Friday, July 22, 2016

The parable of the lost cellphone

I used to lose cellphones all the time. I lost my phone to knife-bearing 'holdapers' while riding a jeepney in E. Rodriguez, Quezon City and to a snatcher on a Manila-bound bus from Batangas. The most careless of all when my phone slipped into the sea while I texting on a boat in Coron - an episode witnessed by my friend Olivia Mejia. Helpless, all I could do was post on Facebook that "I may have lost my phone but at least I found paradise".

But there was a time when I thought that my phone was gone, only for me to get it back in a way that helped me appreciate an often-misunderstood part of our country. I was traveling in Maguindanao when, upon returning to Cotabato City, I realized that my phone was gone. At the time, the Maguindanao massacre was still fresh on people’s minds and I have to admit that I felt a bit of unease while traveling in the area. In any case, even if the disappearance happened anywhere else in the Philippines, I honestly thought that there was no chance that I could ever get my phone back.

To my surprise, however, my friend and host in Cotabato - Dr. Zhamir Umag- got a text message from my mobile number that night, with someone saying that he had found my phone. "How can I return it?" the sender asked. It turned out that I had left it on the jeepney back to Cotabato, and it was picked up by someone from Buldon, Maguindanao. Zham communicated with the finder and they made arrangements for the phone to be brought back to Cotabato the next time the finder goes to the city.

I was already back in Manila when the phone arrived by courier. When I opened the phone, I saw various pictures that the finder must have taken using the phone. It revealed a mountainous area and a wooden house (like the one in the picture) that must have been the finder's home. Surely, if he had sold the phone, it would have made for a significant sum. The more I looked at the photos - the finder's young kids, his wife, and their village - the more I marveled at the kindness of the finder.

Grateful, and thrilled, I asked Zham to offer a token of appreciation to the honest finder and his family.

But the finder turned it down, saying:

"Please tell him that we're not expecting any reward. We're just being good Muslims."

Note: I originally posted this photo on Facebook where it went viral, getting over 32,000 likes and 5,400 shares. It was also carried by several news outlets and websites:

"The Heartwarming Story Behind this Viral Photo" (ABS-CBN)

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