Mike was an American boy, visiting the Philippines with his family, while his dad led an important construction project in downtown Manila. While his mom and dad worked, he stayed at a nursery school, not too far from where they worked.
On his second day at the nursery, he made a new Filipino friend, Marlon.
Marlon could speak some English, as well as Filipino. He was very clever, and kind. He lost his mom almost a year ago, and thought about her often. Mike was his first foreign friend, and Marlon was Mike’s first foreign friend, as well. Marlon’s dad was a police officer with the Manila Police District.
During lunch that second day, Mike wasn’t feeling very hungry, and wanted to go home. He wanted to run away. He liked Marlon and his teacher, but he didn’t want to stay in a nursery school, at all. Mike wanted to go to work with his dad everyday, and see Manila with him!
A week later, Mike fought hard with his dad…he didn’t want to go to the nursery that day. Mike kicked, cried and screamed as hard as he could, but he still had to stay. Marlon comforted him the best he could, and Mike felt a little better. Mike liked Marlon very much, and wanted his new best friend by his side…always.
Later in the morning Mike and Marlon’s class were going to go out for a short outing around the block, before lunch. A few minutes after they were outside, there was already a lot of rush hour traffic. The roar of jeepneys amused Mike. Walking hand in hand, Mike and Marlon’s class weaved its way against the steady stream of pedestrians, going to work.
“Mike, hold my hand as tight as you can!” Marlon laughed, as he pushed his way forward through the crowd. A few moments later, he felt Mike’s hand slip out of his.
Mike and Marlon’s teacher, Ms. Reyes, never noticed what happened. She kept pushing forward, with Mike and Marlon’s other classmates in tow. Marlon yelled at her to stop.
Ms. Reyes gathered her class to the side of the sidewalk…but Mike was missing.
“We have to find him!” Marlon cried, then went back to find his best friend.
Ms. Reyes wanted to go after him, but she couldn’t neglect the other kids.
A few moments later, Marlon saw Mike running down an alley, so Marlon chased after him. After two blocks, Mike was exhausted, and had to stop. Marlon caught up with him, and was very angry. “Ano sa tingin mo ang ginagawa mo?” Marlon asked him in Filipino, what do you think you’re doing. “Now we’re lost!”
Marlon looked at all the traffic and buildings around him…he didn’t recognize anything. The two boys held hands once more, and started walking…but further and further away from the nursery.
Adults can usually think of something in a situation like this, but these are kids who only knew their names. No addresses. No phone numbers. Not even the name of their nursery school. Plus, there are possibly thousands of Reyes in Manila…so knowing their teachers name was useless.
Ms. Reyes was in a panic, and her students were becoming upset as well. She took out her cell phone to call the police, when she happened to notice Marlon’s dad, on foot patrol. He noticed Ms. Reyes and her class immediately, and went over to say hi to his son. When he didn’t see Marlon, he asked where he was. Ms. Reyes told him what had happened, and Marlon’s dad was upset, but kept calm. He radioed his precinct, and told her he would go look for the boys. She should take her class back to the nursery.
The weather was overcast, but still very humid. The boys were getting thirsty and tired. They walked up a labyrinth of alleyways and streets…in hopes of finding their nursery. Mike knew this was his fault, because he purposely let go of Marlon’s hand in that crowd. Showing his friendship, Marlon went back for his friend. Now, they are both lost together. Marlon and Mike saw a small park, and sat down for a few minutes to rest. Before they knew it, they both fell asleep.
Ms. Reyes arrived back at the nursery with her class, then called Mike’s dad, to let him know what happened. He wasn’t as calm as Marlon’s dad, and warned them to find his son. He would leave work, and help with the search.
Marlon heard older boys voices, and awoke to see a group of boys playing patintero. It looked like fun, but he didn’t want to play today. He wanted to get him and his best friend Mike, back to the nursery. Mike woke up a few moments later, almost panicked, until he realized where they were.
Mike’s throat was dry as he rubbed his stomach, “Im getting hungry…”
“Me, too…” Marlon said, then stood up and dusted himself off, “Lets keep going,” he said.
The two friends walked down an alleyway…in a direction even further from their nursery.
A few moments later, Marlon’s dad walked by that very same park. But, his son and Mike were long gone. The boys playing patintero were gone, too. If they had played their game just ten or fifteen minutes longer, they may have helped an officer of the law, find his son.
Mike’s dad told his co-workers that he had to go out for a few minutes, but didn’t say why. Especially to Mike’s mom…who would be very upset. He walked out onto the busy Manila streets, and started walking towards his son’s nursery. He was searching blind, just like Marlon’s dad.
