Red Light

I was inside the jeepney, waiting on a red light, when this kid came and sang for money.

“Red light” is inspired by the street children who wait on cars, especially jeepneys, during heavy traffic. They hop up on the entrance and sing songs, begging for money. This scene always strikes a cord in me. When my editor in Atenews asked if I could submit a poem for “Habi” which is a collaborative folio of Jesuit schools, I wrote this one.

Ang kulay ng langit ay pinag-aagawan ng asul at pula
habang si Dodong ay naglalakad na naka-paa
nakadukong binibilang ang hawak na mga barya

The dusk turned the blue sky red
while barefoot, Dodong walked
counting the money in his hands

Kinse lang ang kaniyang kinita
sa buong araw na pagkanta
sa mga dyip na naka-para

A whole day of singing in jeepneys
was only 15 pesos worth

Walang maramdamang init ang makukubal na mga paa
ramdam lang ang umiinit na mukha
sa tuwing kumakalabit siya
sa dyip na sakay ay pamilya

Dodong’s calloused feet didn’t heed the pavement’s heat
but his face always burned in shame
whenever he hops on a jeepney with a family 

Tuwang-tuwa sa isa’t-isa
Tingin lang ang ibibigay sa kaniya

Sharing laughter
but will only spare him a glance, maybe two

Si Dodong ay bababa
Magihihintay na muling umilaw
ang bilog na kulay pula

Dodong will hop off the jeepney
and wait for them to stop again
when the light goes red.

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