, some were puffing cigarettes. Then, a woman wearing a medical mask sat near me. It was so near I felt she wanted to talk to me, but when I looked at her she was also observing, looking at the vast place, her eyes seemed sad and empty.

We were silent, like statues sitting with heavy sighs.

After a few minutes, an old cheerful gay man wearing colorful shorts and shirt approached us. He was carrying a plastic box of nail colors. He offered the woman beside me to get her nails done at a very affordable price.

All the woman could do was just laugh. It was the first time I heard a sound from her. She fondly told him, “One more pedicure is enough to take off my nails.”

That made me turn. I didn’t quite get that. I saw her looking at her toes then she smiled at me. “My toes hurt, my body aches. I just had my chemotherapy a few days ago.”

Though intrigued, I smiled back. I was about to ask her some questions when she bravely told me that she has stage 4 cervical cancer.

I moved a bit closer to hear her story through her fragile voice.

Manila City Hall

She introduced herself as Michelle, 38 years old. She planned to go to the mall in an attempt to forget and let go of her worries. She said, it was just three months ago when she was diagnosed with cancer. In a short period of time, her condition has made her looked so much older, losing 30 pounds and feeling sick and weak because of chemotherapy.

She lost her job and struggling to make ends meet. And with enormous medical bills, she’s beginning to feel that she’s a burden. For the first time, her family has experienced how to be in dire poverty.

As she tells her story, I noticed she was holding back her tears. With her situation, her family is her sole source of strength so she has to be brave. There were moments when she wanted to give up, but she has to be strong for her daughters.

It was obvious she needed someone to talk to, so I just listened to her. I only talk when I ask her something. I was surprised with her strength and vulnerability in sharing her story to a stranger like me. The conversation was uplifting yet very painful.

But in the end, I noticed a smile on my face. I was so amazed at how her authenticity made an impact to my mood and emotions.

Before she bid goodbye, tears has finally came out of her soul. She said she has accepted everything. At first she has gone through a state of depression. In denial of her condition, of the possibility of leaving her kids without a mother to guide them. But now, she has made peace with herself, embracing her situation and what the future is in store for her.

Michelle put on her mask, stood up and thanked me for listening. I told her, “I should be the one to thank you.”

As she walked farther, I saw myself getting a bit emotional.

Being in a public place, I was able to contain myself. But the truth remains, that her story came just at the right time.
To slap me hard, to remind me that I should still be thankful, that I should stop giving a fuss about some shallow situation, and just focus on what I have and start living my life.

I genuinely wish her well.

Right now, all I know is there is a reason why Michelle sat near me that day, to remind me that no matter hard times can be, there are still reasons to be grateful. That it is not too late to search meaning in my life, and I can do it armed with a positive mind.


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  1. Venby

    This is a very touching story..di ko mapigilan mangilid ang luha..My mother also died from cancer, lucky enough, malalaki na kami at may mga trabaho na…pero being a mother also, this really makes me sad and teary eyed, i imagine myself na nasa kalagayan nya, papano mga anak ko? Ang hirap….but that’s life…I just pray na sana humaba pa ang buhay ko para magabayan ko pa ang aking mga anak.
    More power to your blog. Hope you write and post more of this kind of stories, combination of travel and life stories kumbaga na kapupulutan natin ng aral 🙂

  2. Very nice story. I can totally relate because my Mom also died from cancer last 2004. Her condition and death made me realize just how fragile we are, and we could perish at any moment. In our short time here on Earth, it is important to cherish every moment of our lives and every person we love.

    1. Jon Espina Author

      Thanks for sharing your story. It’s just amazing how we can all inspire one another to live our lives to the fullest. My tatay also died one year ago of liver cancer. I had the same realization. Just live life and always show and tell to people you love that you love them.

  3. jontotheworld Author

    Nakkainspire kausap ang mga taong napakatatag at positibo sa kabila ng kanilang malubhang problema at karamdaman.

    Pre, napapa-Tagalog tayo ah hahaha

    Salamt pre sa pagdalaw sa blog. Ayos ang blog mo puno ng adventures. See you on the road pre! 😛

  4. nakakalungkot naman 🙁 meron ako kilala na isang travel blogger/mountaineer na may pinag dadaanan din na sakit na cancer pero di ko siya nakitaan ng lungkot habang nagkwekwento siya ng kanyang pinag dadaanan niya at hininto niya na rin ang kanyang paggagamot sabi niya sa akin ineenjoy ko nalang ang buhay.. kasi ang ginagawa niya instead na isipin niya na may sakit siya binabaling nalang niya nalang yung pag gagala niya sa mga nature destination niya at nagtataka daw mga kaibigan niya kc ang laki daw ng improvement paglaki ulit ng katawan niya… cguro nga isang way ng therapy ang hindi pag iisip sa mga problema na pinag dadaanan 🙂

  5. jontotheworld Author

    Hi Caroline,

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I also believe that the richness of our travels and journey is defined by the people we meet and its lessons. Looking forward for your travels and writings as well. 🙂

  6. Hi Jon. Thank you for sharing this story. Its the type of writing I really hope to bring to my blog too. To somehow write in such a way that encourages & challenges people to see others & think of them in such a way that will lead to a greater acceptance & respect for each other. This is a great example of that. Very humbling story.
    Thanks & all the best for your future travels & writing!

    1. jontotheworld Author

      Hi Agnes,

      Thanks for dropping by. I agree. there are a lot of beautiful places in the Philippines that you can visit aside from our capital, Manila.

      You can try Cebu, Boracay or Davao! 🙂

      But you know, you will only truly apprecitae Philippines if you stay here a little bit longer, try to mingle with people and enjoy our culture. Thanks 🙂


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