Mang Ely

I met an interesting person early this morning. Our encounter was providential; the events that paved the way for it could be traced all the way to the day (several weeks ago) I waited for a taxi for two hours, in vain, and ended up missing a meeting because I had unwisely decided to leave the house during the morning rush hour.

So I decided last night that I would be out by 6 A.M. for an 8 A.M. meeting today. I thought I’d rather arrive too early than miss my meeting again. As expected, it didn’t take me five minutes to hail a taxi, which arrived literally 3 seconds before the GrabTaxi service alerted me that someone was willing to give me a ride. I cancelled that booking right away and got into the taxi that had already stopped in front of me. It was a bit shabby and the driver was old, but he said yes to my location and so we went.

It turned out that Mang Ely was quite a guy. The first thing I noted as we took off was the big chunk of pork chicharon he was munching on. That was breakfast, he said, and I shouldn’t be alarmed by his meal because he was very healthy, suffering from no ailment whatsoever. It never mattered what he ate; he had good genes, unlike his wife who had passed away a long time ago because of hypertensive complications. At seventy, Mang Ely works as a taxi driver, roving the metro from 1 A.M. to 6 P.M. everyday to support himself. He lives alone in a rented space because he has allocated the house he purchased decades ago (from a five-year stint as a driver and heavy equipment operator in the Middle East) to his children and their respective families. “That way they would not need to rent, and they would be together, sharing expenses for utilities. However, I told them that when it comes to food, each family should cook their own, so that there would be no squabbles about one spending on the other.” He chose not to stay with them so both he and they, especially his daughters-in-law, could move about comfortably.

Mang Ely was widowed almost twenty years ago. “People have asked me why I never re-married. These days I tell them, if I had started over and raised children again then I would still be working even in my old age for their needs, their education. Besides I have my grandchildren, I helped rear some of them.” There was pride in his voice as he added this.

He turned out to be a funny character, too. He had a number of jokes to share and was even able to squeeze a little flirtation into the few seconds he transacted with the toll booth operator. He had absentmindedly handed his payment without the toll card, and when the girl asked for it, he got flustered for a mere split second before smoothly delivering his line, “I forgot all about it the moment I saw you.” Ha!

Fifteen minutes into our trip I steered our conversation to a more serious direction by asking how I might pray for him. He requested that I pray for his children, his health, his day-to-day needs and that he be safe from harm especially in his job. Right at the end of our trip, we stalled and I shared the Gospel with him in the course of the short time that we prayed together. And it was good.

The hilarious thing was, one second after we said, “Amen,” he immediately launched into one last joke, making the most of my last few seconds in his vehicle (I was pulling out my fare money). It was as if we had both aimed to maximize our brief encounter: I by sharing Jesus and praying for and with him, and he by completing a standup set. We were both quite cheery by the time we said goodbye.

It was, to say the least, quite a way to start my day 🙂


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