More time passed…Marlon and Mike were still navigating their way around their small section of Manila, the best they knew how. They kept hoping to see something they would recognize…but nothing yet. Mike wanted to discover his dad’s construction site. Marlon wanted to see his dad, on patrol. He started thinking about his mom, who died about a year ago. He couldn’t remember too much about her, but did remember her taking him for walks around their neighborhood. Marlon doesn’t remember too well, but his mom would hum a tune sometimes, when they walked together.
A few moments later, the boys saw a small sandwich shop. All of the other buildings looked older and in disrepair, but the small shop looked new and modern. As soon as the boys stepped inside, a pretty young lady appeared from the kitchen. The shop had a few tables, and no customers.
“May I help you,” the lady asked.
“We are hungry and lost…” Marlon explained.
Mike pointed towards some glasses stacked neatly on the counter, “Can we have something to drink?”
The lady pulled out two chairs for Mike and Marlon to sit in, then rushed over to get them some water.
The boys gulped it down as fast as they could, and the lady gave them a small refil.
Looking at the menu on the table made them even more hungry.
Just then, the lady returned with two big sandwiches.
“Let’s eat!” Mike said, and took the first bite.
Marlon shook his head in amusement, then started eating his sandwich.
While they were eating, they told the lady all about how they got lost, what their dads jobs were, and how Mike is from America.
She smiled, as the boys talked.
For some reason, she seemed familiar to Marlon. Anyway, he felt comfortable with her.
After they had finished eating, the boys took a toilet break and returned to their table. The whole time they were there, no one visited the shop.
“I think we need to be going. ” Marlon said to the lady, “But thank you for the sandwiches!”
Mike got up first, “Yeah, they were delicious!” He said.
“I have an idea…” The lady said, then rushed to the kitchen.
About twenty minutes later, Mike’s dad was walking all of the alleyways and streets between his construction site and his son’s nursery, but still didn’t see his son. He even walked by the same park that Mike was at earlier. Like Marlon’s dad, he too was late.
A few minutes later, Mike’s dad saw a nice sandwich shop, and decided to ask if they had seen his son. When he got there, the shop was closed. He then looked both ways, and started walking back in the direction he came. He decided to find a police officer, for some help. A few minutes later, he saw a patrolman, and told him what had happened.
“Is your son named Mike?” The patrolman asked.
Mike’s dad was surprised, “Yes, how did you know that?” He asked.
“I think we better search together.” The officer said, and introduced himself as Marlon’s dad.
Marlon, Mike and the young lady were using a map to find their nursery. The lady had circled all the local schools, and would take the boys to each one, until they recognized theirs. It was a great plan, but many would have called first, instead of making two exhausted boys walk the hot streets of Manila.
Marlon’s dad, being a trained police officer, had figured out that Mike wanted to run away. When he shared this with Mike’s dad, he agreed. He knew that Mike didn’t like to stay at the nursery, and he couldn’t make Mike understand why he had to stay there.
“You have a great son, that Marlon…” Mike’s dad complimented, “I’m just glad that he chose to stick with Mike…even if Mike was doing wrong.”
Marlon’s dad smiled and patted Mike’s dad’s shoulder, “Marlon is a true Filipino…and Filipinos stick by their friends and family, no matter what,” he said.
After seeing three schools, Mike and Marlon were too exhausted to walk any further. The lady started weeping, but the boys didn’t hear or see that.
“I’m very sorry boys…especially to you, Marlon…” she said, then rubbed his hair.
Just the way his mom did, when he was younger.
In the distance, two men came walking up the street, towards the boys.
“Mike?” One called out.
“Marlon?” The other said.
“DAD!!” Mike and Marlon exclaimed at the same time, then got up and ran to their dads. The boys jumped into their father’s arms, almost knocking them down.
Marlon’s dad radioed his precinct with the great news. Mike was still hugging his dad.
Marlon took his dad’s hand, “Dad, I want you to meet the lady…”
The boy wanted to introduce her, but she was gone.
“Let’s get you boys back to the school!” Mike’s dad spoke up,
“She was right here!” Mike exclaimed.
Marlon’s dad said, “If we see her again, we can thank her.”
The four of them hailed a jeepney and went back to the nursery.
Ms. Reyes and the school principal were very relieved and happy that Marlon and Mike were found safely. From that day, all of the children had to carry a piece of paper with the nursery name and phone number, whenever they went out as a class.
“I’m sorry for all of this..” Mike would start to say later, but Marlon quietened him. He knew the real reason Mike got separated from him…but it was okay. It was his first adventure with his new best friend, even if it was just walking around hungry, lost and scared. If it weren’t for Mike, he wouldn’t have gotten to take that final stroll with someone he loved.
This story was written by R.B. Bailey Jr for Coconuts Manila. Copyright 2016 R.B. Bailey Jr. All Rights Reserved.