My niece Lee could not even talk yet the last time I saw her, two years ago. After picking me up at the airport, her dad drives to her playschool where she’s in the middle of “nap time.” He speaks to her teacher and goes into her classroom, carries her out, and has her half-closed eyes meet my face. “This is your Tita Pia,” he says. Within five minutes we are playing, she is hugging me and calling me her best friend, and I am in heaven.
It was my constant failure: Committing to put cookies in my bag so I would always have something for children begging in the streets, yet hardly ever actually doing it. So there I was, stopped at an intersection, and once again a boy knocks on my window. I could only mouth, “Sorry, wala” and avoid his pleading eyes. The light turned green and I drove off, heart heavy, knowing that I could have given, done so much. “Next time,” I muttered, but I myself felt the hollowness of my words.